It's been almost twenty years since he was cast as an old geezer trapped in a boy's body on 3rd Rock from the Sun
. Lately, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been getting younger every day—making cancer funny with Seth Rogen, singing on the Internet, and starring in a million new movies, including The Dark Knight Rises
. Here, young Joe kicks off our fall fashion preview, showing us all how to pull off a three-piece suit and taking Amy Wallace on his own personal (and slightly disorienting) Hollywood Walk of Fame.
This is what it's like, getting lost with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. "Oh boy. Dude," he mutters to himself as he steers his gray 2005 Honda Accord hybrid around a flat, arid stretch of the San Fernando Valley, the place where he grew up. We're trying—and failing—to find his alma mater, Van Nuys High School. "This is funny. It's been a long time," he says, laughing as he turns right, then left, then right again. Because Joe (as he likes to be called) is focusing on the road, it's easy for me to appraise his otherworldly features without seeming like a letch. The planes of his face, the pale skin, the gymnast's build. Dressed in a white T-shirt with a red circle on it, gray chinos, and a dusty pair of Vans, a slight stubble scruffing up his square chin and a red plastic watch cinched to his left wrist, the actor who's appeared in films as varied as 50/50, Inception, and this summer's Batman sequel,The Dark Knight Rises, doesn't look his age, which is 31.
We pull up to a nondescript campus dotted with the beige double-wide trailers that are synonymous with California's overcrowded public-education system. "Here it is," Joe says triumphantly. But it isn't. This is an elementary school, not a high school, I say. "Interesting," Joe replies, which is what I'm thinking, too.
A street sign—Ranchito Avenue—sparks a memory: One of Joe's best friends in high school lived on this street. Worth a try. But when we turn a corner, we come up empty. "Fucking hell," Joe says, laughing again. "I have a really terrible sense of direction." Maybe it's farther west, I suggest gently. "Yeah, maybe," he says, turning the car around. "I'm starting to think I'm maybe on the right track now," he says, his brown eyes twinkly. Already he's shown me a park where the 10-year-old Joe played flag football. He's taken me over Laurel Canyon Boulevard, the route he and his mom traveled every day to auditions, beginning when he was 6. After asking me to hold his sunglasses, he's even summoned the graceful physicality he often displays in his work to do some tumbling, springing backward into the air. Then, having slightly bobbled that first backflip, he's grinned and tried again. And the second time, he stuck the landing.
Now, as we drive past a black-clad skateboarder with a Mohawk so spiky it could draw blood, Joe tells me there was a time when he disdained sidewalk surfers "because I grew up here, where skating started, and most of those guys were dicks." But that guy, the one we just passed? "That guy looks pretty cool," he says. When I ask if he went to his prom at the high school we're having trouble locating, he sheepishly says no. "I was a sort of serious little dude—snobby. I thought girls my age were very frustrating. They were, like, looking in their compact mirrors and shit, and I thought that was evil," he says, adding that he was in danger of becoming "a hopeless ivory-tower douchebag. I'm a little more forgiving now. I've grown to laugh at myself a little bit more than I did."
When we finally come upon Van Nuys High, a security guard at the front door sends us to the main office. "We have lots of liability issues," the guy says, explaining why we must get permission to wander around. Joe thanks the guy, but as we head down a hallway, he whispers: "We're not going to go to the main office." Left, then right, and we find ourselves in a sunny courtyard teeming with hundreds of teenagers. They're hurrying to class, trying to beat the bell, and I can't help but notice that many are wearing T-shirts and chinos and Vans. "This is pretty fucking awesome, dude," Joe says, grinning. "We came at just the right time."
Our adventure began at the Chateau Marmont hotel on the Sunset Strip, where Joe was greeted warmly by employees in crisp outfits who knew him by name. This made him uncomfortable. "I've been here a lot recently," he was quick to explain, "because it's a good place to have meetings. I'm directing this movie"—it's a coming-of-age story he wrote—"and that means lots of meetings." We didn't stay. Instead, we got in his aging vehicle, whose enviro-conscious reputation he calls "a sham" and whose make and model he asked me not to mention. "Don't put this in the story," he said, even as I told him I was going to. "It's so boring. I hate cars. Let's say it's a magic carpet!"
