The Toughest Scene I Wrote: Writer/Director Rian Johnson on “Looper”

December 27th, 2012 by

All hail Vulture for this:

Over the next few weeks, Vulture is talking to the screenwriters behind 2012′s most acclaimed movies about the scenes they found most difficult to crack. What pivotal sequences underwent the biggest transformations on their way from script to screen?

In this article, Looper writer-director Rian Johnson provides insight into a critical scene in the movie:

It’s the obvious one: the diner scene between Bruce and Joe, which is almost like its own little movie wedged into the middle of a bigger movie. There was just a lot of weight on it for a lot of different reasons. Exposition-wise, it was the scene where we had to address — or choose not to address — all these questions about time travel in the minds of the characters and the audience. I didn’t want it to turn into a chalkboard scene, so balancing that with keeping these characters on track for what they actually want was tricky.

This scene did kind of loom as a dragon on the hill, but the way I work is to spend a lot of time on the structure on the film before I sit down to write it. I knew what I wanted these two to butt heads about and I knew where I wanted it to end up, but I didn’t know much beyond that, so when I worked my way through the beginning of the script, I was kind of dreading when I would come to it. But then the nice thing about working for so long on the structure is that when it came time to actually write the scene, these people were ready to talk. The bigger problem is figuring out what not to have them say, pruning it back and keeping it tight and economic.


It was a real experience for me to work with a dialogue scene of this length and keep it as engaging as any of the action scenes, which was the goal.

Here is that section of the script:

Track Johnson’s points of focus: Working on the structure on the story for “so long.” Recognizing the pivotal nature of this meeting between the story’s key characters. Dealing with exposition. Determining what the characters should not say. Writing economically. Making the scene “engaging.”

These are all things professional writers deal with in virtually every scene.

These are considerations you should have in your writing as well.

For the rest of the article, go here.

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