You've never seen a love story quite like Don Jon, opening nationwide today. The film, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore and Tony Danza, is a classic romance with an XXX-rated twist. The lead character, Jon (Gordon-Levitt), falls in love with a girl (Johansson) and all is well… until his porn addiction gets in the way. (We saw it—it's not as dirty as it sounds, but it's definitely dirty and full of chuckle-worthy moments.) The story itself was born out of JGL's mind—he not only starred in the film, he wrote and directed it, as well. We caught up with the 32-year-old earlier this year when he first premiered the movie at the Sundance Film Festival, and he told us it's an indescribable feeling to see his vision come to life. His advice? You can do it, too. "A lot of people have it in them [to do something like this] and are discouraged and it really is a lot about perseverance," he said. "I had the first seeds of this idea probably four years ago, now it's here." Scroll down to listen in on more of our conversation with JGL about his new flick, Don Jon, and catch it in theaters starting today, Friday, September 27.
You directed, starred, and wrote the movie. What did you learn about yourself in the process?
That I can do it. It took a lot of hard work, but definitely the hardest part was writing it, because I was alone writing and you have these voices in your head telling you you can’t do it and you should just give up, but I got a draft done and I showed it to my friend, and he said, "I think you have something here." Then more and more people read it and then we started putting it together.
You’re really pushing people out of their comfort zones by showing so much X-rated material on-screen. What do you want them to walk away with or feel as they’re leaving the theater?
Well, it’s a story about how people objectify each other. It’s a story ultimately about love, because, from what I’ve observed, that’s what’s always getting in the way of real good authentic love is people kind of having these expectations that they put on each other that they’ve learned from various places. One of these places is the media, so I thought having a love story between a guy who watches too much porn and a girl who watches too many romantic Hollywood movies would be a hilarious love story. I hope people examine the expectations that they’re putting on themselves, their lovers, their friends, their family -- everything -- because life’s not about meeting expectations, it’s about trying to be present.
Tony Danza plays your father, the first time since Angels in the Outfield. What was that like?
Tony Danza was my very first choice for this part. The character I play is very different from myself and the character he plays is very different from himself. With Tony, you see his face on the screen and you can’t help but smile because he’s just so lovable. He’s got a positivity that beams out of him. But the character in this movie is sort of an abusive asshole. It’s funny. It’s a dark comedy, I guess. But I kept having to tell him: "No I still like you. You got to be meaner."
How would you describe working with Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore?
"They’re brilliant. They’re both my first choice. I wrote the part with Scarlett in mind. Julianne and Scarlett, they have very different characters to play and they both nail it in their own ways."