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Comic-Con: Capone talks LOOPER and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES with his BNAT 2011 seatmate Joseph Gordon-Levitt!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

I first interviewed Joseph Gordon-Levitt five years ago when he was doing press for a great little film he made called THE LOOKOUT, and I remember thinking he was genuinely enjoyable young man to converse with and talk film. Up to that point, he's done some impressive work in smaller films like MANIC, MYSTERIOUS SKIN, HAVOC, and STOP-LOSS. But one of his most impressive roles of that period was in writer-director Rian Johnson's debut feature BRICK, a crisply written film noir set in a California high school.

In the last five years, Gordon-Levitt has exploded into the mainstream with films such as G.I. JOE: RISE OF THE COBRA, INCEPTION, HESHER (okay, maybe that isn't exactly mainstream, but it is a fucking great movie), and last year's 50/50. Although he has yet to appear in a 2012 film beginning this week, he'll begin a run of roles through the end of the year that include THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, director David Koepp's PREMIUM RUSH, Steven Spielberg's LINCOLN, and Rian Johnson's sci-fi crime drama LOOPER, in which Gordon-Levitt plays a younger version of Bruce Willis in a time-travel scenario that sees the older Willis going back in time and meeting the younger version of himself whose job is to kill the older Willis. Got it?

But perhaps Gordon-Levitt's greatest challenge, both in terms of patience and endurance, was having to sit between me and Johnson at Butt-Numb-a-Thon 2011. And while I tried my best not to annoy the guy, we did end up having quite a few conversations about everything from music, to his magnificent job hosting "Saturday Night Live" a couple years back, to his excitement at working with one of his boyhood idols, Bruce Willis. I'm not sure it would qualify as a bonding experience, but I felt fairly confident he'd at least recognize me when we met at Comic-Con to discuss LOOPER. He's still a great interview, and I look forward to talking to him again once I've seen LOOPER. Enjoy Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Photos come courtesy of Gavin "Malone" Stokes.

Capone: How are you?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Good to see you again.

Capone: I think the last time I saw you was at Butt-Numb-a-Thon, and you and Rian were just starting wrapping up pre-production on LOOPER, and now here we are.

JGL: Yeah, we were about to start shooting.

Capone: It makes it seem like such a long time ago. Yeah, you were literally going from Austin to New Orleans.

JGL: I think you might be right.

Capone: I remember Rian saying that’s what you guys were up to.

JGL: Yeah, we were about to go, and then I asked Rian when he was leaving, and he said he was leaving early to go to Butt-Numb-a-Thon, and he had told me about it in prior years, and I was like “Oh, I've always wanted to go to that,” and so last minute he managed to get me a seat and I was stoked. That was a really great experience.

Capone: That was a lot of fun.

JGL: I know, I missed it this last year; I couldn’t go.

Capone You’ve been a busy guy, man. Even though Rian has offered me many opportunities to learn more about this movie over the years, I’ve tried not to.

JGL: Good for you. I think you'll probably enjoy it more.

Capone: I think so too. You’ve worked with him before on a very different kind of movie with very different style of dialogue. Is there still something about the way he's writing that is different than everybody else?

JGL: His writing is just really sharp and really smart. It’s a little bit heightened just in that it’s a sci-fi movie, but it’s not like BRICK. BRICK was all about this really highly stylized language, and LOOPER is I think Rian’s most grounded movie by a lot, even though it’s set in the future, and there are some fantastic things happening. You don’t feel like you are watching a stylized world; you feel like you are watching reality.

Capone: Do you kind of get to play with that psychological trauma of meeting yourself and possibly having to kill yourself. There’s some deep, damaged stuff that’s buried in that. Is that something that gets to get played with a little bit?