His career, certainly, is flying high and steady: He's about to be in four movies. In addition to The Dark Knight, he's got Premium Rush, a bike-messenger-under-siege action flick due out in August, followed by Looper, a sci-fi adventure, in September. In December's Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's biopic, Joe depicts the son of the sixteenth president, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, who suggested Joe for the part.
Directors who've worked with Joe laud his collaborative spirit and uncommon versatility. No slouch in the serious-drama department (2008's Stop-Loss), he brings an arch intelligence to comedy that has made headbanging hilarious (last year's Hesher) and, yes, even cancer funny (50/50, also from last year). He can do noir (2005's Brick) and popcorn fare (2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra). Add to all that his eagerness to sing and dance ("What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"—an impromptu and slightly twee YouTube duet with Zooey Deschanel) and Joe emerges as a sort of old-timey showman. Imagine Fred Astaire hiding in the body of an edgy intellectual who's as likely to quote Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig as RZA, a founder of the Wu-Tang Clan.
Raised by middle-class left-leaning professionals who still live in the same house he grew up in, Joe has Hollywood roots. (He is the grandchild of the blacklisted director Michael Gordon, who made the Doris Day–Rock Hudson classic Pillow Talk.) He got his first paying job—in a TV commercial—at 6 years old and was the star of his first feature film, Angels in the Outfield, at 12. Next came 3rd Rock from the Sun, on which Joe played Tommy, an ancient alien hiding in the body of a teenage boy.
Joe's filmography is littered with these kinds of time-warping cinematic devices. He loved Memento, Christopher Nolan's 2000 thriller, which moved forward and backward in time, so much that he lobbied to get a role inInception, that brilliantly confusing 2010 movie about the inner workings of the mind (I think), in which past and present were fluid at best. He was in the 2007 film The Lookout, in which he played a star athlete, injured in a car accident, who can remember events only if he thinks of them as stories and works his way backward from the end. Come to think of it, even (500) Days of Summer, the 2009 not-a-love-story Joe starred in with Deschanel, started at day 488 of their doomed affair and then went back to day one (then to day 290, day one again, day three, etc.).
In the upcoming Looper, Joe plays a hit man who works for the Mob of the future and recognizes one of his targets as his future self. During production, Joe spent three hours a day having prosthetics applied to his face and wore blue contact lenses—all to make it more believable that the characters "Joe" (Joe) and "older Joe" (Bruce Willis) are the same person. The result suggests a young Robert Forster, but it's subtle enough that it messes with your head in an interesting way, making you sometimes wonder if Joe is in the movie at all. (When I share that observation with Joe, he looks like he wants to hug me. Instead he says, "That's precisely the highest compliment I think you can pay an actor: 'I wasn't sure if it was you.' ")
Less is known about Joe's role in The Dark Knight Rises, which Nolan, the director, has shrouded in his customary secrecy. Joe plays John Blake, a Gotham City cop (who's rumored to also be Robin). Nolan recalls being struck by the actor's "youthful energy" when they first met: "He has tremendous charisma and that incredible kind of positivity that can't be faked." Which makes him perfect, of course, for Commissioner Gordon's protégé. "We really needed somebody with a sense of idealism to contrast with Gordon's weariness," Nolan says of Gary Oldman's role. "I thought of Joe first and foremost."···
"A little bit of a contrarian" is the way Zooey Deschanel describes the Joe she first met on the set of the 2001 movie Manic. "Very intellectual. Very, very serious and very intense." Joe, then 19, had just decided to quit acting and was headed to Columbia University to read Nabokov. Deschanel, meanwhile, had just dropped out of college to become an actor.
"We would joke about that. I would be like, 'You hate movies.' And he'd be like, 'You hate books,' " she says. "The Joe that I knew back then, I would never think of him as having anything but wonderful qualities. But you would say something, and he would go, 'What do you mean by that?' Not a word went unexamined, you know?"
I do know, in fact. During our day together, I definitely saw remnants of that hyperanalytical, smarty-pants (dare I say ivory-tower douchebaggy?) quality, like when Joe told me how much he hated Americans' fawning over celebrity. "I really don't like this notion that some people are more important than other people," he said. "These stories about these elevated people called 'celebrities' teaches you"—and by "you" he meant regular, nonfamous folks—"that what you have to say doesn't matter. It's degrading." It is a testament to Joe's bright-eyed friendliness that he managed to say all this in a way that didn't make me feel dirty. This is, after all, a celebrity profile.
