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Read: Rian Johnson's Original Sketch for 'Looper' from 2002

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood December 17, 2012 at 1:46PM

Check out this excerpt from Rian Johnson's original 4-page prose sketch for "Looper." It was written in 2002 when Johnson was trying to get "Brick" made -- "out of frustration," he started writing short ideas that could be filmed on a shoestring budget.
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Check out this excerpt from Rian Johnson's original 4-page prose sketch for "Looper." It was written in 2002 when Johnson was trying to get "Brick" made -- "out of frustration," he started writing short ideas that could be filmed on a shoestring budget.

Of course, the "Looper" we know now is far from "shoestring." But Johnson's first idea was to have only a few characters and locations, and to shoot the film with just a video camera and a couple of friends. The concept of a meeting between an older and younger self remained intact from the 2002 treatment to the 2012 film, as well as the older character's future wife -- "the woman who had saved him from my life."

Read the excerpt below; the entire sketch is here:

There is a reason I’m telling you this.

The old man runs. The looper gives chase.

I couldn’t do it on the spot. Weakness. If I let him get away, I was a dead man. As opposed to what, I’m not sure.

They chase each other through the city. The old man gives the looper the slip, leaving an aged photograph – a woman in a hat at the beach. On the back, scrawled: “John 15:13”

My handwriting. Something I should know. Something deep and rooted in me, a flash of anger, at whatever it was. If I had any susceptibility to the trappings of proverbial righteousness I wouldn’t still be wearing this hat.

The looper picks up the old man’s trail, and chases him deeper in to the city.

And if I had a nickel for every verse from the good book I’d gotten from a condemned man on his knees in an alleyway. Live by the sword… cast the first stone… fear and guilt in the moments before death. I knew them. I was immune. I probably knew this one too. But at the moment it eluded me.

The looper chases the old man into a burnt out building, and stops, walking slowly, listening for a sign…

At first I thought it was the wind, but then I realized he was talking to me. A low graveled voice I almost didn’t recognize. He was telling me about the woman. It was hard for him. He kept starting and stopping. He spoke deliberately, as if very clearly trying to articulate a focused point. But his words were hazy memories, vague but vibrant emotional impressions of this woman.

Fantasy images overtake the looper. The woman, the beach.

He began the story of the thirty years between us, his past, my future. How in five years I would meet his wife. The woman who had saved him from my life. The woman he loved more than anything in the world. He told me about a beach. The retrieval of a parasol. The wind.

This article is related to: News, Looper, Rian Johnson, Rian Johnson, News


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.