‘Looper’ Director Interview: Ending Explained & Questions Answered

Published 3 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 10:26 pm,


Emily Blunt and Joseph Gordon Levitt in Looper Looper Director Interview: Ending Explained & Questions Answered

In terms of the larger themes and what Looper has on its mind, you mentioned in one of our previous interviews that the question “would you kill Hitler” is kind of the least interesting question in the film to you.


So what is the most interesting question for you?

“It’s just ‘would you kill Hitler?’ is such a non-applicable question. It has nothing to do with real life. It’s a fantasy question that’s a false moral dilemma because it has all of these things that you have to take into account that have nothing to do with real life. To me, the real question at the heart of it is not a fanciful one, it is a very present and real one, which is: ‘if it seemed incredibly obvious and direct to you that you could solve a problem by finding the right person and killing them, would you do that? And would that work?’ Not even just the moral consequences of that, but the practical ones, would that work? And the other question, about Hitler, is just a variable of that, but it seems that’s kind of more of a party game question whereas there is a real and important question to be asked.”

Emily Blunt and Pierce Gagnon in Looper Looper Director Interview: Ending Explained & Questions Answered

It’s interesting, though, because I left the film not totally convinced that Joe had done the right thing. Well, let me rephrase. I don’t think you can kill a little boy, well obviously you cannot.

“(Laughing) Careful, you’re going on the record.”

But I just mean that I wasn’t entirely convinced that Cid wouldn’t grow up to be just as dangerous and violent. I more felt that, even if the risk is that great, it’s still the right risk to take.

“There are no guarantees that he wouldn’t, I guess, the same way that there are no guarantees in life. I like that ambiguity. Personally, for me, I’m an optimist. I have an optimistic view of the ending, but I love that fact that if people come out and have ambiguous feelings about it and have to chew on those. I think that’s really cool.”

I think it really speaks to Pierce Gagnon (who plays Cid) and the performance. I was legitimately terrified of him. He was what the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life” was trying to capture.

“We got really lucky finding Pierce. He was really something special. And it was terrifying looking back because it would have been easy for us to not get lucky and have to cast the best that we could. It was a little bit of a miracle that we found him.”

 Looper Director Interview: Ending Explained & Questions Answered

This is probably going to be another critical perspective, but what I thought was very cool about that was the idea of this immense power in the hands of someone so immature.

“Do you remember the sequel to ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’? ‘Honey I Blew Up The Baby’? It’s a terrifying film. It’s great because it is exactly that. They sort of flopped the concept of the first movie and it creates this thing where you have a baby wandering around with the power to smash buildings and you realize there’s something really terrifying about that. For me the touchstone for that was Katsuhiro Otomo’s Mangas, both ‘Akira’ and there was another one he wrote called ‘Domu’ that is more specifically that idea of kids with superpowers and their Ids being unleashed or their shadows being unleashed.”

I guess the larger metaphor, in my mind, is that I don’t see that as human beings, as functioning adults – that we are that far away from that. I really feel that we are, in a lot of ways, emotionally, ethically and morally immature beings that have a lot of technology at our disposal. And I don’t know if that’s a conscious metaphor or if that’s just something that’s in there in my reading.

“Yeah, no, I agree. And it’s the sort of thing that is important as a functioning adult to recognize. I think that it’s unhealthy to think that isn’t there beneath everything. It’s the sort of thing where if you ignore your shadow it’s going to grow stronger and stronger and start affecting you in ways that you’re not aware of. It’s the sort of thing you have to kind of acknowledge.”

Seth and Joe in Looper Looper Director Interview: Ending Explained & Questions Answered

Looper is getting a tremendously positive critical response, and rightly so, but there are people that sort of nitpick a little unfairly in terms of the logic of the time travel and sci-fi elements of the piece.

“Definitely. And I don’t begrudge anybody picking it apart or getting into the nitty-gritty of it. As a sci-fi fan, that’s one of the things that’s really fun to do. So I think it’s really cool actually, that people are digging into it whether they like the movie or not, or whether that effects their enjoyment of it or not, that’s their own individual experience. I just think it’s cool that it’s something that people can dig into.

I will say that a lot of the logic questions that have been coming up are things that I have answers to, but I will readily admit that I don’t present those answers in the text of the movie. There are things about the backstory or the future, or how technology in the future works. And broadly, just storytelling wise, my defense for not taking time out to explain each one of these things is that, that’s how you get these sci-fi movies where every other line is kind of a line of exposition that puts a patch on something. ‘Is the audience going to wonder why this, is the audience going to wonder why that?’ And I feel like that leads to boring movies.

