Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I cut some graphic porn from ‘Don Jon’

After Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, “Don Jon,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, festivalgoers questioned whether the pornography-laden version of the movie would make it to theaters intact.

The initial cut, starring Gordon-Levitt as a New Jersey lothario whose porn addiction begins to interfere with his romantic life, was filled with sexually explicit footage. While the actor’s character didn’t engage in particularly graphic sex, he was often seen watching online porn rife with fake breasts, bare behinds and exotic sexual positions. Many who saw the picture wondered whether the Motion Picture Assn. of America would assign the movie an R rating if some of the raciest bits were not edited out.

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It turns out that some of those moments have been excised from the film’s final cut -- though Gordon-Levitt wouldn’t say whether the move was made to appease the ratings board.

“The Sundance cut was us pushing it past where it really ought to be, and I think it was sort of distracting for audiences,” the actor said last week in Las Vegas at CinemaCon, where he was given the Breakthrough Filmmaker of the Year Award by the conference for movie theater owners. “People came away feeling like, ‘Oh, this is a movie about porn,’ and I was like, ‘No, it’s not a movie about that at all.’ I think because those images were so strong, they were leaving a heavier impression than I wanted them to.”

Accordingly, the 32-year-old said, he chose different sections of the porn included, or cropped the existing footage closer to make it less graphic. No time, lines or story points were cut out, he said.

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“The movie didn’t change in any substantial ways, other than those percussive moments of pornography are a little less sexually explicit and graphic,” he said.

After Relativity Media purchased “Don Jon” at the Park City, Utah, festival for about $4 million, the independent distributor initially planned to release the picture this summer. But Relativity said earlier this month that the film would hit theaters Oct. 18.

The actor-director called release dates “fluid things” and said he just hoped the film was a movie “that a lot of people see... I’m really excited that it’s going to come out and get a wide release.”

He made the film, he said, not only to engender laughter but also to inspire discussion about the ways in which porn influences men’s perception of women.

“If you hang out with guys talking about women, it can be pretty brutal and pretty dehumanizing,” he said. “On the one hand, I think it’s sort of [messed] up, and on the other, I think it’s hilarious. That’s why I made a movie about it.”


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