Toronto 2012: Bruce Willis on Performing Opposite His Younger Self in 'Looper'

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt, left, and Bruce Willis at the "Looper" press conference Thursday in Toronto.

“At some point, you just have to let go and imagine it’s you,” the action star said of his role opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Rian Johnson’s time-traveling festival opener.

TORONTO -- Bruce Willis on Thursday recalled the hardest part of playing an older version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s mob hitman character in the action thriller Looper was seeing his younger self standing opposite him on set.

“It seems like an impossible task to act with someone who’s a younger version of you,” Willis told a press conference ahead of Rian Johnson’s time-traveling tale opening the Toronto International Film Festival with a world premiere at Roy Thomson Hall.

“At some point, you just have to let go and imagine it’s you,” he added of the magic trick that those who see Looper at the local multiplex starting Sept. 28 also will need to believe for the film to succeed.

In Looper, Gordon-Levitt is contracted by the mob to kill targets sent back in time.

The kicker is that one of his assignments calls for killing an older version of himself, played by Willis, who arrives in the past with his own designs.

Never mind the endless hours of makeup required for Gordon-Levitt’s transition to Willis, which the older actor found entirely distracting on set.


For Willis, the eye-opener came performing opposite a younger version of himself that offered a window into a youth he’d sooner forget.

“There were things I did as a brash kid, people I wasn’t paying attention to and whose feelings I hurt. I want to not hurt people anymore,” the actor said in a moment of personal reflection.

For Gordon-Levitt, spending down time with his co-star and listening to audio from the veteran action star’s earlier movie roles on his iPod helped him channel his best Bruce Willis.

As to advice Willis has for his younger self: “I would remind myself every couple minutes not to take myself too seriously, not to take hardly anything seriously,” he told the press conference. “[Time] goes so fast. What I was thinking so much about an hour ago, I’ve already forgotten.”

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Gordon-Levitt said his younger self should also “relax a little bit.”

How much younger, the three-year-old was asked?

“Like, you know, an hour ago,” he answered with a wide grin.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sept. 16.