I feel like it was worth the sacrifice of having a couple of details that we don’t explain, in order to have an engaging movie where every other line isn’t about having a character explaining something about how the future works. So for me it was something where it was a big decision. It was something I wrung my hands about because as a sci-fi nerd myself, I knew I had answers to these things that I knew would end up being lingering questions. But it seemed worth it to me.”

NEXT PAGE: Answering some of the lingering questions…

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  1. Wow felt sorry for Johnson trying to answer all those suedo B.S meta level hold MIrrior up to a violent society ramblings by the interviewer , I think the interviewer should of just took the hint when Johnson said ” I just try not to be boring ” that was his intention he wasn’t trying to micro anylize this generations obsession with violent movies he was trying to make a new violent movie for this generation to obsess over ( meaning his film is successfull and he gets to make more ) wich obviously worked big time on Roth Cornet how ironic !

    • I thought Quantum of Solace was pretty good too.

    • Hm, well I feel like you could have framed your criticisms in a different way. But I will say a couple of things: First, Johnson, by his own admission, was indeed looking at violence in the world with this film. It was meant to be a fun movie to watch and it is! Every time I talk about Looper I say how much I enjoyed it. But, again, there are other things there to dig into if you want to. As to violence in film, well I’m not sure how that relates to the real world violence we see all around us other than it is a safe expression of a human drive. I don’t know, I don’t really have an answer to that which is why I asked him about it. I admire that he was able to find a way to take a tough subject and make it entertaining. I’d love to be able to do that myself. That’s in part why I wanted to talk to him about it.

      I will also say that I had some hesitations about running this transcript in full. A) I felt a little vulnerable having so much of myself in it and worried that it was or is self-indulgent. B) It’s pretty lengthy.

      But, ultimately, I decided to let it stand on its own.

      I have spoken with several people who I respect who had questions about making a violent film that had to do with the negative effects of violence in our world (which film is a reflection of) so I wanted to let him speak for himself on that.

      Finally, those were my real questions, whether you like them or not, they weren’t bs.

      But you’re free to dislike them if you want.


      • I too thought gees…move past the violence, but your response here made me go back and re-read what is actually a fascinating line of thought.
        Fantastic interview and great decision to let it stand as is. Bravo.

        • Thank you! And thank you for taking the time to give it a second look! Much appreciated :).


      • Errr I feel kind of bad now , I didn’t know you were opening yourself up so much and to be honest this shouldn’t make a difference but I didn’t know you were female I would of been more polite if I had of known so I apologise , to explain my frame of mind I am hold up with the flew heavily medicated watching movies ( I just watched PROMTHEUS , ALIEN and ALIENS back to back ) in other words I am bored delirious with an IPAD not a good combination LOL so I again apologise for the tone of my comment it was uncalled for as it it is clear you put a lot of thought and effort into this piece : )

        • Hey,

          Thanks for writing back with this. Again, you’re totally welcome to disagree with and/or dislike the line of questioning (so to speak :)). I do really love his films, though and find them very enjoyable to watch. Thanks for your nice reply. I do hope you feel better and enjoy your movie watching day.


      • A great interview, and a very intelligent discussion of the movie. Thank You

  2. Nice interview! I liked hearing Rian’s take on why they have loopers kill themselves. A similar question I answered for myself was “why even tell the loopers that they are going to be killed in the future? Why not let them believe that they could live full lives?” to which I answered that if you’re honest and upfront with them, then there’s an understanding. You’re showing them the respect of letting them know how this system works and you’re not trying to trick them. Thus, you don’t have to worry about someone finding out that they’ve all got this limited lifespan and exacting revenge on the organization.

  3. Outstanding interview. Got a bit deep in the beginning lol but I still enjoyed.

    • Thank you :)!

  4. WOW!!
    I have to say that once again you knocked it out of the park Roth. Fantastic, fantastic interview that I’m now going to email to everyone who I saw the film with.
    I have a question though.
    On a scale of 1-10 how hard was it to not ask any Breaking Bad questions? 😉

    • Lol :) I actually really wanted to ask about him possibly directing a Doctor Who episode as well! Both were a ten.



  5. Excellent interview JRoth!

    My sticking point with the film is not the timey-wimey stuff but character based.

