'I'm grateful I got to do really good movies'
One of Hollywood's most thrilling young actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was seen playing a younger Bruce Willis in last week's breathtaking Looper and will be seen in this Friday's release, Premium Rush, where he plays a bike messenger.
Over email, Raja Sen shot JGL a bunch of questions about Looper, time travel and more, and here's what he had to say:
First things first, how does one prepare oneself to play a young Bruce Willis? Does it involve white vests and lots of yippee-ki-yay swearing or have you been boning up on your Moonlighting reruns?
Initially, I was a little worried about playing younger Joe.
I studied Bruce Willis' movies, and would take the audio from some of his movies and put them on my iPod so that I could listen to him. Bruce actually recorded himself doing some of my monologues and sent me the tapes so that I could listen to that, and that was really useful.
But I think the most important thing for me was just getting to know him, hanging out, having dinner, talking about whatever, that was where I think I really learned what I wanted to do with the character.
Even without having watched Looper, one can't help but be seduced by the film's staggeringly sexy concept. What was your first reaction on reading Rian Johnson's script?
Looper was the first time anyone did write me a part, and it was a real honour. Normally, as an actor, I get a script a few months before it starts shooting. Looper was an idea that Rian and I were talking about for the better part of a decade. I saw the script years ago and we've been talking about it since then and working towards making it come together.
When I first read the script, I asked a lot of questions -- mostly about the character, where he came from. Why he is the way he is. There's a scene later in the movie where he tells a story about his mom and how his mom sold him when he was young and how he grew up. All that stuff is really fascinating to me.
Having those conversations with Rian, getting a thorough understanding of who Joe is, is what I did after reading the script for the first time. I really liked that. I really liked being involved from the very beginning, middle, and end.
Image: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper
'I really, really enjoyed 3rd Rock'
In the last few years, we've seen you as Robin (The Dark Knight Rises), as cancer-struck (50/50), on a flying bicycle (Premium Rush), a (heartbroken) lover ((500) Days Of Summer), Cobra Commander (G I Joe: The Rise Of Cobra) and in the middle of a rotating hotel corridor (Inception). What drives you to pick roles this eclectic, and which of the above did you personally find the most challenging, as an actor?
It's difficult to choose.
They are completely different and I enjoy all these genres. Movies are defined by genres because it adds to the vocabulary. They give a frame of reference for the audience to enter into a movie. With every film I take, the most important thing for me is the script. On that basis, the character of the film is defined.
Indian audiences are still lapping up 3rd Rock From The Sun reruns. Do you ever watch your older stuff? What are the enduring memories of that show?
I really, really enjoyed it. I really consider myself lucky that I get to spend lot of my time doing what I love. My earliest stints with acting started with television and I have very fond memories.
As one who began as a child actor, did you feel the need to make your recent filmography more 'edgy', to overcompensate so that you would be taken more seriously?
I'm just grateful I got to do really good movies in last few years. I like to work with people I connect with on things that inspire me. It's pretty intuitive. When I was done with TV and before I started getting jobs in movies, there was a long period when I didn't know if I'll ever get a job. And that was unacceptable. I was like, 'I cannot stop doing this.' I cannot wait for someone to hire me as an actor.
So I started the whole thing with hitRECord and I still love it. I really consider myself lucky that I get to spend lot of my time doing what I love. With every film I take, the most important thing for me is the script. On that basis, the character of the film is defined. The kind of scripts that came my way, were more of sci-fi and action films and I loved them.
Image: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Premium Rush
'Looper is kind of a redemption story in a way'
Any plans on directing a film? You've been insanely busy as an actor ever since you made your short, but there are more Elmore Leonard books just waiting to be turned into movies, you know.
From every film that I did in the past, there was so much learning from each of them. I wanted to put all my learning to use. I just directed a movie that I wrote called Don Jon's Addiction. I had Scarlett Johansson in mind when I was writing it. I hadn't figured out the other characters, but I did have Scarlett in mind, and it was nerve-wracking. I was like, "What if she doesn't like it? God, I don't know what I'm going to do." Luckily, she did like it and agreed to do it. Acting, script-writing and direction. I enjoy every bit of all these three things.
Coming back to Looper, what would you like to tell audiences, even those who don't like time-travel stories, about the film to make them come try it out?
Looper is kind of a redemption story in a way. But I like that about it. The mechanics of the time-travel in Looper is really simple. It's not one of those time travel movies that's really about the time travel. It uses time travel as a springboard to ask a much more basic human question, which is what would you say to your future self if you could meet them. Obviously that can never happen in real life, so that's what is so great about science fiction -- that can happen. And kind of the centre piece in the movie is the dinner scene where Bruce's older Joe and my younger Joe, the same character, are sitting across from each other talking.
It's fun to root for good guys and bad guys but Looper is more of a drama than a genre film.
And finally, primarily because women I know will lynch me if I don't ask you this, could there be a (500) Days sequel? Ever?
(500) Days Of Summer was a special film and it feels really good to be part of such wonderful cinema. I'm glad to know that people still consider the character as ideal onscreen boyfriend, but the credit should go the script and director of the movie.
Image: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper