As the man who recently got to make out with Scarlett Johansson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the envy of Reddit. But though he answered a lot of unprofessional questions (see below), Gordon-Levitt talked a lot about the film he recently wrote, directed, and starred in, Don Jon. The film centers around a man with a porn addiction (Gordon-Levitt), who falls in love with Johannson's character. Naturally, Reddit was interested in the film, among other things. Here are the best answers from his Reddit AMA.
On why he wears mismatching socks: "My brother always wore mismatched socks. I inherited his collection."
On any reservations he might have had about his family seeing the sexually explicit Don Jon: "My mom in particular really loves the movie. She brought up my brother and me with a lot of the ideals of the feminist movement(s) of the 60s and 70s. DON JON is largely a comedic satire of how our culture treats people (especially women) more like things than like people."
On why he's not Batman: "We are all Batman."
On the inexplicable JGLGiraffes meme: "If giraffes made a sound I would write it as an onomatopoeia in this reply."
On why he's recently delved into writing and directing: "I've been making little short films and videos for a long time. Since I was a kid. Then for my 21st birthday, I got myself my first copy of Final Cut. Love cutting. I've made hundreds of little things over the years. Don Jon didn't feel like a short though. It felt like a traditional feature length movie."
The secret to improving one's wardrobe: "A snazzy smile :o)"
On whether he prefers sweet romantic comedy roles or action flicks: "I like the variety. Changing all the time. Identity is a creative process."
The first movie he remembers seeing: "DUMBO"
His advice for picking up women: "Put on your listening cap"
If he put Don Jon into Haiku form: "fap fap fap fap fap / fap fap fap fap fap fap fap / fap fap fap fap fap"
On his preparation for Premium Rush: I rode every day for several months. Got thirty-two stitches once, going through the rear windshield of a taxi-cab. It's at the end of the credits, wait dude, did you see the movie?
On his future in musical theater: "Chan [Channing Tatum] and I definitely want to do a musical together. Guys and Dolls is one idea we're playing around with. Not sure if it'll happen, we'll see. But whatever it ends up being, it's gonna be frickin rad."
What he looks for in a woman: "I do my very best to not have any rigid expectations. I think the best, juiciest, mind blowing love comes as a surprise. If you're already looking for the items on your wish list, you're doomed. This is exactly what DON JON is about. Both my character and Scarlett's character are blinded by unrealistic expectations they've learned from pornography and Hollywood movies."
The most memorable class he's taken: "In highschool? AP US History. Mr. Bechtel."
On what he's learned from Christopher Nolan: "I was shooting TDKR when I first finished a draft of DON JON. I told Chris I was planning on directing a movie, and he was super supportive. In his characteristically understated way. He never blows smoke with a bunch of compliments. He just started asking me a bunch of questions. What budget was I thinking? How many days would we need to shoot it? Could we do it all in one city? He's a very detail-oriented director, and having him asking me those questions implied a confidence in me that I found warmly encouraging."
On whether he feels the same way about Catcher in The Rye as he did in 1997 (check out the hilarious video of a long-haired, dorky Gordon-Levitt below):"Yes."
On whether he actually paid to market Don Jon on porn sites: "Definitely. We're also advertising on "chick flick" stuff and on the NFL. All of which are media that is featured in DON JON. It's a movie about media culture, it should be in the media!"
On why he wanted Scarlett Johansson for Don Jon:"First of all because she's hilarious. See her on SNL? And she balances comedy and sincerity with a delicacy few actors can. Besides that, I thought she'd be a powerful presence in the movie because she's an acute example of what the movie's about. Scarlett is an extremely smart person, and a very talented artist. And yet most of what gets talked about is her looks. This part of our culture is what DON JON is poking fun at."
On internet piracy: "You know, what the RIAA calls piracy is tricky. I can't be too mad at it. When something can be duplicated infinitely at virtually no cost, it's hard to apply traditional economic rules to it. I think/hope in the future, we'll all be able to watch whatever movie we want to whenever we want to."
Comparing 500 Days of Summer and Don Jon:"I actually think the thesis of 500 Days of Summer is sorta similar to that of Don Jon. In fact, I think the 500 Days character, Tom, is a lot like Jon. Of course, they have very different styles. But they both start out the story pretty selfish. Tom doesn't really listen to Summer. He's projecting his ideal fantasy onto her. He's treating her more like a thing than like a person. Jon does this same thing to everyone in his life. The women he seduces, his friends, his family, even himself. But by the end, he's begun to break out of his mold and grow up a bit."
On the changes in his 3rd Rock from the Sun character: "I suppose the longer anyone spends on earth, the closer we all get to becoming superfluous characters."