    In the case of the young version of Joe – he displays a moment of lucidity and insight his character has never demonstrated before – in fact the opposite of what we have seen, upon which he makes a decision that is in direct opposition to what both Joes has been trying to preserve over the entire course of the movie watching.

    It’s a big hand wave moment and when people said they had no idea where the movie was going – this, to me, is the moment why.

    Out of character behaviour.

    In the end, the Internet hype built my expectations of this too high. I enjoyed it a lot and it is a solid flick.

    • Thank you sir! That’s one of the main questions I has as well and we did talk about it. I do think it’s in there, though. I touch upon it what I see as the answer for me. I feel like his contact with the kid, with Cid, changed him. But yeah, I understand where you are coming from. I love that there is so much to talk about with this film.

      That’s always so exciting as a viewer!

      Thanks so much again!


      • My pleasure JRoth! Thanks for your response and being open to my main issue with the movie.

        It is the discussion point of the movie. I hear what you are saying about Joe’s time with the kid but there was not enough of it to build up a bond so strong that young Joe would do what he did.

        Plus his ‘insight’ is restricted to one view. Who is to say that the kid’s future will not remain the same. The reference to The Twilight Zone episode about Cid whose wishes came true mars Joe’s vision. Whose is to say that such power the boy has will not corrupt him still?

        But as you say, it is exciting there is so much to talk about with Looper.

  6. grrr, need an edit function – line should read:

    upon which he makes a decision that is in direct opposition to what both Joes have been trying to preserve over the entire course of the movie.

  7. Quite a change from the standard, “So, how was it working with Bruce Willis? Did you get intimidated working with Bruce Willis? How Bruce Willis is Bruce Willis in real life?”…

    And so forth…

    Which is meant as a compliment of course. If only all interviews had these kind of questions. It would stop me tuning out which each generic, “Oh, everyone was great!” response.

    10/10 for the movie (my movie of the year. Well, until I see The Master), 10/10 for this interview.

    • Thank you! I really appreciate that!


  8. Damn, too bad he didn’t simply answer the question about how young Joe changed from his typical selfish nature to making that sacrifice at the end of the movie… Although from watching it, I don’t think I can pinpoint the exact moment, but I do kind of see that being with them was changing him throughout the movie, and kind of bringing out the “soft side” of him…

    Good interview though. But you really should have asked him to put the discussion to rest about Cid being some crazy alternate reality version of Joe…

    • Oh wow, I hadn’t heard that. Wait…how would that be possible?

      • @Roth

        It’s not, but everyone is so caught up with the whole time travel paradoxes that some people are thinking WAY too much into it and have come up with some crazy ideas of how that’s true in the movie… I was hoping for you to ask him about it, he would laugh and say straight up “no” and just put that to rest once and for all… It’s pretty ridiculous. If you go to the Looper spoilers discussion or the time travel explanation article, you see so many people commenting on how Joe slept with his mom since he is Cid and how Sara is also really from the future, and all kinds of stuff…

  9. Wow, fantastic interview! Really makes you see the movie in a different light when the director and others talk and dig deeper and dissect the movie for added meanings. My simple brain didn’t pick up on that when I first watched, ha.

  10. If you cannot understand why the boy wasn’t killed, or if you’re not sure Joe did the right thing, it might because you don’t have kids.

    As a new parent (4 years) with two sons, torment of that magnitude can influence such innocent, kind-hearted beings into harsh, mean and calous individuals.

    He did the right thing to shoot himself, because his younger self, witnessing a slight alteration to viewing the present scenario (perhaps a new thought to the already played out scenario), was smart enough to realize that the harm that comes to the young boy is done by his actions, or inaction. Thus, given distance away from his target (his older self) and lack of time to take other action, ensuring the boy was not harmed was his only method of ensuring the loop was broken.

    There really is nothing more precious and fragile in this world than a child. People without children should not be able to own a gun.



    • Killing the boy would ensure in a much more definite way that he never comes to be the rainmaker. The act of joe is both selfless , which is great personal development ,and very risky : as others said considering the outrageous level of power he yield, Cyd might be corrupted nevertheless. A mother is not immoratl and her love iis not a cure all. No matter how horrific the deed might be, and old joe collapse after killing the first boy shows what kind of toll it takes even on the most hardened criminals, it would have been the best course of action for mankind sake. You don’t play a hunch when there s so much at stake for so many people and there a a safe course of action.