(Credits: Far Out / Christopher William Adach)
As far as cinematic collaborations go, they don’t get much mightier than the one between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis in the movie Looper, a moment in the film world that seems to transcend the very limits of what was possible between two actors. The Rian Johnson-directed movie serves as a signifier of the quality relationship the two Hollywood legends shared for a brief moment.
Gordon-Levitt plays a younger version of Willis’ character with the assistance of CGI. However, despite the help, the pair managed to nail down the physicality of one another’s acting style so that they appeared to move together in symbiosis, blurring the lines, not only between their characters but between the actors themselves.
There’s a wonderful chemistry on screen between Willis and Gordon-Levitt, one that will likely be admired for years to come, and the younger actor certainly felt that his predecessor was something of a mentor to him throughout filming. In a career retrospective video with Vanity Fair, Gordon-Levitt opened up on the time he spent working with Willis.
“It’s probably why Looper’s maybe my favourite performance of mine because it’s the most different,” he said. “I did a lot of work to try to do my vision that wasn’t an imitation of Bruce Willis but had sort of the spirit of Bruce Willis, and if I had to pick a favourite just acting-wise, this is up there for me.”
There was one particular moment of working together where Willis heaped praise upon his junior actor and gave him a moment of “validation” that seemed to inspire Gordon-Levitt even further. “There was another scene later in the movie where we were yelling at each other,” he said. “I don’t know if Bruce did this on purpose or if he did it unintentionally, but it was kind of the highest compliment he could pay me.”
The actor continued: “It was right after they said ‘Cut,’ he was turning away and walking back to his mark. He didn’t even say it to me; he just kind of said to himself, ‘Sounds like me.’ And I just turned to myself and went, ‘Fucking yes!’ I think knowing him, that was really his ultra-generous way of paying me a compliment, but it was very kind to do it in that way.”
The duo’s commitment to their profession in being able to mimic one another is a testament to their prowess and also to the brilliantly unique mode of storytelling that cinema can provide. The Willis-Gordon-Levitt collaboration on Looper is one of the most authentic moments of the craft, and it’s one that had Gordon-Levitt receive recognition from one of his acting heroes.