Q&A: Rian Johnson On ‘Looper’

By | Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 9:06pm PST

Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine.

What started out as a three-page script almost a decade ago has turned out to be writer-director Rian Johnson’s most successful film to date, Looper. The time-travel tale stars frequent Johnson collaborator Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, both playing the same character from different points in their lives. “It was less (about) taking 10 years to get it done and more kind of writing it and thinking it up eight years later,” he explains. Johnson recently spoke with AwardsLine about why it’s fun to work with friends and how he’s come to believe that directing is as much about listening as anything else.

AWARDSLINE: When you expanded your initial three-page script into a feature, you wrote with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in mind for the main character. What makes collaborating with a lot of the same people on your films work well for you?


RIAN JOHNSON:
The main benefit of it is just that level of trust that’s automatically baked into working with someone who’s a friend of yours. What I hope that leads to is giving you the comfort level to take some risks or try some things you may be otherwise afraid to. Because you have leapfrogged putting a lot of energy into forming a new relationship, you can redirect that into just making the movie better. But our sets don’t feel like cocktail parties. Our sets tend to be really focused places.  Read More »

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Cutting Edge Group Adds Nora Mullally As Head Of Business And Legal Affairs

By | Wednesday October 31, 2012 @ 11:28am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: London and LA-based film music provider The Cutting Edge Group invests cash in film music budgets and provides or brokers services for scoring, clearances and music supervision. It then recoups from soundtrack and sheet-music sales along with licensing … Read More »

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What A Weekend! Sony Has Best Ever #1 + #2 Films: ‘Hotel Transylvania’ Sets Records; Uni’s ‘Pitch Perfect’ Tops Screen Average; Walden’s ‘Won’t Back Down’ Flops

By | Sunday September 30, 2012 @ 7:27am PDT

SUNDAY AM, 4TH UPDATE: Hollywood finally can celebrate better box office which breaks a 5-week losing streak. Friday and Saturday overperformed for an ‘up’ weekend: $110M total moviegoing, which is +20% better than last year. And Sony Pictures has $66.2M – or … Read More »

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UPDATE: ‘Looper’ Execs In China Blooper

By | Saturday September 29, 2012 @ 10:37pm PDT

UPDATE OCT. 3: I’m trying to get the full story. But I’ve learned that everyone associated with the futuristic actioner Looperin China — Sony and TriStar Pictures, FilmDistrict, Endgame Entertainment, and the Chinese co-producer DMG Entertainment — … Read More »

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Toronto: ‘Looper’, ‘On The Road’, Marion Cotillard Kick Off Festival Packed With Oscar Hopefuls

Pete Hammond

The Toronto International Film Festival officially kicked off tonight with gala screenings of FilmDistrict’s time-tripping sci-fi action flick Looper starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt, plus two Cannes premieres making their official North American bows. On The Road, the 1950s beat … Read More »

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Toronto 2012: High Optimism As Business Reshaped By Filmmaker-Driven Fare And Shifting Formats Reinvigorates Indie Biz

By | Thursday September 6, 2012 @ 5:04pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Toronto International Film Festival 2012 PreviewAs the Canadians here like to say, it’s time to drop the puck on the Toronto Film Festival. Things get underway with this evening’s premiere of the Rian Johnson-directed Looper, but the dealmaking crowd is already into things. I’ve heard there is some action on Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha (which played Telluride), and Eli Roth’s genre film Aftershock.

Beyond the finished films, there is also potential action on upcoming films that are being shown to buyers through promos. Those include the Ralph Fiennes-directed The Invisible Woman with Fiennes, Felicity Jones and Kristen Scott Thomas; Long Walk To Freedom, an Idris Elba-starrer about Nelson Mandela’s first term as president after the fall of apartheid in South Africa; the Susanne Bier-directed Serena with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper; and the Bong Joon-ho-directed Snow Piercer with Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton.

SEE PART II: Fest Films With Highest Wanna-see From Buyers: Mike Fleming On 2012 Toronto

Besides the deal volume, by the time most of the buyers and sellers leave here next week, not only should there be a wealth of sales, but also a much clearer picture of the Oscar race, which so far has no frontrunner at all.

