A FilmSchoolRejects interview with Looper writer-director Rian Johnson:
A lot of sci-fi films never match their premise, and I’d say you avoided that pitfall by having that high concept lead to a mother/son story. How early on did you know you were going to steer the set up into that direction?
That’s a good question, because all the sci-fi I grew up loving — Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, or whoever it was — used its sci-fi premise as a tool to talk about something we really cared about. To me, that’s what sci-fi is for. It’s not necessarily to preach or send a message, but just to talk about what we as human beings can relate to, while using these fantastic concepts we cannot relate to at all. That’s a very powerful thing, I think. The idea of going onto the farm in the second half of it with the mother/son relationship developed as I was writing the script relatively late in the game.
It was a less about switching the focus from the basic set up of the old man versus the young man, but more about: what is the best, deepest way of exploring this old man versus young man dynamic and the basic concept between them? You can either have them go head-to-head in the second half of the movie — having more chases and shootouts between them or the two of them ganging up — but it seemed much sharper giving them both the same problem to deal with, and then exploring the conflict within them by how they deal with that problem.
The problem that seemed to cut most to the bone was this thing between children and mothers, which was the exact opposite of the world we had just been in. I don’t know if I’m making sense, but, for me, it was not a way of departing from our main theme, but digging deeper into it.
So there was never a version early on of the two Joes constantly fighting each other?
No, no, not really. I will say, the original two-page treatment I wrote 10 years ago, which was the first incarnation of Looper, was just that. It was the two of them chasing each other across the city. I found when I expanded it out into an entire feature it has to become a different feature. What works on a few pages of text doesn’t necessarily stretch out to two hours worth an audience’s time. It just ended up growing and it made sense taking it into the direction the movie goes in.
For more of the interview, go here.