JGL: That’s exactly what we played with. That’s the point. Rian didn’t do a sci-fi movie just so that he could make cool-looking, futuristic gadgets and buildings. The movie does have some of that, but that’s not the point. It’s really, I think, quite a sophisticated drama, with the skin of a sci-fi action movie, sort of like how [Christopher] Nolan makes his movies, whereas it’s a Batman movie, but it’s a drama, it’s a dignified, grown-up drama.

Capone: Do you like that as your career continues these really talented filmmakers keep wanting to not just work with you but bring you back in and try you out with different things? You do develop a relationship and a shorthand. Is that one of the goals as an actor, to develop that kind of working relationship with these great filmmakers?

JGL: Well it is wonderful to work again with Rian or with Chris, because you’re right there is a shorthand and a trust that both is me trusting the director, but also the director trusting me, and that’s huge, because you both need each other. The performance doesn’t get made by the actor, the performance is a collaboration where the actor provides the ingredients, but the director is the one that sort of cooks them up and puts them together into what the performance ultimately is that the audience sees.

Capone: Yeah. I’ve heard Rian comment about how in hiring you, he pretty much hired the one guy who looked the least like Bruce Willis.

[Both Laugh]

Capone: And I know they did some make up on you, but the look is one thing, it’s partly out of your control, but in capturing the essence of Willis, what did you do to get a voice or mannerism?

JGL: Yeah, I just studied him. I studied his movies. I watched his movies a lot. I would take the audio off of the movies and put them on my iPod so I could listen to it. He was really helpful. He even sent me a recording reading some of my voiceover lines, so then I could hear how he would sound saying them, which was just really generous of him. The most productive thing though was just hanging out with him and getting to know him. He’s a sweetheart, Bruce is, such a nice guy and just fun to talk to, smart, not to mention he’s Bruce-fucking-Willis. [laughs] We grew up with him. He’s a hero and such a good actor. I’ve admired him for a long time. Obviously, he’s a big star, but then what other big action star ends up being in PULP FICTION and 12 MONKEYS and those sorts of movies?

And he was stoked while we were doing it. He obviously was really in love with the material and really got along with Rian, and so he was just having a ball, and we had so much fun together. That’s I think where I learned the most of what I wanted to put into my… It’s not an impersonation; it’s a character that’s based on him. But mostly I think, I just took it from him personally.

Capone: And you’re right, of all of those guys that are associated with being these huge action guys, he is the best actor if of the bunch too.

JGL: Yeah, he’s in a different league.

Capone: I don’t know that much about the relationship that your character has with Emily [Blunt], can you talk about what your interaction with her is in the film a little bit, if you’re able?

JGL: Yeah, I don’t want to give anything away, but… So a looper in the story is a certain kind of assassin that uses time travel to commit murder, because murder is sort of impossible in the future,. Because it’s so illegal, the mob that employs me in the future wants to sever their ties, so they send me my future self to kill, which I fail to do, because he’s Bruce-fucking-Willis.

Capone: Is that what you say in the movie when he popped up? “It’s Bruce Willis, I can’t shoot him.”

JGL: Exactly. And so then it becomes a bit of a cat and mouse, and all I can really say about Emily’s character is she and her family become embroiled in the chaos that ensues after I let my loop run.

Capone: That works. What is the red button? [Joseph has a small red button pinned to his jacket.]

JGL: It’s a record button just like this one [points to a red light on my recorder; his button is promoting his company hitRECord, an open collaborative production company].

Capone: I thought that might be the case. That’s actually what I thought it was. I know what that is [points to the small Batman logo on his tie]. Let me ask you this: I’m seeing DARK KNIGHT RISES on Tuesday.

JGL: Cool.

Capone: So I won’t even bother asking you anything about it in terms of plot, but there’s been a lot of mystery about the character you play, and I’m wondering, when everyone has seen it and the mystery is revealed, is it a secret that has to be kept? Is it important that we don’t know until we see it? Or are you all just laughing at us jumping through hoops trying to guess?

