At the end of "The Dark Knight Rises," (spoiler alert ahead) Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character has been given the keys to Batman's armory, which, as a result, has spurred rumors of a possible spinoff movie -- rumors that Gordon-Levitt has done a good job dancing around.
But if the story did continue, what would his vigilante superhero be named? It might prove difficult to just assume Batman's identity. And using his character's real first name doesn't seem reasonable. I asked Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who didn't have an answer ready. But, thankfully, David Koepp -- the man who wrote "Jurassic Park" and "Spider-Man" -- was in the room and did have an idea. Sadly, we will probably never see the words, "Joseph Gordon-Levitt is ... Shitkicker."
Gordon-Levitt and Koepp are promoting "Premium Rush," a film in which they, respectively, star and direct. In the film, Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, a daredevil bike messenger with the ability to see the fate of each path taken when encountered with a dangerous intersection. He's also saddled with a very valuable package. Michael Shannon plays Detective Robert Monday, a New York City cop who has some unfortunate gambling habits and really wants that package. Here, Gordon-Levitt and Koepp talk about the often dangerous shoot (which Koepp refers to as a "fucking nightmare") and why pedestrians like me are the scum of the street.
This actually just happened: On the way here I was almost ran over by a bike on Park Ave.
Gordon-Levitt: I bet it was your fault.
See, you're biased, now.
Gordon-Levitt: I bet you weren't looking where you were going.
Koepp: But you weren't run over by a bike. They have it under control -- just don't pay attention to them. Do you know what I mean? Bikes work when they don't stop. I would say in the hierarchy of who has it under control on the streets, number one is bikes. Number two is cars -- because there's an illusion of safety and they're usually texting, they're not so good. And the worst, like the scum of the street, is pedestrians.
Gordon-Levitt: That's why I assumed it was your fault.
Though, bike riders can be an ornery cuss.
Gordon-Levitt: [Laughs] Is that "Fantastic Mr Fox" phrasing?
It might be. It might be from the first "Vacation," too.
Gordon-Levitt: What I learned riding around the city -- both while shooting and especially when not shooting -- you do have to raise your voice and it can come off gruff. But, you're just trying to make sure they don't get hit and they know you're there. So, I think people take it personally sometimes. It's like, "Hey! Hey! Hey!," but they're not looking where they are going.
It's impossible while watching a movie to know if it was a fun movie to be a part of, but this one does look like it was fun to shoot.
Gordon-Levitt: It was hard work, but I had a lot of fun. I think it was more fun for me than David. You had to really worry more than I did.
Koepp: I'll answer honestly: It was a fucking nightmare. I'm really glad it looks fun, because that's what it's supposed to look like: Fast, breezy, and a ball. But trying to control New York City is impossible. Greater men and women have tried and failed. It's a great big organism that does what it wants and you just have to roll with it. It's like working with the most difficult actor in the world -- in that it's torture every day.
Gordon-Levitt: An eight million headed actor.
Koepp: Yeah! But then you get in the editing room and it's like, "Oh, no wonder: He's genius." That's what you say about New York: It looks great and is great. And then there was the concern about people getting hurt. I'm not one of those directors who, you know, doesn't seem to care. Like Michael Curtiz, apparently, was kind of an asshole.
Gordon-Levitt: Who's that?
Koepp: He directed "Casablanca," most famously. But, he did the flood -- the Noah's Ark story -- and nine people drowned. [Editor's note: It's been reported that three died and numerous others were injured.]
Koepp: Which I'm sure kept him up nights. But, some directors just say, "Well, it's a movie and it's going to happen." I worry a lot. When a crash would happen -- and we had a number of them because bikes fall over -- the worst part would be: You're in the van, because I had to chase or lead in a van watching, and the actor would leave camera. When the actor leaves camera, you know, "Oh, fuck, something horrible is about to happen." And, then, because they're wearing body mics, you'd hear the crash. It sounds like what it would sound like if someone dies. That little scream or a muffled...
Koepp: Yeah. So the ten seconds between when you see him leave frame and when you hear him crash and you hear either, "I'm all right," or "I'mnotallright," would be the worst. Because I thought, Somebody's dead this time.
At times I felt bad for Michael Shannon's character. He had some debts and if it weren't for a pesky bike messenger, he'd be home free.
Gordon-Levitt: He's the coyote.
Koepp: You feel for the coyote, too. He just has to eat [laughs].
Michael Shannon has a rage on screen I'm not sure any other actor possesses.
Gordon-Levitt: I think he's one of the finest actors alive and he's so much fun to watch in this movie. He's a real classic Hollywood heavy. And there's a tradition, I think, of movies like this having villains who are really, really fine actors. Like Alan Rickman in "Die Hard" or Dennis Hopper in "Speed." And I think his performance in this will go down in that tradition.
