Sometimes it’s fun to talk about how a movie got made because there is a tantalizing story behind its production. A total mess behind the scenes, lots of drama, a harrowing journey. Really, “Looper” is a pretty standard success story in some ways, in acknowledging that getting any good movie made — especially an original, mid-budget sci-fi movie, is a minor miracle. Johnson had conceived of the idea as a short film years before it would ever actually get made, and for a long time it sat in a drawer collecting dust. But after his first movie “Brick” finally came out after years of struggling to get that into the world, and his follow-up “The Brothers Bloom,” Johnson was given an opportunity to revisit the concept, but as a feature.
Sony’s TriStar Pictures gave Johnson the green light, providing a very reasonable $30 million budget to make it happen. It was the mid-budget movie that is so often missing from today’s theatrical landscape, with those movies all too often going to streaming or not being made at all. The cast shaped up nicely, with Gordon-Levitt taking on the lead role, with Willis as his counterpart from the future. An outstanding ensemble consisting of Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, and Jeff Daniels would also help get the very most out of Johnson’s compelling and entertaining tale.
One of the most notable things about “Looper” is that this was right at the end of Willis’ era of being the movie star we all remember, with “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Expendables 2” coming out that same year. In the years that followed Willis mostly stuck to direct-to-video fare with only the occasional theatrical appearance, and this year he retired from acting altogether due to ongoing health problems. But in “Looper,” Willis had at least one last great gift to give us with his performance as Old Joe.