JGL: When there’s a movie that I really am excited about seeing, I try to avoid knowing anything about it, because I want the story to be told just like the filmmaker intended it. I’m sort of picky. Like I hate DVD menus, because to me the first image of a film… That’s very important. I don’t like missing the beginning of a movie, because whatever he filmmaker chooses to be the very, very first thing that you see, I think is important. So it pisses me off when I put in a DVD, and it shows you a whole fucking montage of the movie.

Capone: Or an important scene out where you’re like “I don’t want to see this out of context.”

JGL: Yeah. A good DVD menu to me is just like a still of the poster with a “Play Movie” button. That’s it! That’s all I want! I don’t want to hear anything. I don’t want to see any fucking pieces of a scene. [laughs] It’s true. You can ask my girlfriend, I’m always complaining about DVD menus.

Capone: Secrets are important.

JGL: Yeah, that’s why. Chris and Jona[than Nolan] really came up with a great story, and I don’t think it’s exactly what people will expect and I think they'll enjoy it the most if they don’t know what to expect.

Capone: I know people that have seen it now and I wont talk to them. For a week or so, I’m not going to talk to them, because I know I’m seeing it soon. It was really great to see you again man and I’m really excited to see this movie.

JGL: It was good to see you, buddy. I’ll see you soon.

Capone: Good to see you.

-- Steve Prokopy
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Readers Talkback
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  • July 18, 2012, 2:56 a.m. CST


    by jasonzappa

  • July 18, 2012, 3 a.m. CST

    Chicago rules

    by jasonzappa

    Thank you. My first first.

  • July 18, 2012, 3:11 a.m. CST

    JGL right on the money about DVD menus. I hate it when they do that.

    by Xenodistortion

  • July 18, 2012, 3:34 a.m. CST

    I love Bruce Willis

    by tomdolan04

    Live Free was well below the standard, I can't get excited for DH5 from what I've seen, he's appeared in a fair bit of shit over the last few years but ultimately his career has given him a pass in my book. <p> Die Hard with a Vengeance is one of my favorite action flicks of all time, DH1 is obviously a classic, 12 Monkeys, Pulp Fiction, Hudson Hawk (sue me), Death Becomes Her, Hostage, 16 Blocks, Fifth Element, Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, hell even Armageddon - I just can't get TB'ers who haul the guy over the coals. Looper looks like a great little sci-fi romp. <p> As for JGL, a fine actor on the rise(s).

  • I've been saying that for years.

  • July 18, 2012, 4:02 a.m. CST

    The Looper screenplay opens with a gush of exposition via voice-over.

    by Daniel_S_Duvall

    There are three dense blocks of blurted exposition right off the bat. I perceived the script as sloppy and poorly-constructed -- but hey, Rian gets the big bucks for cranking out those photoplays, so maybe he knows what he's doing.

  • That's unfettered capitalism for ya!

  • July 18, 2012, 4:59 a.m. CST

    Imagine if Joel Schumacher had made The Dark Knight Rises

    by Joe

    Well, we already saw his version of Bane - a grunting retard. Just reflecting the kind of people who loved Batman Forever. His Catwoman would have been like Poison Ivy, all retarded double entendres. But Joel comes into his own in action scenes. Remember that awesome bit in Forever where Batman crashes through the skylight? You know, the scene that copied the '89 Batman where Batman crashes through a skylight to rescue Vicki Vale. Well, Joel was so proud of copying that scene, he repeated it in Batman & Robin, not once but twice! Holy unoriginal shit, Batman! Batman crashes through the skylight to announce "Hi Freeze, I'm Batman". And later on, Batgirl crashes through a skylight to announce "You're compost" to Poison Ivy. A flawless blend of imaginative action and witty dialogue. So we can only imagine that in Joel's Dark Knight Rises, Batman would crash through a skylight about 47 times during the movie while saying lines like "Hi Bane. I'm the bane of your life" or "Hello Kitty" to Catwoman.

