He's been the star of a long-running sitcom. He's anchored well-regarded art-house favorites ranging from "Brick" to "Mysterious Skin." He's even completed work as a villain in a major studio summer blockbuster. And, two seconds before speaking with me about his Sundance favorite "500 Days of Summer," Joseph Gordon Levitt has finished doing an entire interview in French.
Let's just say I'm impressed.
Wearing a bold red-and-black Barack Obama t-shirt, Gordon-Levitt is only 27, but he treats the Sundance experience like a savvy veteran. He's been to the Festival three times, making his first Park City visit for "Manic," a film which also featured his "500 Days of Summer" co-star Zoey Deschanel. Gordon-Levitt's doing double-duty this year with the short film "Sparks," which represents his directing debut, and the out-of-competition "500 Days."
"It's the perfect movie for Sundance because people who come here love movies Films to them aren't just disposable entertainment. They come out here and they wait in line in the cold to see it and that means so much, to play a movie to people like that, to have them respond and stand up and laugh when they're supposed to laugh and be quiet when they're supposed to be quiet and really obviously connect with the movie, that's fantastic," Gordon-Levitt says. "That experience is the best and it's nice to not have that connected to this quantifiable success and failure of 'Is it going to get bought or not?'"
[More from Joseph Gordon-Levitt after the bump...]
Indeed, "500 Days of Summer" was produced by Fox Searchlight and will open this July. It's a bittersweetly romantic and darkly funny story about the rise and fall of a young couple, told in non-linear fashion skipping around through individual days of their courtship. It's a lighter side of Gordon-Levitt, a side he probably hasn't showcased since "10 Things I Hate About You."
Does Gordon-Levitt feel like he's been somewhat pigeon-holed as That Indie Film Guy?
"It's hilarious," Gordon-Levitt smiles. "I never fail to be tickled and honored when people say that. Even though I'm being pigeon-holed, I'm like, 'Wow. You think of me that way?' Because it was such a struggle to get people to not think of me as being from 'Third Rock From the Sun.' And I loved 'Third Rock From the Sun.' I still love it and I love 'Mysterious Skin' and 'Brick' and I love '500 Days of Summer.'"
He continues, "My favorite artists do all sorts of different things. No just artists, it's a way to go about life. There's value to repetition and there's value to deviation. It's about finding that balance, I guess."
In "500 Days of Summer," Gordon-Levitt gets to perform karaoke, dance in the streets and even periodically smile.
"I've been wanting to do something that's funny and something that's not necessarily about a character in so much pain," Gordon-Levitt admits. "I think it's harder to write stories like that and the good material is harder to come by. This script for '500 Days of Summer' was really great. I met Marc, who's obviously a fantastic director and I connected with him right away. More than anything, Zoey was going to play Summer and I hope that I get to work with Zoey for the rest of my life. We want to do another movie together. We want to 10 more movies together. I love working with her."
And the last word on "500 Days of Summer"?
"It's is a different kind of comedy. It's not set-up/punchline stuff. It's more the kind of laughs where it's rooted in an emotional response, like 'Oh, I know how that feels!' Then you laugh. I like that kind of comedy."
But "500 Days of Summer" isn't Gordon-Levitt's only change-of-pace role coming up. In August, he'll play Cobra Commander in the Hasbro toy adaptation "G.I. Joe," a role he can't say much about.
"It was nothing but fun," he'll say. "People have been asking me about 'G.I. Joe' like 'Oh, it's so different.' or 'You normally do these works of art and now you're doing this.' But I'll tell you the truth, the reason I did 'G.I. Joe' was the same reason I did 'Brick' or 'Mysterious Skin' or '500 Days of Summer' or 'The Lookout' or anything else, which is that I was creatively inspired. I'll tell you what it was. It was when they showed me drawings of the design for my character's look. I was like, 'I get to be that? You're going to make that in real life and stick it on me? Cool. Let me do it.' That's a once-in-lifetime opportunity. Actors throughout the ages would be flabbergasted at the abilities of modern storytelling and technology. I was honored and, beyond honored, I had a f***ing blast getting to play with these toys."
Before either of those movies hit theaters, Gordon-Levitt may be seen in the Elmore Leonard adaptation "Killshot." I say "may" because "Killshot" has been famously scheduled and yanked multiple times in recent years. It may, in fact, open this Friday.
"I'm so excited for people to see it," Gordon-Levitt. "I love Mickey Rourke. I'm so happy for 'The Wrestler.' I think that's one of the best movie of the year. I think it's a perfect intersection of actor and character and it's so genuine, so so so genuine. In 'Killshot,' he gets to be this badass Elmore Leonard hitman and I get to be his lackey. That movie was fun as hell."
"Killshot" goes into limited release this Friday. Maybe.
"500 Days of Summer" opens on July 24.
"G.I. Joe" opens on Aug. 7.