Arts and Entertainment
Q&A With Looper Director Rian Johnson
K.S.: How are you doing today?
R.J.: I’m good, man. I’m good.
K.S.: Time travel movies can get tricky given the fact that you’re dealing with past, present, and future periods which often times can lead to enormous plot holes and inconsistencies. I found “Looper” to be extremely well thought out.
R.J.: Thanks man.
K.S.: And I was wondering if you created some kind of Looper Bible to aid you in the screenwriting process?
R.J: Yeah. I came up with a whole system for how all of this stuff works. I’m happy to hear that it worked for you though because a big part of the writing process was coming up with this whole system and then not explaining a lot of it; just letting the rules play out on screen and hoping the audience will just kind of understand why this stuff is working. I think that’s one of the real challenges of writing a time travel movie. There’s a temptation to have a scene where you draw on the chalkboard and explain it all. I didn’t want that in Looper. Looper uses time travel to set up a situation, but it’s not about time travel. It’s about these two guys kind of facing down the choice one of them has to make.
K.S: I know that Shane Carruth—who made Primer—worked on some of the time travel sequences.
R.J.: He didn’t actually. We started working on them together and then for logistic reasons it just didn’t work out.
K.S.: Oh because I was going to ask you what the extent of his work was.
R.J.: It was for a bit that actually ended up getting cut from the movie. There was originally a sequence where you see Old Joe [Willis]…after he sees the prostitute’s kid, he thinks, “I can’t do this”, and he goes to throw his gun away, and as his gun is slipping out of his hand, you see the memories of his wife being swallowed in this cloud one-by-one. And at the end he can’t do it and decides to take the gun back and complete the mission. Shane was working with me on how these cloud memories would happen. But we never got any further then some initial storyboard shots.
K.S.: That’s such a shame. I heard about it so long ago that I started to wonder why I hadn’t heard his name pop-up recently.
R.J.: Yeah that’s the reason. [Laughs]
K.S.: Will we ever see a R.J. Johnson horror movie?
R.J.: You know I’m too big of a wimp. [Laughs] I’ve got good friends who are great horror directors. I’m in awe of what they do. My friend Lucky McKee is a terrific horror movie director. There are horror elements in “Looper”, but to do a great horror movie, you have to go to those dark places. You have to not be afraid of just delving into the blackness of the world. And I think I might be too big of a wimp. [Laughs] I always need redemption at the end. I need to get to a place where I’m seeing the positive side of where we’re all going to end up. And a great horror movie by definition is usually the opposite of that.
K.S.: Thanks for your time today.
R.J.: Thanks so much. It was nice to meet you. It was a real pleasure.
J.G.L: Hey man. How are you doing?
K.S.: Good and yourself?
J.G.L: Good thanks.
K.S.: “Premium Rush” was awesome; a lot of fun.
J.G.L: Oh thanks man!
K.S.: My cousin actually did the bike meetup in Los Angeles.
J.G.L: Oh did he?
K.S.: Yeah they all rode to the movie theater on their bikes.
J.G.L: That’s fantastic. I love that. There was a bunch of those around the country. I thought it was really cool.
K.S.: In an interview, R.J.said that the first cut of the movie was two hours and 45 minutes and about 47 of those minutes were cut. Was there anything that you were really sad to see go?
J.G.L: No. [Laughs] You know, that’s how the process usually goes. It starts long and you have to refine it and refine it and just get to the core of the story. It all serves the story.
K.S.: There’s a line in the movie where Jeff Daniels’ character says to you, “It’s the little ones that get you”. In the context of the movie, what does that mean to you?
J.G.L: Well, in the context of that scene it’s because this sort of unexpected and little thing comes back to be a big deal. He compares it to little spiders which I thought was interesting. [Laughs]
K.S.: Are we going to see a trailer for “Don Jon’s Addiction” anytime soon? Because I know that you guys are editing now. I’ve been following the set updates on Tumblr. It’s pretty cool.
J.G.L: Thanks for bringing that up. That’s awesome. Yeah it went great. We finished shooting about two months ago and we’re in the process of editing it right now. Scarlett Johansson did a really good job. She’s playing this character that I think is really different from anything she’s played before. Julianne Moore is—I think one of the greatest actors alive; Tony Danza plays my dad. He’s really different than you’re used to seeing him. I had a ball man.
K.S.: I’m so stoked for it.
J.G.L: Oh thanks so much. I’m glad you’re excited for it. Because I was wondering if people would be like, “Yeah sure. Actor-kid-turned-director”. [Laughs]
K.S.: [Laughs] Do you have any favorite films that you saw at the Toronto International Film Festival besides “Looper”?
J.G.L: I got to see two films at TIFF; both of which I really loved. One was “The Master” and the other was “Cloud Atlas”.
K.S.: It [“The Master”] was screened in 70mm right?
J.G.L: Yes. It was beautiful.
K.S.: We don’t have any 70mm-capable theaters down here unfortunately.
J.G.L: That’s too bad. Even the transfer to 35mm will still be beautiful. But it’s a stunning movie. And “Cloud Atlas” was also really cool.
K.S.: I’m out of time, but thank you so much.
J.G.L: No problem man. Thank you.
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