Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013 09:09
To promote his directorial debut film, Joseph Gordon-Levitt met with writers from several college newspapers, including the Daily, to discuss “Don Jon.”
The Tufts Daily: Why’d you set [the film] in New Jersey, and what kind of research did you have to do to master your role?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I lived in New York on and off for 10 years, so I’ve definitely lived around those kinds of people. Tony’s [Danza] from Brooklyn; he was our consultant. Scarlett’s [Johansson] from New York, so I think that’s how she was able to be so good. But I think it’s a classic American character at this point. I mean, we’ve all watched “Rocky” and “Saturday Night Fever” and “Goodfellas.” Obviously, I’m not saying everyone in New Jersey is this way, just like I’m not saying all guys are like Jon or all young women are like Barbara. There are guys, like Jon, who are so concerned with their masculine image that they really go out of their way to fit into that mold. Just like there are girls, like Barbara, who are so concerned with having that traditional feminine image. It’s a story about those people. As far as New Jersey goes, I wanted to have a specific mold for Jon to fit into. It was important to have a specific culture, a specific way of talking, a specific way of dressing.
TD: A lot of the scenes in the movie wouldn’t have been the same without the soundtrack. How did you construct it?
JGL: That was one of my favorite things about directing the movie. When you’re an actor, the soundtrack is something that happens without you. Later, you see the movie and it’s like there’s another character in the scene you didn’t know about. I got to work with Nathan Johnson, the film composer of “Looper” and “Brick,” and we definitely made some bold choices. The first act is all these big, shiny synth sounds, the middle is the traditional Hollywood orchestra and the end is a more sparse arrangement with more guitars. I think it worked out seamlessly.
TD: How hard was it to be the director toward the actors, and then act beside them?
JGL: It’s pretty normal for an actor to be disconcerted by his face and voice, and I think it’s through sheer repetition that I got used to it and allowed myself to be productive [as a director]. Now, when I’m watching playback in the editing room, I can actually pay attention to what is there on screen. Directing a movie is nonstop, but it’s what I love to do. All the actors were stellar professionals. Everyone was really collaborative, and there was a lot of great feedback. I made sure the scenes were accomplishing what they needed to in the larger picture, but it didn’t take much.
TD: You have said that you hope to make movies in a more collaborative way in the future. Are you anticipating some HitRecord movies?
JGL: I am anticipating that, one day! In a traditional movie, there is a director and there are a lot of other artists. With HitRecord it’s the same thing — the difference being with a movie you hire people, [but] with HitRecord anybody can contribute to the project. Right now, we’re working on a show that will be on TV in January. That’s by far the biggest production we’ve [HitRecord] tackled so far. It’s a variety show. I’m hosting it, directing it and performing in a bunch of the segments. One day, I think we’ll be able to do feature films in this open collaborative fashion. I thought it was really important that before we tried that, I direct one in the old-fashioned way.
TD: What’s your favorite movie about love?
JGL: This is going to sound weird, but one of my favorite love stories is in “The Matrix” trilogy — the love story between Neo and Trinity. There’s a line in the third movie ... I’m getting really nerdy ... this program says to Neo, love is a word, what’s important is the connection that it implies. I just love that.
This interview has been edited and abridged from its original form.