Exclusive Interview: Joseph Gordon-Levitt on (500) DAYS OF SUMMER

     July 16, 2009


All child actors should look at the success of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and know that not only is there potentially a future for them as adults, but that if they work at it and choose smart projects, they can be one of the best actors working today.  Gordon-Levitt is an incredibly short guy and it was a joy talking to him about his newest film “(500) Days of Summer” along with other topics like bringing this film as well as short he directed to Sundance, an online collaborative art project called hitRECord and playing a big baddie in the upcoming “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”.  Hit the jump to read the full interview.

Was it a nice change of pace to do a film like “(500) Days of Summer” that’s more uplifting than some of your other recent films?

JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: Some of the movies I’ve done recently like “The Lookout” and “Stop-Loss”, they’re pleasant in their own way and they’re fulfilling but the characters are kind of struggling through some pain and stuff and “pleasant” isn’t the way I’d like to describe those experiences whereas this one, I get to hang out with Zooey [Deschanel] and be in love.  Of course, there’s the other side of the movie where he’s heartbroken and it was really important to me that those scenes have the same kind of emotional honesty as a movie like “The Lookout” or “Stop-Loss”.  So those days were less pleasant.

How was it taking not only this film to Sundance but the short-film you directed as well?

500_days_of_summer_movie_poster_01.jpgGORDON-LEVITT: Yeah, oh man, thanks for asking.  I hate to use a cliché but it really was a dream come true.  Sundance is sort of a mythical Mecca for me in my sort of personal subjective construction of the universe.  When I was growing up, all these movies came out that I loved and really defined me.  And these were all movies that came out of Sundance.  After “Pulp Fiction” there was “Swingers” and “Sling Blade” and “Trees Lounge” and “Big Night” and all these movies that I really loved and they all came through “Sundance” and to have a movie go there was really fantastic.  While “(500) Days of Summer” was not the first time a movie I’ve acted in went to Sundance but having a short film I directed was a whole new level to it.  It was really the perfect audience to see it.  I spent two years making that thing.  I adapted the script, shot it, cut it, and scored it and two years later we finally put it in  front of an audience and a Sundance audience is exactly the kind of audience I want to be watching a movie that I’ve done.  They’re really film-lovers.  It was really gratifying and felt really fantastic.

Do you have any projects coming up that you’re planning to direct?

GORDON-LEVITT:  Well, not in the conventional sense of the word, but I’m figuring that out.  What I’ve been spending a lot of time doing is I sort of direct an online, collaborative art project that’s always kind of going through its own thing.  It’s called hitRECord.org and it’s a website where anybody is invited to post their own art of any media whether it’s video, audio, writing, photography, painting, animation, and it all gets mixed up and someone will take this 500_days_of_summer_movie_image_joseph_gordon-levitt_and_zooey_deschanel.jpgpart from one person’s piece and then remix it with something else from someone else’s piece.  I love collaborating on there and putting up my own stuff and playing around with other people’s stuff.  There’s something really immediate about it because I can shoot something, cut it together, and put it up online the same day and people are seeing it and working with it right there and the resonance that can happen when it’s that immediate is really different than something like “(500) Days of Summer” where we shot it a year ago and only now are people starting to see it.

Working in that online medium, do you feel that there’s a democratization of art?

GORDON-LEVITT: Yeah, I think what it does is put the focus where it belongs which is on the art itself.  If you do or don’t like something it’s because of that thing and not because it has the right politics behind them or the right company or the right connections.  It’s really just about the thing itself.

Going back to “(500) Days of Summer” you have this film and “G.I. Joe” both coming up in the same season.  Are you excited that audiences will get to see these different sides to you in such a short time span?

GORDON-LEVITT: I have an eclectic taste in stuff whether it be movies or music or books or food or anything.  Variety is interesting.  And “(500) Days” and “G.I. Joe” are so different as far as the creative process and why I was inspired to do it.  “G.I. Joe” is not based in realism at all.  “(500) Days”, I love it because it’s so human and it 500_days_of_summer_movie_image_joeseph_gordon_levit_and_zooey_deschanel.jpgfeels so real and you can feel really empathetic towards the characters.  “G.I. Joe”, I’m playing more of an archetype.  It has nothing to do with subtlety and humanity.  It’s has everything to do with being 100% iconic and absolute and it’s a totally different challenge.  It doesn’t come from the inside-out but from the outside-in.  It’s about, rather than things like mood and emotion, it’s more about posture and taste.  It absolutely keeps it interesting because while they are so different, one informs the other and I think diversity is always a good thing.

I was wondering if we could talk a little bit about your work on “Hesher”.

GORDON-LEVITT: Well, it’s a movie that Natalie Portman is in and producing.  It’s her first time producing a feature.  She’s someone I’ve admired as long as I’ve known her.  She’s a really accomplished and talented actress and I’ve always looked up to her and to have her call me on the phone and ask me if I would work with her is such an honor.  It felt like a realization of…I don’t know.  I don’t know how to put it into words.

“(500) Days of Summer” hits select theatres on July 17th and will expand across the U.S. over the next few weeks.

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