Friday, August 10, 2012

The hyper-stylization of Joseph Gordon-Levitt


What have they done to Joseph Gordon-Levitt??

Whatever it is, I like it.

The first time I saw the trailer for Rian Johnson's Looper -- which was not the other night, though that second or third viewing inspired me to write this post -- I thought there seemed something a little off about the young actor's appearance. His features seemed sharper, his eyes wider. There was an airbrushed quality to him.

I thought it might just be that the actor worked out for this role, or that the man who has always looked sort of like a little kid (perhaps because we met him as a little kid on Third Rock from the Sun) was finally maturing. But the changes still looked a bit too extreme. He looked like a cartoon character or something.

After this last viewing, I decided I had to investigate.

It turns out that during the Looper shoot, the actor had to submit to three hours a day in a makeup chair in order to achieve the appearance you see above. Much of that had to do with grafting on a larger chin.

So what was wrong with Gordon-Levitt the way he was, babyface notwithstanding?

Here's the cool part: They are trying to make him look like a younger version of Bruce Willis. Not just because they wanted him to have a "Bruce Willis aura" to him -- but because he actually plays a younger version of Bruce Willis.

And don't tell me that you aren't getting a Bruce Willis vibe from those eyes. I don't know how they did it, but to me, it seems clear as day.

I find all the trouble they went to to be especially interesting, because that's usually the last thing anyone cares about in a movie: whether the actor they got to play the younger version of a character (or the older version) really looks like the actor they got to play the older version (or the younger version). Actors are usually hired because they are right for the part, and they bear at least a passing resemblance to the actor who has already been cast. Like, they need to have the same hair color, though that itself is not an insurmountable obstacle. Being the same race certainly helps.

Here though, Johnson and his crew decided it would add to our appreciation of the film if JGL and Willis really looked like the same person. I'm sure there's something about this intriguing story that will make us appreciate all the more that they made that decision.

We'll find out on September 28th.

Looper -- about a present-day hitman who is hired to kill the future incarnation of himself -- is the kind of big idea movie that would ordinarily shoot straight to the top of my "most anticipated" list. It hasn't, which is primarily because in the maybe two years since I first heard about it, I have known it was from the creative team (writer-director and star) behind Brick.

I've mellowed on my dislike of Brick after a second viewing, but I still feel like it contains altogether too much posing and posturing for my tastes, and it turned me against JGL for a number of years. I refused to see Johnson's follow-up, The Brothers Bloom, just because of his involvement.

But this is a new and improved Gordon-Levitt -- literally -- and I have since heard Johnson appear as a guest host on my favorite film podcast, Filmspotting. So I'm ready to open my arms to him again as well.

There will be no teenagers tripping over their noir jargon, so at least there's that.

5 comments:

Daddy Geek Boy said...

I'm surprised you make no mention of Premium Rush here in making your case for the "hyper-stylization of JGL"

Vancetastic said...

That film wasn't on my radar. What is it, a remake of Quicksilver?

The title of this post kind of strayed away from what I was eventually talking about ...

Thaddeus said...

This is almost like talking to someone who doesn't like chocolate: I don't know exactly what turned you off from Brick, but I took it with little buzz.

First and foremost, I understood that this was an indie flick - I met a relative of his, and a lot of Brick's funding came from family - that had a lot of style to it. And since the writing had the same revealing/entertaining nature that a lot of film noir did, I appreciated the style all the more.

Disagreement aside, I've been looking forward to Looper for ages. I'm always happy for more JGL and/or Rian Johnson. Did I mention that Shane Caruth from Primer worked on this? Oh, wait, you hated that one too, right? Why? =p

Anonymous said...

i don't know.......he looks more John Travolta to me than Bruce Willis

Anonymous said...

To me that shot of Gordon-Levitt looks more like a very young Mel Gibson in the first Mad Max movie.