Porn. Masturbation. Scarlett Johansson acting sexier than ever. A pot-smoking Julianne Moore. Tony Fucking Danza. Sex. Sex. Sex. Everything you’ve always wanted in the directorial debut of Boy Wonder Joseph Gordon-Levitt is here, and it’s called “Don Jon’s Addiction.”
The film tells the story of himbo Don Jon (Gordon-Levitt in the titular role), who only cares about a small number of things in his life: his body, his pad, his ride (classic SS Camaro), his bros, going to church (seriously), fucking as many women as he can, and most importantly, masturbating to porn roughly 15-20 times a week. Yeah, it gets weird. But it’s also sexy, hilarious, and awesome. Read our review of the movie here.
The film premiered for the world just a few days ago at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, was quickly picked up by Relativity Media for a summer release and shortly after, we sat down with Gordon-Levitt, Moore, and Danza to talk about the film. And porn. We definitely talked about porn.
Hey, what’s up man?
Chase Whale! Good to see you, man!
Good to see you too!
You guys are..the website is…is the website Gordon and Whale no longer?
Yeah, I shut that down last August.
So now I’m writing for Twitch and freelancing.
Cool! Well, I liked that website.
Thank you very much! I did too. But, finances were getting less and less.
Onwards and upwards.
Yeah, so on to better things. But it was fun while it lasted.
Yeah, right on. You guys were one of the first supporters of hitRECord. Maybe the first movie blogs that was like, “This is a cool thing this guy is doing!” I really appreciated that.
Oh wow, that’s awesome! Thank you for saying that….
You worked with some of the greatest directors in the world last year. What were some of the biggest takeaways from the ways those guys worked going into directing your first feature?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Great question. Getting the chance to work with and watch Rian [Johnson] and Chris [Nolan] and Steven [Spielberg] all in one year was a big part of why I felt encouraged to go try. One thing I could say that I noticed that all three of those guys had in common, and they’re all three very different filmmakers, but they all have a great sense of balancing their vision, that they’ve done their homework for, and [being ready for] spontaneous things that arrive on the day.
Julianne Moore: That’s a hard thing to do.
JGL: It is, and that I think is right at the crux of what makes a good director: is knowing when to stick to what you thought it was going to be and when to go with what it’s now sort of coming to be. Rian and Chris and Steven are all really good at that, and it was something I sort of cheated on and kept in mind a lot while I was directing. Oftentimes it would be like, “This is one of those moments! I’m being asked right now if we’re going to do it the way I thought we were going to do it or if we’re going to try something new. All right.” Those are the decisions that I think make up a lot of what a director does.
The film focuses on a man addicted to masturbating to porn. What made you want to tell such a gutsy and risky story for your first directorial feature?
JGL : I mean, I’ll tell you how I got to that subject matter. But…I knew that if I was going to make a movie and be in charge then I wanted to do something that I couldn’t do otherwise. You know? I wanted to do something that would probably have not happened if I wasn’t making it happen. So, you know I made a short film that played here at Sundance called “Sparks,” which I really like and I’m really proud of it. It’s an adaptation of an Elmore Leonardshort story and while I think it’s really good, it wasn’t something that could not have happened without me. You know what I mean? If that makes sense.
Tony Danza: [It was] more conventional.
JGL: It was more conventional. I mean, Elmore Leonard is a genre writer that is arguably the best at that crime genre. But I knew if I was going to write and direct a movie I wanted to really try something, and I wanted to try to make a love story. What I’ve noticed about love is what’s always getting in the way — people objectifying each other. Putting expectations on each other that they’ve learned from various places. Whether it’s their family or from friends or from their church or from the media. So I thought a love story about a relationship between a guy who watches too much porn and girl who watches too many romantic Hollywood movies would really bring that theme out. And that was the beginning of it.
TD: You have to wonder what’s harder on relationships, right? Is it the romantic ideal? Or was it the pornography?
JGL: I think it’s really…
TD: Too close to call? [laughing]
How grueling was it watching hours of porn footage to get the right scenes to use for the film?
JGL: It was a grueling process and not as exciting as it sounds [laughing]. Porn can get pretty gross, especially if you watch a lot of it. We were very careful about picking just the right moments, just the right videos, and cropping them just the right way so that it feels like you’re seeing more than you’re actually seeing. You don’t technically see anything that’s not allowed in a rated R movie.
Julianne, you’ve taken some daring roles in your career with up-and-coming directors. How do you decide when it’s just daring enough for you to take?
JM: Oh, that’s a good question! I like that. You know, first-time directors are generally writer-directors, and that’s initially how I make my decision. Because I feel if somebody is able to articulate their vision in the script they’re going to be able to articulate it to me on set as a director and through their shots. It’s been important to me in my career that I have people who are able to do that, and Joseph has been my most successful collaboration.
But, in answer to your question, something just being daring just for being daring is not simply effective. That’s not what I’m looking for — I’m looking for something that is emotionally resonating. And in this case I was reading the script and my character shows up and I had an expectation of what she was going to be and it completely confounded my expectations, and I was really touched by it and surprised. I was like, hey! That was actually a different way. The fact that she is someone who is so unbelievably private and committed to being authentic and unable to be inaunthentic was really, really interesting.
Tony, what’s it like watching Joe grow from a little boy in “Angels In The Outfield” to a leading man who is now a director?
TD: Well, I really loved it when we first met. I felt this certain paternal thing with Joe on “Angels In The Outfield.” So even though we may not see each other I keep my eye on him and it’s just been an amazing evolution, and it’s not surprising I have to tell you. Because even then you could tell he was watching everybody, he was interested in the craft of it right from the beginning. It wasn’t about the superficial stuff it was about the work even then. So I’m not surprised. I am surprised about how good the movie is. [JGL laughs] I’m not kidding! Not that I didn’t think you were going to make a great movie.
JGL: Well I’m glad to hear it.
TD: I just thought that the movie played like gangbusters last night. It’s so sexy! And it’s so like, right there! You know you feel it. And by the way it’s an old story. It’s the same old story we’ve been telling only it uses this device that I think is so prevalent and so problematic in our society.
Absolutely. So talking about your character, what was the best part about playing such a heartless bastard?
TD: Well you get to do something that is totally against type. One of the things that Joe constantly told me was “No, I still like you! I still like you. I want you to get madder.” [they laugh]
JGL: Well and he’s so lovable! Every time you see Tony on screen you just can’t help but smile. So I wanted to…
TD: Break the spell of that….So I think that was the fun of it, was to try see if you could do that without making a caricature out of it. I grew up in a family where if they weren’t yelling, they didn’t care. So that was my favorite archetype.
Joe, you’re kind of a veteran now at Sundance. You’ve acted in films that premieried here and it’s your third year here in collaboration with hitRECord. What’s it like to have the film you directed premier here?
JGL: It’s deeply meaningful. I feel like Sundance is more than just a festival, it’s even more than the institute. It’s a community. I think what Mr. Redford created here is invaluable to people who love movies, in this country especially. Without this community here to encourage each other and let each other know that it’s okay you don’t have to only chase box office, there’s more to movies than that. Sundance is really the epicenter of that sentiment in this country. That’s always resonated with me because I just love movies and love acting and love making things. I would do it whether I was making money doing it or not. And that’s, I think, what people are about here and that’s why I feel so connected to it and why it means so much to have such a great reception for the movie here, especially in Sundance in particular.
"Don Jon’s Addiction" will be released sometime later this summer.