Joseph Gordon-Levitt on Looper's Violence, Morality, and Mind-Melding With Bruce Willis

He garnered national attention at a young age playing an alien posing as teen in 3rd Rock from the Sun and infiltrated the human subconscious as a dream architect in Inception. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is no stranger to science fiction, and he's put on one of his most interesting performances to date in Rian Johnson's latest film, Looper.

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- Rian Johnson Returns With Looper, a Modern Sci-Fi Classic

Set in 2042, the film takes place in a world where time travel exists and it's under the control of the mob. Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a "looper," or a hit-man who kills people sent back in time when the mob wants to get rid of a person before he becomes a problem.

The backdrop of the story is an almost Orwellian dystopia. Johnson has done a tremendous job of creating a futuristic society still grounded in a familiar reality. It's eerie how possible Johnson's tomorrow-land feels.

It's usually your past that comes back to haunt you, but for Joe it's his future. After disobeying protocol, he ends up face to face with himself 30 years from now, played by Bruce Willis. When he can't tell which version of himself is the bad guy, things start to escalate.

"There's a lot of moral ambiguity in it, and I think that's realistic for the way the world is in real life. No one is black or white, everyone's a shade of grey, and while it's a convenient and often crowd pleasing device to have heroes and villains, that's not really the way the world is," Levitt said while promoting the film in Miami earlier this month.

Willis and Levitt put a lot of work into becoming the same person. "I watched a lot of his movies. I'd rip the audio off of his movies and put that on my iPod so I could listen to him. Bruce even recorded himself doing some of my voice-over lines and sent that to me so I could listen to that. But the most important thing, I think, was just getting to know him and spending time with him ... letting it seep in," Levitt said.

In the film, Willis and Levitt are hunting each other in scenes set to tear at the audience's moral fabric. At times, the violence hits you unexpectedly even though you know it comes with the territory.

Levitt said, "In Looper, every character feels like they're doing the right thing and there's some horrible atrocious thing happening, and that's violence for you. And Looper is really a story about violence, and how violence begets violence, and whether you can solve any problems with more violence or whether that's just an endless loop."

Looper opens today in theaters nationwide.

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