Some movies are just born great, while others are made that way by editing, rewrites and sheer force of will. Rian Johnson's Looper, one of the best sci-fi movies we've seen in a long time, seems like a little bit of both. As this fascinating early pitch reel shows, Johnson had his concept well in hand from the beginning, but the original tone was a bit more grim.
As Johnson explains in his introduction to the one-and-a-half-minute clip, the "pitch reel" was created after the script was completed but before the film went into preproduction, as a way to establish a sense of visual tone and even some marketing hooks for studios.
"This is a strange curiosity I thought might be interesting - just after I finished the script for Looper but before we began preproduction I asked Joe to record some voice-over, and with help from my friend Ronen Verbit constructed this 'fake trailer' using clips from other movies. This is a fairly common thing to do when you're trying to get a movie off the ground, but it was the first time I tried it. It was meant to show more some of the film's tone, and to show how the odd concept could be presented in a clear and compelling way in the marketing. Zach Johnson did the sketches. Note that we hadn't begun the casting process yet, and the clips were chosen just based on their visuals and not by who is in them."
In the clip, we hear future star Joseph Gordon-Levitt reading a version of what would become his opening monologue in the film. The footage, apart from sketches, is all composed of clips from other films that help give it a visual feel. The most prominently featured flicks are Blade Runner and Se7en, but you'll also spot the likes of Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven and Fight Club, along with a few others.
You'll also notice that Young Joe's mission, as outlined in this monologue, is much simpler than what he eventually tries to do in the final film. It's a grimmer, colder take, but we still would have loved to see it.