At last month’s Sundance Film Festival, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt made a splash with Don Jon’s Addiction, his debut as a writer-director. Relativity Media purchased the film for $4 million, committing an additional $25 million for prints and advertising. In light of this deal and the warm reception the film received at Sundance, Gordon-Levitt would seem to have little to worry about as far as the film’s release is concerned. However, there’s at least one problem he’ll need to address before Don Jon’s Addiction arrives in theatres: the film’s graphic sexuality. The story of a womanizer struggling to overcome his porn addiction, the film features sex scenes that are said to be sufficiently graphic to earn an NC-17 rating, making it extremely difficult for Relativity to recoup their substantial investment.
When the NC-17 rating was introduced in 1990, it was meant to be viable option for films hoping to reach an adult audience, but since this rating places restrictions on where a film can be screened and promoted, few films have embraced the rating. Only a small handful of films have performed respectably at the box office with an NC-17—examples include Showgirls ($20 million), Henry & June ($11 million), and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover ($7 million)—but most films tagged with this rating tend to opt for cuts or an unrated release. The latter has some of the same limitations as an NC-17 rating, making an R essential for any film with the broad appeal aspirations of Don Jon’s Addiction.
Fortunately for all involved, Gordon-Levitt is well aware of the dangers facing the film and he’s confident that he can put together an R-rated version without compromising his vision. The actor-filmmaker addressed this topic while discussing the film at the Berlin International Film Festival on Friday. “I think it is important that those images are in there, but what precisely you see isn’t that important,” he said. “What’s important is the rhythm of the film, the repetition of what the Don Jon character does, over and over.”