Joseph Gordon-Levitt And Julianne Moore Talk Sundance’s Don Jon’s Addiction, Porn, And Love

Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed, and stars in Don Jon’s Addiction, his debut feature about a porn-addicted man in search of meaningful sex. Gordon-Levitt and his co-star, Oscar nominated actress Julianne Moore, sat down to discuss porn, love, The Big Lebowski’s 15th anniversary, and their favorite films of the year.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the fresh prince of Sundance.

Last year, he didn’t even have a film at the festival and was still the hottest ticket—performing a live hitRECORD event, replete with a soaring rendition of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” that had ladies—and quite a few men—swooning.

After starring in the beloved Sundance films Brick, Mysterious Skin, and (500) Days of Summer, he’s brought his debut feature film—which he wrote, directed, and stars in—to premiere at the fest.

Don Jon’s Addiction centers on Jon “Don Jon” Martello (Gordon-Levitt), a twenty-something Jersey Guido who, when he’s not gelling his hair, cleaning his pad, pumping up at the gym, or bedding a revolving door of women, watches a vast plethora of porn. He’s so addicted to porn that it affects the relationship with his potential dream woman, Angie (Scarlett Johansson [wtf, most other news sites are saying that her character is Barbara —a bodacious, gum-chewing Joisey girl with a weakness for sappy romantic comedy films. After a chance encounter with Esther (Julianne Moore), a mature, broken woman, Don Jon realizes that sex, and love, isn’t what he thought it was.

The Daily Beast sat down with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Julianne Moore to discuss a variety of subjects, including their thoughts on contemporary porn, Gordon-Levitt’s gaggle of female admirers, Moore’s experience making The Big Lebowski (it’s the cult classic’s 15th anniversary), and their favorite movies of the year.

Joe, you played porn critic/obsessive Bert Rodriguez in Women in Trouble and Elektra Luxx, and now star as a porn addict in your feature filmmaking debut. What do you find so fascinating about porn?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Well, I wanted to make a movie about love and what I’ve noticed is what often gets in the way of love is how people objectify each other; they put expectations on each other and they’ve learned these expectations from various places, whether it’s their parents, friends, church, or different forms of media. So I thought making a love story about a guy who watches too much porn and a girl [Johansson] who watches too many romantic movies would be really funny and get at this theme.

Late in the film, Julianne’s character gives yours a Dutch porn tape from the ‘70s. Porn back then was very different from what it is today; far more sensual and tender, as opposed to today, which is mostly dudes jackhammering away at women for half an hour. What are your thoughts on contemporary porn?

Julianne Moore: They’re certain lacking in the story department!
Joe: I do think most of [porn] is pretty hateful. I don’t use that word lightly. It’s a bummer that people get off on belittling women, but I think it’s also a bummer that certain romantic Hollywood movies do the same thing and are equally narrow-minded.
Julianne: Or they’re fantasies being fed to people that are fueling an unrealistic expectation of how they should be. There’s the princess fantasy. I understand role-play with kids, and both of my children are interesting in superheroes and princesses, but the way we’ve saturated our culture with these ideas is that a little girl thinks that’s how it’s supposed to be, but it’s unattainable, and yet that’s a fantasy that persists. So, you have romantic comedies, pornography, media images that are unrealistic and they’re all preventing people from being themselves.

It’s interesting that you cast Julianne as the woman who brings you out of your sexual quagmire and shows you the light, given her porn star role in Boogie Nights.

Julianne: [Laughs]
Joe: There is an irony there, you’re right. But that was just a funny coincidence!

The Jersey “Guido” is a pretty unique Tri-State phenomenon. Why did you decide to make your character a Jersey Shore-type?

Joe: If the guy is obsessed with porn cause he can’t find a partner, that doesn’t really get to the theme, but if he’s a ladies man, that does it. So I thought, “Who’s the Don Juan of today?” and the first thing I thought of was that East Coast Guido guy with shiny hair and a gym body, and it just sounded hilarious to me and really fun to play.

