CCI: <i>Looper</i> Director Rian Johnson Reveals Inspiration, New Footage

Writer/director Rian Johnson premiered a thrilling elongated trailer for his highly anticipated sci-fi film Looper for a capacity Hall H crowd at Comic-Con International.

Just announced as the opener for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, the futuristic thriller stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hired assassin, known as a “looper,” who kills people sent back in time by the mob. When confronted by a target that he recognizes as his future self (played by Bruce Willis), Gordon-Levitt is thrown off his game, and his victim escapes.

“I came up with the idea about 10 years ago,” said Johnson, who appeared on stage with Gordon-Levitt and co-star Emily Blunt. “It was a point when I was reading a lot of Phillip K. Dick … and that was really just a way to set up a situation where an assassin is faced with his future self, and that’s sort of where the movie takes off.”

“I play a character whose name is Joe, because Rian wrote the part for me,” divulged Gordon-Levitt, who starred in Johnson’s 2005 feature debut Brick. “It’s the first time in my life that a director wrote a part for me. It’s a real honor.”

Blunt touched upon the secrecy surrounding much of the film’s plot, admitting, “I can’t say too much about my character Sara, because she and her family get embroiled in all of this mess when Joe is a pussy and lets Bruce Willis run. But she’s a badass.”

The footage was then shown, backing up a bit of Blunt’s introduction, as we see more of her than has been divulged in trailers (in one scene she deftly levitates a Zippo lighter while lying in bed next to Joe). We’re also treated to an extended sequence between Joe and his boss Abe (Jeff Daniels) in which Abe divulges that Joe is the youngest Looper he’s ever hired, says he’s from the future and attempts to circumvent Joe’s plans to go to France by re-routing him to China. Another extended scene gives us a glimpse at the fantastic chemistry between Willis and Gordon-Levitt (as well as Gordon-Levitt’s uncanny mimicry of his legendary co-star), as the two argue while sitting in a booth at a diner. There are also plenty of grimy cityscapes and bloody assassinations shown, as expected, but Willis wins the entire reel with a line spouted to his younger self, “Shut your fucking child mouth.”

“After we cast Bruce we realized, ‘Oh, they don’t look anything alike,’” Johnson admitted before explaining the process by which they altered Gordon-Levitt’s appearance. “We just picked a couple key features to change, because we knew we weren’t going to transform Joe to look like a young Bruce, but we figured if we could just do a little to the nose, a little bit to the lips, just to give it enough. … And so Joe was a great sport and went through that every morning.” He went on to praise Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal, saying the convincing performance owes more to his acting than his appearance.

Gordon-Levitt confessed he’s “not a good mimic” and that his performance is based on heavy preparation. “I just tried to internalize him, I guess,” he said. “I watched all his movies on repeat. I took the audio from his movies and put them on my iPod so I could listen to him.” He said that Willis recorded some of his voiceover lines so the young actor could study the intonations.

“I think this is one of the coolest things he’s done in a long time,” Gordon-Levitt said of Willis’ performance.

Blunt echoed the sentiment, saying that while reading the script she signed on in her head “after 30 pages, even without being given the part.” “It’s something that’s not derived from anything else you’ve ever seen, and it’s so exciting and rare when that happens,” she continued.

Of the film’s time-travel element, Johnson noted, “My model for how to use time travel was very much like the first Terminator. … The time travel sets up the situation with these characters and then gets out of the way.”

Blunt recounted one of her favorite Willis moments on set, saying, “I remember I sent my dad – it’s my dad’s favorite picture I’ve ever sent him from working on a movie – where Bruce was covered in blood … and I was sitting, at that time, between takes … and he came over with literally a flowery parasol, I don’t know where he got it … and he came and sat next to me and we talked about love and family, and the photographer took a picture, and it’s him covered in blood holding a parasol! That’s him! He’s a doll!”

As far as physically preparing for the role, Gordon-Levitt admitted, “I didn’t work out for shit on this movie.” Blunt then said, “The hardest thing physically was learning how to chop wood really convincingly! I had logs transported to my house in LA to learn how to do it!”

Blunt went on, refusing to mince words, “I feel that this is the best movie I’ve ever been a part of.”

Looper arrives in theaters Sept. 28.

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