Don Jon: Behind the Scenes

The actor, director, and writer Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns viewers into voyeurs with an addiction dramedy.

Photographer: Daniel McFadden

To his Jersey bros, Jon, pumped-up and meticulously manscaped, is the supreme ladies’ man. But unlike Molière’s tragic roué, this contemporary Don Juan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in his directorial debut) repents for his sins. When he’s not bringing home hon­eys­ from the club or crushing weights at the gym, he’s at church confessing his addiction to online pornography. Jon can’t stop watching it—not even when he’s road-raging in his muscle car or taking notes in night class. Meanwhile his dream girl, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), also has a habit she can’t kick: swooning over cloying romance movies, which she unironically regards as the model for real-life courtships.

“I think that in today’s media culture we’re stuck in this passive mode of spectatorship,” says Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote the script. “Like, what’s up with these two? They’re not engaging or expressing themselves at all—they’re just consuming fantasies.” Though biting, the comedic drama isn’t as dark as other recent films about sex and addiction, like 2011’s Shame or 2012’s Thanks for Sharing. “I’m an optimist,” Gordon-Levitt explains. “I wanted the film to have some hope.”

Photos: Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the set of Don Jon.

Photographer: Daniel McFadden

Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the set of Don Jon.

Photographer: Daniel McFadden

“The lovely Julianne Moore plays Esther, who helps Jon see a different side of himself.”

Photographer: Daniel McFadden

“We’re setting up a shot for the date that Barbara [Scarlett Johansson] has with my character, Jon. There’s a stand-in where I’ll be sitting. Can’t be in two places at once!”

Photographer: Daniel McFadden