Six years ago, Shane Carruth, the writer, director and star of "Primer," looked like the next sci-fi, Aronofsky-esque superstar. His microbudgeted "Primer" was made for $7,000 and was as fascinating and frightening (and confusing) a look at the world of time travel as one could imagine. It had a plot based in the foundations of science rather than science fiction, and if you're willing to be patient with it, it emerges as an extremely smart, oddly moving work of physics fiction. (Carruth, a precise writer, must have watched the last season of "Lost" and wanted to put a foot through a wall; this is a guy who takes time travel seriously.) The film also won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. He had a little moment there.
Anyway, since "Primer" came out in 2004, he hasn't been heard from much; he has given very few interviews, made no films and generally just hidden out, trying to find funding for his next project, called "A Topiary." (It has a charmingly low-key, boastful Web site.) But he has now been spotted in public, at last: Director Rian Johnson ("Brick," "The Brothers Bloom") apparently has Carruth assisting on his own time-travel project, "Looper."
Johnson says Carruth is helping him with some time travel effects. "Looper" involves mobsters sending hitmen in the past to kill the parents of witnesses before they were born, and it stars Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt. It's a breakthrough project for Johnson, whose first films were more admired than seen. But he's been on a run of late, thanks largely to the "Looper" script and a much-beloved episode of "Breaking Bad" he directed. And now he has Carruth, the secretive, mad-boy-genius of "Primer," working on his film, while Carruth himself tries to secure funding for his own project.
This is a nerdy little post, we confess, but "Primer" is fantastic, and Carruth is as close to a J.D. Salinger sort as independent film has right now. We can't believe he even let Johnson take his photo.