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Hype is the name of the game at Comic-Con. For fans, it's an early taste of what they'll see in theaters in a few months, a year, or even more. For studios, it's a hopes of planting a seed that will keep people talking until a movie's release. Put a trailer online, someone convinces themselves whether they're "in" or not based on their crappy computer screen. Put them in a high-end projection room with 10,000 screaming fans and, suddenly, the latest trailer for such-and-such sci-fi movie is on par with the Super Bowl half time show. It's fun to be excited, and at Comic-Con, everyone wins.
Does the tidal wave of buzz translate to business? Not always. Studios spend big bucks to showcase their upcoming slates, but occasionally, the stunts don't pay off. Here are a few high profile films that left Hall H the talk of the town, only to underperform by the time they arrived in multiplexes. What went wrong?
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Production Budget: $70 million
Domestic Gross: $37.8 million
Bold statements broadcast from Hall H are not uncommon. Their taken with a grain of salt, but that kind of praise is exactly what fans, and the studios backing the movies, want to hear. When premiered footage at Comic-Con in 2004, it was met with passion normally reserved for Best Picture contenders. As a writer of Joblo elegantly put it: "[Director Kerry] Conran has created movie magic here; Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is what we go to the movies for." Conran's unique sci-fi adventure took its cues from pulp magazines and films from the early days of the 20th century — an approach that hit all the right chords with genre buffs. But the throwback, that turned out to be more of an exercise in low budget special effects than a thrilling, Indiana Jones-style romp, wasn't easily swallowed by the masses.
Production Budget: $232 million
Domestic Gross: $200.1 million
An IGN writer sums up the reaction to the return of the Son of Krypton quite perfectly. "You will believe a man can fly…again. These words echoed in my head after attending the Superman Returns panel at the San Diego Comic-Con Saturday morning." Absence makes the heart grow fonder and twenty years had Superman fans young and old absolutely rabid for the debut of modern Supes courtesy of director Bryan Singer (X-Men). A nine-figure budget does wonders for a larger-than-life character, and all of Superman's flying heroics stunned the Hall H audience in 2005. The footage was beautiful — maybe too beautiful. Singer's version of Superman aimed for cinematic poetry rather than full-blown action mayhem, a take that might be up comic book purists, but not the audiences flooding multiplexes. Even with a $200 million take, Superman Returns flew under expectations (and really, profitable box office marks). Thankfully, that's not stopping Warner Bros. from attempting to recapture the magic and unleashing it at Comic-Con: the rebooted Man of Steel will premiere its first look on Saturday, July 14.
Production Budget: $130 million
Domestic Gross: $107.5 million
"If you thought the trailer was breathtaking, this was even MORE incredible than that," declared a writer from the blockbuster-friendly blog FirstShowing.net. Time named Watchmen one of the best books of all time, so it's understandable why a mere glimpse at more of the live-action translation of the 1987 graphic novel would have fans frothing at the mouth. This was the comic movie, and director Zack Snyder was sticking to the source material with precision. While Watchmen sent thousands of appreciative readers into a tizzy over the panels coming to life, Snyder's adaptation almost demanded a familiarity with the text. If you weren't a fan, Watchmen was too much to digest — critical acclaim or not. Think about it: would a Catcher in the Rye movie be a mega-hit blockbuster? Everyone has read it, but the demand isn't built in.
Production Budget: $200 million
Domestic Gross: $125.3 million
McG's fourth Terminator had all the makings of a Comic-Con friendly flick. A radical franchise shift that skewed to the ever-popular "dark, gritty" approach; a fanboy dream of a screenwriter, The Dark Knight's Jonah Nolan; a rising action star (Sam Worthington, Avatar) and a heralded keystone (Christian Bale); and most importantly, some kick-ass action footage. After the Charlie's Angels director screened his saturation-less robot mayhem for Hall H audiences, a Screenrant writer declared "I don’t think we need to worry about this one folks, it looks like it’s in good hands!" Everyone was on the same page: finally, a Terminator movie that pushes the envelope of its main conceit. All out war! But snippets proved more exciting than the final product, which underwhelmed summer audiences with its bleak palate. Maybe the only people who really care about Terminator mythology are Con-goers?
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Production Budget: $85 million
Domestic Gross: $31.6 million
For comic buffs or anyone that caught the first trailers to Edgar Wright's video game-inspired love story, Scott Pilgrim was already a highly-anticipated summer blockbuster. But Universal went all out to make Comic-Con their big publicity push for the film, bringing the entire cast to Hall H, showing off footage and holding a screening of the film for a lucky handful of fans. Positive reactions continued to grow as free screenings popped up between SDCC and the movie's August 2010 debut. But in comparison to the fervor of its Comic-Con premiere, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World came and went through theaters with little momentum. Many speculated that the movie was the perfect Comic-Con film, playing directly to that audience's sensibilities, and that by the time it hit theaters, everyone who had wanted to see it had.
