Toronto film fest opens with time-travel action

Emily Blunt wants to head back to the 1960s or maybe the 1920s. Joseph Gordon-Levitt would prefer to visit the future.

So does Rian Johnson, their director on the time-travel adventure "Looper," which opens the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday ahead of its Sept. 28 theatrical premiere.

The sci-fi thriller features Gordon-Levitt as a hit man in the year 2044, his victims being sent by mobsters back from 30 years in the future, when it's become virtually impossible to dispose of a body and get away with murder. Bruce Willis co-stars as Gordon-Levitt's latest victim — his own self three decades older.

Gordon-Levitt said he might like to visit the very distant past to see how language developed among humans, but he's generally forward-thinking on his time-travel destinations.

"Into the future, oh, yeah. I think the future's going to be an unknowably beautiful place to be," Gordon-Levitt said. "A little more distant, though. I don't think the immediate future will be so unknowably beautiful."

Writer-director Johnson likes the idea of skipping ahead in time, too.

"You can take it backward and imagine someone from 1912 hopping ahead to now, and how the technology that we have would absolutely blow their minds," said Johnson, whose previous films include "Brick," which starred Gordon-Levitt, and "The Brothers Bloom."

"Imagine what that would have to be for us that would have that same effect a hundred years from now. I can't imagine anything more incredible than that. I love history. It would be amazing to see different things in history, but to see where all this is going, I think it's beyond our imagining."

Blunt would do the opposite, aiming backward for the 1960s or possibly the '20s.

"A time when women were coming into their own a little bit more. I was asked if I would like to go back to the 17th century, and I don't think I would, actually. It was probably pretty grim in many ways around then," said Blunt, who also thinks one simple issue — body odor — could be a turnoff for modern time travelers heading centuries into the past.

"People smelt foul. You would have walked into a room, and even one person would have stunk out this entire massive ball," Blunt said.

"Looper" is a rare Hollywood film to begin the Toronto festival, which typically has featured a smaller Canadian flick as its opening-night premiere. One of the world's biggest cinema showcases, the Toronto festival will screen nearly 300 feature-length films during its 11-day run, including many upcoming studio releases and Academy Awards contenders.

Other highlights include Ben Affleck's Iran hostage thriller "Argo," Keira Knightley's Leo Tolstoy drama "Anna Karenina," Tom Hanks and Halle Berry's genre-bending tale "Cloud Atlas," Adam Sandler's animated comedy "Hotel Transylvania" and Tommy Lee Jones' Douglas MacArthur chronicle "Emperor."

Despite her interest in the past, Blunt doesn't believe time travel is possible, and Johnson has his doubts.

But Gordon-Levitt is open to the idea that people can move forward and backward in time.

"I'm no physicist, but I think quantum physics sort of supports that," Gordon-Levitt said. "We think of things as happening in the past, present and future because that's a useful way to tell ourselves the story in order to survive and get things done. But that's not necessarily what's going on.

"I don't think time travel would happen as neatly and cleanly as it does in movies, but I do think that our notion of time that goes in a straight line and only moves forward is a bit of an illusion."