A festival that always ranks high among distribution executives and agents — the city is so damn pleasant and is a great place to watch movies — this particular Toronto will be likely front-loaded with deals for theatrical-release films with casts that have buyers fairly salivating. And the burgeoning multiplatform business makes it a good bet that anything worth watching will get snapped up at some point or other. Also helping matters is that enough films that were set up in an independent construct succeeded well enough to have whetted appetites for more. Films brought up by buyers and sellers were the Wes Anderson-directed Moonrise Kingdom (which has grossed over $44 million) and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Magic Mike. While the latter seems an odd example considering it was released by Warner Bros, the film speaks to the promise of what can happen when things succeed. (See below how last year’s Toronto-sold films fared at the box office.)

Channing Tatum and Soderbergh decided to finance that $6.5 million film themselves. It was a smart gamble. Even though the story was somewhat dark, they knew they would fill the cast with hunks and that an audience would turn out for what could be marketed as an infomercial for 8 Minute Abs. Castmates like Matt Bomer and Matthew McConaughey signed on for little upfront money and they all became investors in the film. Word is those guys will wind up with $5 million paydays, and that Tatum and Soderbergh will make a fortune for their risk. They sold international for around $14.5 million, and then sold U.S. to Warner Bros for $7.5 million. The film has so far grossed north of $150 million worldwide. This should feather Soderbergh’s nest in retirement (believe it or not, there was a de facto retirement party for him earlier this week).

Related: Toronto Film Festival 2012: ‘Looper,’ ‘Argo,’ ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Highlight 60+ Films

Buyers and sellers I’ve spoken to are still debating how to walk away from Toronto with some films under their arms, but not overpaying. Every buyer I spoke with mentioned the razor-thin margins under which most of these films operate. They are also still very divided over the merits of the multiplatform release strategy that many of them are now operating. “So Bachelorette hit number one on iTunes,” said one distributor who sees VOD as an option only for films that don’t warrant the P&A spend. “Weinstein paid $2 million for that film, and if they made a few hundred thousand dollars, will enough theaters be willing to play the film to make it meaningful?”

Related: ‘Bachelorette’ Becomes An iTunes Hit Read More »

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eOne Says Talks With Alliance Are Ongoing As It Reports Strong First Quarter

By | Wednesday July 25, 2012 @ 5:02am PDT

In May, Entertainment One confirmed it was mulling the acquisition of fellow Canadian-based group, Alliance Films. At the time, it said a deal was not a certainty, but that it had held talks with Alliance shareholders. In … Read More »

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Toronto Film Fest: What Looks Good For Oscar?

Pete Hammond

Okay let’s just cut to the chase.

What does today’s first announcement of galas and special presentations at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival mean for the Oscar race? Of course it is only still July but with this news out of Canada the lineup for awards season is starting to become a reality. Venice (which is opening with Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalistalso a Toronto Gala pick which bodes well), Toronto and Telluride have increasingly become key outposts for the official beginning of awards season and 2012 films the studios and indies are premiering at the trio of oh-so-important fests will be scrutinized for their pure-bred Oscar potential. Venice may be downsizing a bit this year according to early indications and Telluride, per tradition, keeps  its lineup fairly secret until August 30, the day before the Colorado Labor Day weekend fest begins but you can bet it will overlap heavily with the other two fests, particularly Toronto since Telluride doesn’t label any of its films as North American or World Premieres and can play many of the same films under the radar. Toronto gets the honor of official premieres and so it is Toronto that is giving us the most to work with — so far.

The September 6 Opening Night film is action thriller Looper which on the surface does not appear to be an awardsy-type film, just a solid genre piece. I don’t believe Film District plans any kind of major Oscar campaign here. Read More »

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Toronto Film Festival 2012: ‘Looper,’ ‘Argo,’ ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Highlight 60+ Films

By | Tuesday July 24, 2012 @ 7:48am PDT
Mike Fleming

Toronto Film Festival 2012The first leg of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival was announced this morning, and the slate of premieres and galas has a good mix of star power and potential acquisition titles. Looper was confirmed … Read More »

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Toronto: ‘Looper’ To Open Fest, Slate Coming This Morning

By | Tuesday July 24, 2012 @ 5:44am PDT
Mike Fleming

Looper Toronto Film FestivalLooks like the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival will get underway with Looper, the futuristic Rian Johnson-directed thriller that start Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. An official announcement is 90 minutes away, but I’m told … Read More »

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Comic-Con: Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’ Plus ‘Looper’, ‘Total Recall’ & ‘Resident Evil 5′

By | Friday July 13, 2012 @ 7:01pm PDT

Luke Y. Thompson is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of Comic-Con.