Production Budget: $200 million
Domestic Gross: $172.1 million
Disney's Tron Legacy holds a unique record: the film appeared for Hall H presentations three times before being released. A short visual effects test played in 2008 to thunderous applause. The reaction spurred a greenlight for Disney and director Joseph Kosinski. In 2009, the footage returned updated and in glorious 3D, along with a fully constructed "Flynn's Arcade" built out in downtown San Diego. Finally in 2010, a full panel with footage and stars arrived to SDCC. The energy of the audience was consistent all three years — but in the end, the movie never captured the masses the same way it did with eager Con attendees. Overexposure is a possibility, but the world of Tron may have been better suited for effects-driven teases rather than a two hour narrative.
An enthusiastic reception at Comic-Con didn't translate to box office success for the above films, but that doesn't change the fact that many of the fans who did catch these movies in theaters were satisfied. The cries of fandom are tricky; they can pique the interests of general moviegoers when privy to the right material, but they can also be an echo chamber for a niche audience.
On the positive side, San Diego Comic-Con have played host to a number of hits that started their campaign for audience eyes in the excited chaos of Hall H. 300, Iron Man, Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Expendables, The Resident Evil franchise — all planted seeds at just the right moment, reaping the benefits of an early campaign when it finally came time for their theatrical run. Timing, mass appeal and showing off just the right amount/type of footage is all key.
Box office and budget statistics provided by Hollywood.com Box Office Analyst Paul Dergarabedian
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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[Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures]
Based on Chris Van Allsburg's enchanting award winning children's book the story begins on a snowy Christmas Eve where a doubting young boy lies in his bed waiting to hear the sound he doesn't know if he believes in anymore: the tinkle of Santa's sleigh bells. What he hears instead however is the thunderous roar of an approaching train where no train should be: it's the Polar Express. Rushing outside in only a robe and slippers the incredulous boy meets the train's conductor who urges him to come onboard. Suddenly the boy finds himself embarking on an extraordinary journey to the North Pole with a number of other children--including a girl who has the tools to be a good leader but lacks confidence; a know-it-all boy who lacks humility; and a lonely boy who just needs to have a little faith in other people to make his dreams come true. Together the children discover that the wonder of Christmas never fades for those who believe. As the conductor wisely advises "It doesn't matter where the train is going. What matters is deciding to get on." Gives ya goose bumps doesn't it?
Talk about a vanity project for Tom Hanks. He portrays several of the characters in the film--the conductor the hobo who mysteriously appears and disappears on the Polar Express the boy's father. Wait isn't that Hanks playing Santa Claus as well? But if anyone can pull off some cheesy dialogue about the spirit of Christmas this Oscar-winning actor can. Interestingly the film also incorporates adults to play the children (none of the characters have names actually) with Hanks as the Hero Boy; Hanks' Bosom Buddies pal Peter Scolari as the Lonely Boy; The Matrix Revolutions Nona Gaye as the Hero Girl; and veteran voice actor Eddie Deezen as the Know-It-All Boy. Everyone does a good job but trying to make CGI-created people seem real is a difficult undertaking. With
The Polar Express director Robert Zemeckis has created an entirely new way to do computer animation called "performance capture." "[It's a process that] offers a vivid rendering of the Van Allsburg world while infusing a sense of heightened realism into the performances. It's like putting the soul of a live person into a virtual character " visual effects wizard and longtime Zemeckis collaborator Ken Ralston explains. Oh is that all? Problem is no matter how hard they try it doesn't work--not completely. Similar to flaws in the 2001 Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within virtual characters just can't convey human emotion as well as real-life actors plain and simple. And with a touching story like Polar Express that real-life connection is missed at times.
Of course like the images in the book it's still an exceptionally beautiful film to watch. Zemeckis enjoys being a filmmaking innovator. He charmed audiences with a lively blend of live action and manic animation in the 1988 classic action comedy Who Framed
Roger Rabbit? and then wowed them with the 1994 Oscar-winning Forrest Gump blending authentic archival footage of historic figures with the actors. Now with The Polar Express it's this performance capture which gives Zemeckis unlimited freedom in creating the world he wants. And boy does he make use of it. True the story is a classic but the director knows he has to make The Polar Express exciting for the tykes-- simply riding around in a train to North Pole without any thrills certainly wouldn't be enough for the ADD world we live in. To accomplish this the film is padded with exhilarating scenes such as the train going on a giant roller coaster ride through the mountains and across frozen lakes (too bad Warner Bros. doesn't have a theme park) and the boy's race across the top of the snowy Polar Express. Even the North Pole is a booming magical Mecca filled with some pretty boisterous (and weird looking) elves who like to send Santa off in style Christmas Eve--watch out for Aerosmith's Steven Tyler making a cameo as a jammin' elf. Ho-ho-ho!