  • Genius. Simply genius. Dialogue aimed at retarded rednecks in the sticks.

  • July 18, 2012, 6:36 a.m. CST

    Daniel Day-Lewis is gonna play President Lincoln

    by James

    in a biopic by Steven Spielberg. Holy shit! I bet it's gonna be better than Batman!

  • July 18, 2012, 6:55 a.m. CST

    Calling it now: He's Robin.

    by Chris

  • July 18, 2012, 7:24 a.m. CST

    It's sad how geekdom validates itself on how Batman is presented.

    by cookylamoo

    Schumaker made us objects of scorn but Nolan makes us purveyors of fine art.

  • July 18, 2012, 9:01 a.m. CST

    yi am sitting in ausi cinema waiting for tdkr to start

    by ckhappyanswer

    Update in 3 hours..

  • July 18, 2012, 9:46 a.m. CST

    FROSSSSSTY........ Yeah Boss

    by ass clown

    Best line of Batman and Robin.

  • July 18, 2012, 9:58 a.m. CST

    Brick was a cool movie

    by zer0cool2k2

    The Lookout was greatness. Hesher was fun to watch too. Haven't seen Mysterious Skin, isn't little Dawnie Summers in that?

  • July 18, 2012, 10:25 a.m. CST

    Rotten Tomatoes had to close down

    by brobdingnag

    the comment sections on all DKR reviews because negative reviewers were being threatened. Well done Nolan worshipers.

  • July 18, 2012, 10:28 a.m. CST

    he's so upbeat and seems cool but he kinda bores me in movies.

    by MST3KPIMP

  • WTF??? Doesn´t make sense.

  • July 18, 2012, 11:39 a.m. CST

    RE: goldentribe

    by Capone

    JGL actually called Jonathan Nolan by his nickname Jonah. Wasn't quite sure how to convey that; did my best.

  • July 18, 2012, 11:49 a.m. CST

    thanks kildeer1

    by JAMF

    saw the new york one on youtube, skipped the two puppets presenting though.

  • July 18, 2012, 12:54 p.m. CST

    Just saw DKR - My Review - Semi Spoiler

    by ckhappyanswer

    3:30am here (Melbourne Australia) and just got home from The Dark Knight Rises. Going in I was hoping it was going to suck my dick hard, like Neil Cumston on a Saturday night.. and that Bane would step out of the screen and punch me in the balls..but that didn't happen.. it was good, but not as good as the 2nd movie.. Trollers get ready to hate me. First, it was a very long slow start with not much Batman and i was sitting there thinking this is like RoboCop 3 where the hero you paid your money to see doesn't even rock up for the first 15 minutes. After the movie I was trying to think back to all the cool moments where Batman did this or Batman did that.. but there were hardly any to think of.. and yes he is down and out and it takes time for him to recover and makes sense for the story told.. but it just takes too long (most of the movie) and think there was a significant amount of glee and excitement missing from the total experience. 2nd a major problem was that the 2nd movie was just so damn good I was looking for that same lightening in a bottle again. I often watch DK and am mesmerized by Heath's performance, I am addicted to it.. but while the performances here were all very good (Michael Cain the best), they just didn't elevate to that something special that had come before. Positively: yes it was a good story, fitting conclusion, top notch production, just feel it should have been marketed in a slightly different way.. although not sure how I would do that.. oh and by the way.. Letterman's spoiler (whether true or not - I wont spoil that point for you) in hindsight was totally an authorized stunt from Nolan and Anne, pulling a bit of Prestige. Ebert's Review is up, and I pretty much agree with him.. much more to discuss.. so please do go and see the movie asap.. it's great but Avengers left me feeling much more satisfied and bubbly than this.