The most-anticipated moment of the Sony panel was easily the presentation of Neil Blomkamp‘s Elysium, and it did not disappoint, looking like a 2001/District 9 hybrid, or maybe even Wall-E with humans. It’s another stylish sci-fi class-struggle parable with Matt Damon as a shaven-headed working-class guy on an overpopulated earth (downtown LA is shown covered with tent encampments, even atop the skyscrapers). He was inadvertently exposed to toxic radiation and given a mechanical exoskeleton to help him capture a rich bureaucrat played by William Fichtner and infiltrate Elysium, an off-world space station created for the richest 1%, where disease Comic-Concan be eradicated and everything is perfect. Sharlto Copley’s also in there as a crazy bearded dude with a personal force-field. Robotic cops look not unlike the District 9 bugs. It feels like a potential smash. The footage shown had rough, unfinished effects but it didn’t matter. Panelists were Blomkamp, Jodie Foster, producer Simon Kinberg, Copley (hugely cheered by this crowd) and Damon. Copley revealed that his character is a villain, which wasn’t evident in the clips. He also begged fans to ask Blomkamp for a District 9 sequel, joking that he’s still looking for work.
Read More »

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Hot Trailer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ‘Looper’

By | Thursday June 28, 2012 @ 4:33pm PDT

Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis in the sci-fi pic about a contract killer (Gordon-Levitt) who works for the mob of the future, killing victims 30 years in the past so there’s no trace of the crime. Then comes a target (Willis) that happens to be … Read More »

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‘Cloud Atlas’, ‘Dredd’, ‘Looper,’ ‘Magic Mike’ Screen Early For Distributors: Cannes

In the past few days, buyers at the Cannes Film Festival have had a first look at some high-profile pics they’ve already bought. Focus Features International screened Cloud Atlas on Tuesday for its distributors, and IM Global gave theirs a full showing of Dredd this afternoon. FilmNation also held screenings of three of its upcoming pics to get folks excited early.

Related: Hot Film Titles For U.S. Buyers: Cannes 2012

Cloud Atlas, directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugh Grant. It’s based on David Mitchell’s book that consists of six interconnected stories. Warner Bros will release domestically, but the studio did not finance the $100M film. Producer Grant Hill tells me when it became clear that Warner Bros couldn’t see how to make it within the studio system, the filmmakers chose a different route. That included a combination of equity from Asian sources and some rights deals. “We were lucky it went very well and got us the money we needed,” says Hill, adding, “When we had raised the amount we needed, we were feeling pretty good about it so we said why don’t we wait and hold back 3 or 4 territories.” The territories remaining are the UK, France, Japan and Spain. The screening could lead to deals closing soon. “There’s a lot of people talking to a lot of people… The nice part about having potential buyers in the screening is that they got to sit with people who had already bought the film and who were enthusiastic. But, you can’t control the situation, it could easily have gone the other way.” The financing structure “is a model I’d try again,” he says, “but it’s not a model that’s a fit for all situations.” Read More »

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Hot Trailer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis In ‘Looper’

By | Thursday April 12, 2012 @ 5:00pm PDT

In this futuristic thriller, when the mob wants to rub out an enemy, they dispatch their target back in time 30 or so years where a Looper — in this case Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) will take care of the job. Which presents a problem when Joe’s employers decide to close … Read More »

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FilmDistrict Hires Jim Orr As President Of Distribution

By | Thursday April 12, 2012 @ 4:32pm PDT

http://www.deadline.com/tag/filmdistrict/Jim Orr has joined FilmDistrict as the new president of distribution, CEO Peter Schlessel announced this afternoon. Orr will oversee all aspects of FilmDistrict’s feature distribution and will report directly to Schlessel. This follows Sclessel’s recent hiring of Christine Birch as president of marketing, and positions key executives at FilmDistrict as the company prepares for the Cannes Film Festival and market next month. Orr will oversee distribution of FilmDistrict’s slate, including Lockout (via Open Road) which opens tomorrow, Safety Not Guaranteed (June 8), Looper, in conjunction with Endgame Entertainment and Sony Pictures (September 28), Red Dawn (also via Open Road, November 2) Playing the Field (December 25) and Parker (January 25, 2013). Also in the works is a “reimagining” of the horror cult classic Evil Dead, in conjunction with Ghost House Pictures and Sony Pictures, and a sequel to Insidious, distributed by FilmDistrict. Read More »

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