Still, Deschanel says that eight years after Manic, when they co-starred in (500) Days of Summer, Joe was lighter, less burdened. "He changed a lot," she says. "He became a lot more open-minded." When I tell her Joe did a backflip for me, she laughs. "Of course he did. He loves to do backflips."
Now Joe is telling me that traditional Hollywood—yes, the industry that employs him—is crumbling. "The entertainment business as it has been is not going to be around that much longer," he says. "The way it's going is, there's going to be artists, and they'll make their shit, and they'll connect to their audience, and you don't need any of the middlemen—the studios or the agents." He's been regaling me about how the Internet is "ushering us into a cultural golden age" and how curation "is the art form of the twenty-first century." He's been lambasting American intellectual-property laws (see: Lessig) and comparing Hollywood's current crisis to how the blacksmiths felt when the car was invented. He's also been waxing poetic about how quality is more important than originality.
"Ever since I was a kid, I'd always played with video cameras," Joe says, explaining his answer to this tectonic shift: hitRECord.org, a site into which he has poured $500,000 of his own money. The site describes itself as "an open-collaborative production company" where "we make things together." Joe recalls how the red record button on his family's Hi8 camera inspired hitRECord's logo, a red circle (which explains the dot on his T-shirt). "I turned it into a symbol for getting going. A motivational mantra."
Built around a simple idea most of us learn in nursery school—sharing—the site allows users to post things and others to remix them and mash them up, all with the goal of making them better. HitRECord also hosts live events, giving Joe the opportunity to draft his famous (but not more important than you) friends: Anne Hathaway, for example, who recently sang a duet with Joe in French. Joe launched the site with his older brother, Dan. A photographer and fire spinner who went by the moniker Burning Dan, the elder Gordon-Levitt died of an alleged drug overdose in 2010. "It was an accident" is all Joe will say about that. Recently, when hitRECord published an anthology, RECollection, which includes a book, a DVD of short films, and a CD of music, he dedicated it to Dan.
RECollection also includes a series of "tiny stories," one of which is authored by Joe. Here it is in its entirety: "When I was younger, I wanted to be something. Now, I just want to be younger."
All this begins to make sense when I reach John Lithgow, who met Joe on 3rd Rock from the Sun. "It's kind of extraordinary that he was playing an old man in a young boy's body then, because that's kind of what he was," Lithgow says. "He was a very mature boy—I remember him carrying on about the ecological damage that is done when people build new golf courses. What teenager worries about that? And now he's a very youthful adult. He's done a flip-flop."
Rian Johnson, Looper's writer-director, agrees, noting Joe's ability "to merge work and play. He's found a way to turn his fame into this fuel that he uses to drive what he really cares about." Which, lately, is directing that film he mentioned, Don Jon's Addiction—a change of course he feels so strongly about that he dropped out of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained in order to commit fully. The film, shooting now, features Joe as a selfish, porn-addicted lout, as well as Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and Tony Danza (with whom Joe last shared the screen in Angels in the Outfield, eighteen years ago, when he was not yet in high school).
I flash on this when the girls at Van Nuys High first spot Joe. We are wandering the campus, aiming vaguely toward the room where he once took calculus, when he feels them on his heels. "We might be caught," he says to me under his breath, and before I grasp what he means, we are surrounded. To their credit, none of these fresh-faced teens is looking in a compact mirror, but one of them does squeal, "Oh. MY. GOD!"
Joe puts a finger to his lips. "Shhh! I'm Joe," he whispers, gallantly shaking hands even as he says he can't pose for pictures. "Nice to meet you. We're trying to keep this quiet." The girls—not evil at all, it turns out—disperse, and riot defused, we keep walking. That was sweet, I say—then, seeing the way his eyes are darting around, revise my pronouncement: Maybe it doesn't feel sweet to you? "No, it's sweet," he says, breathing easier. "Sweet."
Amy Wallace is a GQ correspondent.This is an interesting piece about him IMO. What he said the other day was indeed sexist but I don't think he is a sexist person, just ignorant and uninformed about what is appropriate and what is not. IDK I've been a fan for awhile and he's never struck me as someone who is an asshole. Pretentious at times, but generally laid back and passionate about film-making. Meh, can't say I wasn't disappointed though...Mods, I've checked his tag and I do not see this article or the pictures posted yet.Source