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.”
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.”
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.”
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…