In between being one of the more exciting young directors we have at the moment, Rian Johnson has been keeping his helming muscles sharp by working on some of the more acclaimed TV series of the last few years. In the four years between "The Brothers Bloom" and the upcoming "Looper," Johnson helmed a divisive third-season episode of "Breaking Bad" entitled "Fly" (one of this writer's favorites on the show), as well as a cracking installment of the short-lived and much-missed "Terriers."
Even as "Looper" got a big boost from Sony at Comic-Con yesterday ahead of its September release, we'll be seeing something more from Johnson sooner than that, as he has returned to "Breaking Bad" for a new episode in the fifth season, which begins airing on AMC on Sunday. But we spoke to the director in San Diego yesterday, and he revealed that he came close to working on another huge cult TV show, one that might still come to pass at some stage.
When we enquired as to if there were any other shows that Johnson would like to work on, the director told us "I've gotten some really flattering calls. I'm friends with Dan Weiss and David Benioff, who do 'Game of Thrones,' and basically, if I hadn't been in the middle of editing 'Looper,' I would have done an episode last season. I was chomping at the bit to do it, and it just didn't work out schedule wise." That being said, Johnson's keeping his fingers crossed that he may get to head to Westeros at some point: "But I'm hoping maybe at some point in the future it does [work out], that's one that I would just love to do." Press commitments for "Looper" may keep him from the third season, but maybe for the fourth?
We also wondered if having dipped his toe in TV waters, he'd considered following the likes of Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann and develop his own TV series. "Right now," Johnson told us, "I'm trying to focus on working out what the next feature is, but down the line, I'd love to do it. But it's such a daunting thing, seeing someone like ['Breaking Bad' creator] Vince Gilligan, the skill-set it requires to pull it off is so humbling. Vince has all those years on 'The X-Files,' he knows his stuff. It's like watching a pro ball player, you don't feel like you can say 'give me that ball, I'm gonna hop up on that plate.' You're really in awe of what they can do. So I'd have to either find somebody like that, or get a lot more experience under my belt before I feel like I'm worthy of it."
As for that next feature, it's still too early to talk about anything, but the director did reaffirm his commitment so far to original material, rather than adaptations or hired gun gigs. "Adaptation is not something that's ever really appealed," Johnson told us. "If I read a great book or comic book or something, the last thing in my head is 'Wow, I want to make that into a movie.' Obviously, some of the greatest films ever made have been adaptations, I'm just talking about my personal opinion. So there's no dream project. My dream is to come up with another movie, and be able to make it. I'm realizing that that's the only way I can work. Every single movie that gets made is a miracle. But knock on wood, I've been able to get these things made, and it's not going to last forever. So as long as I've got this little window where I'm able to make these things, I'm just gonna keep making original stuff, and see how long I can get away with it."
It's a refreshing approach for a filmmaker in a world where too many directors are eager to jump on the franchise train at the first opportunity, and we hope that people like Johnson and Neill Blomkamp (whose "Elysium" followed "Looper" at the Sony Comic-Con panel yesterday) continue to get the kind of financing and attention they deserve. "Looper" hits theaters on September 28th, and keep your eyes peeled for more from our interview with the director on that film, and on "Breaking Bad," in the very near future.
- Interview by Jeff Otto