Now Julianne, you’ve worked with some of the greats like Paul Thomas Anderson. How was Joe as a director?

Julianne: I’ve had the really good fortune of working with some very talented people, and where I’ve been luckiest is writer-directors. What I’ve found is that if they’ve written their own script, I can see their aptitude in the language. It was very clear to me that he had a very distinct vision and was able to continue it on set. I didn’t have any trepidation about doing it cause this guy really knew what he was doing.
Joe: Thank you so much for saying that. And the year before we shot this I was lucky cause I worked with Rian Johnson (Looper) and then Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) and then Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), and certainly was paying attention. One thing I’ve noticed that all three of those guys have in common is balancing the homework that they’ve done and the vision that they have with being open to having spontaneous things happen. That, to me, as at the crux of what a director does.

There’s a mini-Havoc reunion in the film, since Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum cameo as the stars of a sappy romantic comedy in a film-within-the-film. Have you all stayed friends since making that flick?

Joe: There is, man! Good call. We’ve all stayed really good friends, and I’ve made three films with Chan and two with Annie, and Havoc was the first one for both. And it was Chan’s first movie. But it was really sweet of them to do it and they are so funny. They had such a fun half-a-day, and you could really tell.

Joe, how do you feel about the level of Internet worship from the female population? Have you talked about this with Gosling?

Julianne: He’s got a lot of girlfriends!
Joe: [Laughs] I’ve never met him! I would love too, he’s such a great actor. But that’s… that’s all a little… I can’t pay too much attention to it. [Laughs]

Julianne, it’s the 15th anniversary of The Big Lebowski.

Julianne: It’s crazy! I know that because my son is 15 and I was pregnant with him during that movie.

So wait—you were pregnant and harnessed into that machine throwing paint everywhere?

Julianne: I was pregnant and flying! I was so sick. It was in the middle of the night, like two in the morning, and I was so nauseous and they brought me down in the crane. Carlos Leon was one of my [helpers], Madonna’s, you know, and he lowered me down from the crane and I was like, “I’m gonna be sick!” I loved it and it tanked! And the critics killed it, and we were like, “What?” But it’s wonderful that it’s turned into this great thing because it’s a phenomenal film.

Joe, since this was your first rodeo, what were the major filmmaking hurdles?

Joe: The hardest part was writing it because you’re alone and when I’m alone I’m always having these moments of self-doubt like, “Am I kidding myself? Is this any good?” Once I had my first draft, I showed it to Rian Johnson who said, “I think you really have something here.” And from then on, it got easier and the demons kind of took a break at that point.

The first year I went to Sundance was in 2005, and that year you had both Brick and Mysterious Skin here.

Joe: It’s a beautiful thing. My first Sundance was in 2001, with Manic.

That’s an underrated film. Not a lot of people realize that that was your first outing with Zooey Deschanel, and (500) Days of Summer was a reunion of sorts.

Joe: I know, and it’s a big part of why I think (500) Days of Summer worked so well, because me and Zooey had remained friends for that whole time in between.

What’s it like coming back eight years later and premiering your first feature here?

Joe: Sundance has become an informal, fluid community of artists that love movies and believe there’s more to movies than glitz, glamour, and box office. And a movie like this, which doesn’t follow the formulas of what a mainstream Hollywood comedy is supposed to be, will hopefully become a mainstream Hollywood comedy because of Sundance giving it that portal. I admire so much about what Mr. Redford has done, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather play my first movie.

Lastly, it’s awards season. What are your favorite films of the year?

Joe: Django.
Moore: I loved Django and I loved The Sessions.

Joe, you were going to be in Django, right?

Joe: I was actually talking about doing the character that Tarantino plays—the Aussie. He said to me, “If you don’t really learn an Australian accent, I will dub you, because I know an Australian accent!” And it turned out that he played it, and he did a great job and has a great Australian accent in the movie.

Bonus video from the Hollywood Reporter: