Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Not Your Average Joe

The Inception star recalls Mysterious Skin, relives his landmark gay kiss on That ’70s Show and reasons with rumors about his own sexual orientation.

BY Brandon Voss

July 13 2010 4:00 AM ET

He found fame as a teen alien on NBC’s 3rd Rock from the Sun, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt is no stranger to dramatic roles — such as a gay hustler in Mysterious Skin, a Mormon homophobe in Latter Days, and a boy with AIDS in Sweet Jane. Golden Globe–nominated for (500) Days of Summer, the 29-year-old hipster hero now plays a dream-hacker in Inception, a sci-fi thriller written and directed by The Dark Knight’s Christopher Nolan. While training to play a bike messenger in his next project, Premium Rush, Gordon-Levitt relives his landmark gay kiss on That ’70s Show and reasons with rumors about his own sexual orientation.

Arthur, your character in Inception, looks like a total badass in the trailers. What’s his deal?
Leo [DiCaprio’s] character is the artist, the chief of this band of thieves, but Arthur’s the point man who has it all under control. He’s the guy who’s got it organized and basically takes care of everything to make sure it goes right.

In one trailer, Tom Hardy’s character, Eames, tells Arthur, “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling,” before shooting off a huge gun. Is Eames gay or just a flirty Brit?
[Laughs] I don’t think it’s specified, but he is British.

After G.I. Joe and the mainstream success of (500) Days of Summer, is Inception the final nail in the coffin of your iconic indie status?
No, dude. Indie is a funny word that’s kind of vague because, like, what exactly does it mean? To me, it’s a lot less about the budget and a lot more about the intent and the love that goes into something. Christopher Nolan is probably the best example today of somebody who, even though he’s doing the biggest movies around, brings the love and care of a truly dedicated artist. His movies make money because they’re awesome, but he’s not doing it to make money. He’s one of the great storytellers of our generation.

This column is reserved for celebrities with notable gay followings. Are you aware of that fan base?
I’m honored and flattered, but I don’t really pay much attention to any particular group. Yeah, I guess I do see that, but I don’t think about the support from any community, to be honest.

Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin certainly resonated with gay audiences.
For sure it did, but that movie really transcends. Even though I played a guy that was turning tricks with dudes, I find it reassuring and encouraging about the days we live in that the people who respond to and recognize me from that movie are not disproportionately gay. That’s good, because people in past generations who weren’t gay might’ve been closed-minded to watching that movie and wanting to hear that story.

Did you spend any time with gay hustlers or young men who’d been molested to prepare for the role?
Yeah, there’s one guy in particular that I did talk to, but it’s probably the more honorable thing to not really get into it, if you know what I mean. But lots of people have gone through bad things when they were kids, so lots of people come up and tell me that movie meant a lot to them, and the reactions have been really meaningful, but, again, I wouldn’t say that it leans gay. You know who responds to that movie? Actors. More actors bring up that movie than anything else. That movie was a huge, huge deal for me because it was really the first time people said, “We used to think of him as the funny kid on the sitcom, but oh, wow, this guy can act.”

Tags: film

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