  • July 18, 2012, 1:11 p.m. CST

    It's another "Hero's Path" movie.

    by cookylamoo

    And by now it's more of a "hero's trail"

  • July 18, 2012, 1:27 p.m. CST

    Just gonna paste my review

    by the artist formerly known as messi

    I can't say how much these movies mean to me. I've watched Begins countless times and the soundtrack has been playing constantly since the movie came out. As for Rises. It is a great movie. Partially makes no sense but . The makes no sense bit. As a Batman fan, some elements don't make sense and just scream that Nolan is done with this and wants to move on. The idea of Batman going into exile is ridiculous, Batman giving up being Batman after 1 year? Ludicrous. "The War goes on", this is a war to him. Maybe get disillusioned 10 years down the track but 1 year? This just seems like Nolan wanted to end it but have no one pick up after. That's annoying and egotistical. He created a franchise that could easily have been like James Bond and gone on. To be honest I would have preferred that Dark Knight ended darker like Long Halloween and Two Face killing Maroni and then giving himself in thus undoing everything they did but Batman saying "the war goes on" showing he'll never give up because he never does. As for this. It is not as good as Begins but better than Dark Knight. Dark Knight was great but it has a weak narrative structure where the pacing was off and too much daylight and all the great Batman elements that were in Begins were gone instead of added upon. Begins however is tight as fuck. It is a BATMAN film in every sense, the tone, the Batman elements, the way it ended with Batman as a superhero instead of just a masked vigilante. The narrative flow and the way it unfolded and it felt so much like Batman. The second act is like a Detective Comics arc, the cinematography, the lighting they used. Great. Rises brings up a lot of Begins, there is a huge amount of Begins references and even flashbacks. As a film in itself, it is great but even less of a Batman film than Dark Knight despite having so many elements like a ton. It's a huge film with some incredible filmmaking and whilst long it doesn't have the weak narrative flow of Dark Knight. However it is heavy on plot. Maybe too heavy. Too much story maybe. I still miss the yellow lighting from Begins which is present at times but is needed more. I am blown away by how much actual comic book there is in this. I mean the plot is No Man's Land, not exactly but pretty much. Knightfall seemed like a given but I thought Nolan would only reference but of it or vaguely allude at most when they even did the breaking of the Bat. That scene you imagined would be in but assumed Nolan wouldn't do it. He does it. Bane is a great villain. He will become Iconic by just how ferocious he is and he is understandable for the majority of the movie. I have to say though that the prologue scene that was inaudible. IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. AND IT SOUNDS RIDICULOUS. It is so obviously ADR and the timbre and Tone of Bane is different and honestly not as good as the prologue released with Mission Impossible. They just had to clean up the audio, not rerecord the fucking thing. When Bane says "No one cared who I was until I put on the Mask" it was great in the prologue but here he says it after his mask is pulled off and the impact isn't there. The sound mixing on this movie was quite bad to be honest, so much dialogue is inaudible and the general sound mixing is weak. As for twists, well the one every comic book fan knew is in there. Bane's origin is surprisingly in the movie, prison and all, with a twist. Bane himself, thanks to movie magic, looks fucking humongous. He towers over people, he fills the screen, physically and with presence. Not one scene where you think he's smaller than Bale. My fav part though was the Ra's Al Ghul bit. Hearing that music again where when I saw Begins for the first time I knew that it would be something special. Just amazing. Also to hear the theme when Bruce walks into the prison yard in Begins when we see Bruce again here, beautiful. They might as well have credited James Newton Howard because so much of his music is in there. However sadly, that epic piece of music in the Nokia trailer is nowhere to be seen. It is a great movie but kind of silly conclusion, just seems a bit "I want to move on already" and takes it's cues from Dark Knight Returns. However the whole JGL aspect at the end was silly. They should have just had Batman saving the day and then standing in front of the graves of his parents and then passing the torch to another actor or just continuing it. Just silliness at the end, there's no reason they couldn't just continue it. It seems like they ran out of ideas or Nolan really wants no one to touch his franchise but will still be selfish and not continue. I love the movie but it is still not Batman Begins, the true Batman movie.

