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Spotlight on the Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt


This week, I’m turning my attention and the spotlight in the title of this article to one of my favorite actors working today…Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t appreciate this talented multihyphenate. The rare child actor to successfully transition into a respected adult performer, Gordon-Levitt is widely considered to be one of the best young actors that we have in the business. He’s constantly chosen interesting projects and almost never does anything you’d consider to be just a paycheck job. He’s yet to receive an Academy Award nomination, but one suspects that it’s only a matter of time in that regard.

Gordon-Levitt got his start at a young age, first working in television at the tender age of just seven. He’d continue with small parts on the small screen up until he got a few tiny roles in films, including A River Runs Through It. He got his first lead in the remake of Angels in the Outfield, where he was first noticed. If not there, it was when he became a part of the hit TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun. Gordon-Levitt was beginning to make his mark in entertainment, though unlike many child stars, this wasn’t the pinnacle of their careers.

JGL’s screen presence was limited until he won over hearts in 10 Things I Hate About You. He and Heath Ledger made plenty of girls swoon, but critics took note of the talent they had. This film launched many a career, including our subject Gordon-Levitt’s. Plenty of people were excited to see where JGL’s career would go from there, and they weren’t about to be disappointed. He next made an underrated indie called Manic that served as his first pairing with Zooey Deschanel. He worked with Disney after that, voicing the lead in Treasure Planet, then wowed audiences again in Mysterious Skin. He followed that up the next year with another wonderful performance in Brick for Rian Johnson (who’d he’d work with again) and then the under seen crime tale The Lookout. Among his next projects is the underrated Stop-Loss, but at this point, Gordon-Levitt was about to become the star we know him to be now.

It’s impossible to deny how great he is in (500) Days of Summer. I maintain to this day that it was a crime that the flick was snubbed for Oscar love, including for JGL, as well as his co-star Deschanel. Gordon-Levitt got some major awards attention for his work (the first time too) but it didn’t translate into an Academy Award nod. What it did do instead of getting him that nom was make him one of the most sought after young actors in Hollywood. Some very interesting projects were headed his way now…

He chewed the scenery in a great way with Hesher before being a part of Christopher Nolan’s trippy Inception as well as the cancer dramedy 50/50 for Jonathan Levine, which also should have gotten him nominated. Recently he was also quite good in Looper (retiming with Johnson, after also putting forward a quick cameo in The Brothers Bloom for the filmmaker too) as well as Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, though the Academy didn’t nominated him for any of those performances either.

This week, he’s co-starring in the noir sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and manages to come off a lot tougher than you’d expect. He initially seems a bit out of place in this world, but he comes into his own with the role before all is said and done. It’s another unique part to add to a very diverse resume.

I can’t neglect to mention that he’s a writer and a director in addition to being a movie star as well. He made his debut last year behind the camera as the writer/director/star of Don Jon, a tremendously good porn addiction dramedy that was a fringe awards contender. He was both hilarious and profound in his acting, directing, and writing there, so I couldn’t skip over this one. He’ll likely make more Oscar friendly work as a filmmaker in the future, but this flick showed another new side to JGL.

Overall, Gordon-Levitt is the sort of young A-lister that you know will be an Oscar nominee/winner before long, so you’re just waiting for the right project to come his way. While working again with Levine (and 50/50 costar Seth Rogen) on a Christmas themed comedy next year might not do it, his lead role in The Walk for Robert Zemeckis could very well be the one for him. He’ll play French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, the man who planned to cross the Twin Towers and was immortalized in the documentary Man on Wire. The Academy took a shine to that doc, so perhaps the narrative version can be of interest to them as well? We’ll find out next year when it opens in October, but even if this isn’t the film to do it for Gordon-Levitt, he’ll have many chances in the future, both in front of and behind the camera. JGL is still only becoming a bigger and bigger star, so this is just the beginning of his time on the A-list.

Stay tuned for a new spotlight piece next week!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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