After the screening, we were calling the way Wilee can see the outcome of his path before he choose it "Biker vision." What did you guys call it?
Koepp: Very close! It was "Bike-o-vision." And we spent a couple hours on our screenwriting program trying to figure out how to put in the little trademark symbol -- the shit you do to avoid work. Bike-o-vision was we wanted to find a cinematic way to show the thought process. You know, the split second that you go through in an intersection figuring out what's coming from where. The we figured, well, because this is the one part in the movie where we are going to be into some CG -- because everything else is real people on real bikes doing stunts -- we thought we could stretch it and go a little further and see increasingly horrible outcomes. Obviously when he gets hit by three different cars and run over by a truck, that's not a real person on that one. But it was great to find a visual way to show what's going on in somebody's head.
You described this as a "fucking nightmare" to shoot, but the release was also delayed. Was that frustrating?
Koepp: It was supposed to come out in January, which is a date I was never crazy about because it's the dead of winter and the movie exudes summer. And it makes you want to go get on your bike and feel the heat and not be in a blizzard.
Gordon-Levitt: In L.A., January is a perfectly nice time to go on a bike ride.
Koepp: It's interesting, when we first had a first cut of the movie, we tested it in upstate New York in a snow storm. And two weeks later in L.A. Same movie, like 15 points higher.
Gordon-Levitt: Wow! That's interesting.
Koepp: Because you're not feeling it in the winter.
Well, Joe, what about for you? It seems like you're on a never ending press tour right now. Between "The Dark Knight Rises," this, then next is "Looper."
Gordon-Levitt: It's just a bizarre coincidence. You know, I don't have any part in choosing when the movies come out. But, it is funny. Two years of work are all coming out in a few months.
Well, it's nice having you around. You're just a constant part of our lives, now.
Gordon-Levitt: [Laughs] I'll leave you alone soon. I promise!
Next for you, David, is the next Jack Ryan movie?
Koepp: That's already done, yeah. I hope it's done [knocks on the table]. It starts shooting on the 31st, here in New York, actually.
Is it easier to reboot Jack Ryan now because people are used to reboots? Did "The Sum of All Fears" not do as well because people didn't understand it was a new story?
Koepp: I guess so. I think so. That character, three different actors have played it and it's soon to be four. He's a great character. Tom Clancy created him and he's really coherent and feels things deeply in a way that people seem to connect to. So, it's not surprising they want to try that.
It's weird, but I sometimes have to be reminded that you were on "3rd Rock From the Sun." And I've seen many episodes. But, is it difficult to not be always associated with something an actor was on for so long?
Koepp: You changed your hair.
Gordon-Levitt: Um, yeah! There's that. And I was, you know, an adolescent when I was playing that and now I'm 31. I don't think that people don't associate me. A lot of people still tell me how much they loved that show. And I love it, too. So, I'm always happy to hear about it. I don't know -- not to disagree with you. But, it's also been 15 years.
It probably has something to do with you being good.
Gordon-Levitt: [Laughs] It's just because I'm so damn good.
Koepp: That doesn't hold you back.
When you were promoting "The Dark Knight Rises," was it hard to keep to yourself who John Blake becomes at the end?
Gordon-Levitt: No. I like not telling. It's the same as if I've seen a movie that I have nothing to do with and I've just really enjoyed it and I recommend it to people, I don't tell them anything about it. I always just say, "Please believe me. If you like movies, I like movies, you're going to like this movie. That's all I'm going to tell you." Because, for me, when I watch a movie, I want to experience the story they way the filmmaker intended. Or if there's a movie I'm looking forward to seeing, I try not to read any articles about it. I'll even often times not watch the trailers -- just because I really want to get all of the elements in the order that the movie is.
What name would he uses as his vigilante name? He can't use his real first name that we learn at the end because that's his real first name. People would probably figure that one out.
Gordon-Levitt: What name do you think he would use?
I don't know. I'm perplexed. You haven't thought about it?
Gordon-Levitt: [Smiles] I don't have an answer.
Are you being coy or do you really not have an answer?
Gordon-Levitt: I don't have an answer.
Koepp: How about "Shitkicker"? I don't believe I've ever seen a crime fighting guy named Shitkicker.
Gordon-Levitt: That sounds like a sequel to "Kick-Ass."
And you've written all of these successful movies, so next will be "Shitkicker."
Koepp; [Laughs] Yeah, that will be right up there with all of the rest of them.
After Jack Ryan, it's "Shitkicker."
Koepp: Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. You can contact him directly on Twitter.