  • July 18, 2012, 1:49 p.m. CST

    Not a bad singer/guitar player either

    by mjgtexas

    Better than Keanu and Crowe, anyway.

  • July 18, 2012, 2:13 p.m. CST

    RT booboo

    by iluvsyfy

    RT has JR Jones review as Rotten, but when you read his review he gives it 4.2/5 stars. Something is rotten at RT. Thats three improper labels. One review had B- which is 80% and another 2.5/4 which means 62%, so those editors at RT need to get with it.

  • July 18, 2012, 2:16 p.m. CST


    by the artist formerly known as messi

    the Ra's Al Ghul ethereal slightly middle eastern epic theme is in the movie and it is fucking beautiful. So Epic.

  • July 18, 2012, 2:56 p.m. CST

    It's a hero's path movie...

    by Daniel Caputi

    Like this one! Blee dat, playa.

  • July 18, 2012, 3:05 p.m. CST

    Nolan worshippers

    by Steve Lamarre

    ironic that they're acting like the asshole villains of the film they're defending.

  • July 18, 2012, 3:12 p.m. CST

    Where are the Dark Knight Rises reviews?

    by ass clown

    WTF.... All the other critics seem to have seen it, why not you guys?

  • July 18, 2012, 3:29 p.m. CST

    I saw it

    by the artist formerly known as messi

  • July 18, 2012, 4:21 p.m. CST

    Schumacher remade the 60's tv show...he didn't know it was ever a comic

    by Darth Macchio

    Even if he did know...he was clearly going for the tv show. I'm shocked actually that we didn't get "BLAM!!!!" or "KAPOW!!!!" written on the screen in giant red cartoon letters during Batman and Robin's fights.

  • July 18, 2012, 5:42 p.m. CST

    I saw it!

    by Steve Lamarre

    Actually, I didn't. I'm not a critic or v.i.p. or contest winner. I'm not David Letterman or Seth Meyers or Jimmy Fallon (fuck those guys). I'm an average joe who has to wait like everyone else. Meh, I hear Batman's not even in this dumb movie anyway.

  • Whedonites and Nolanites should be allowed to an all-out street brawl , to the death, like those scenes from DKR with the cops and Bane's goons. The world (ok, the internet) would be better off without them. Question: how do Nolanites feel about having to jerk-off to a Zack Snyder movie next year? That has to be giving you people some mixed feelings.

  • July 18, 2012, 7:37 p.m. CST

    Saw the film this morning...

    by shaneo632

    Absolutely loved it. Risky plot will divide audiences but it has more emotional warmth than the other Batman films combined.

  • July 18, 2012, 8:12 p.m. CST

    Looks like Reuters read your interview

    by edwizard

  • July 18, 2012, 8:12 p.m. CST

    Looks like Reuters read your interview (with link)

    by edwizard


  • July 18, 2012, 8:18 p.m. CST

    . . . Chris and Jonah [Jonathan] Nolan . . . .

    by Gunboat82

    Like that.

  • and mind you, by far my favorite genre of film is crime drama/mystery/con man/heist/caper/etc... I felt like I just wanted to punch Johnson in the face after Brick. And I really dig JGL as an actor too, but Brick was Johnson trying waaaaaaaaaaay too hard to come off as slick and cool. It was absolutely ludicrous listening to these over privileged high schoolers talk like they were in the 1940's. And I was super excited for Brothers Bloom, am a big Ruffalo and Weisz fan, and holy shit was that a major disappointment.

  • July 19, 2012, 1 a.m. CST

    ima huge jgl fan...

    by yourSTEPDADDY

    but i never understand the love for lookout. ps: i hope looper has more dialogue than what the script shows. there is a huge chunk missing (which i guess involves china since i read china will get more scenes of their country than we would) pps: looper script was good...just dont really like the ending since it seems too cliched