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.



Have any of your representatives ever expressed concern about that public perception?
No. I was on a TV show, I quit for a while, and when I started acting again I was determined to just do projects that really inspire me, for whatever reason. Whether it was Mysterious Skin because it was a profound psychological challenge or G.I. Joe because it was a fun technical challenge to put on a mask and play an archetypal villain, I only do stuff because I really want to do it. When I made it clear that’s what I wanted to do, a lot of representatives weren’t interested in working with me. But Warren Zavala, the agent I’ve been with since I started acting again, got it and supported me. I try to do good shit that I care about, and he understands and respects that that’s in his interest as well. There’s an upside to building a long career of good work.

You once turned your camera on paparazzi in a video you posted online called “Pictures of Assholes,” in which a gay paparazzo claims he was photographing you because he thought you were with a boyfriend. It was pretty cool that you didn’t get defensive about it.
Thank you for saying that, and I’m glad you saw that video. Yeah, why dignify that guy by responding to him? It just goes to show how those rumors start — because some bitter guy says something like that?

Earlier this year, your production company,, produced a video about California’s Prop. 8 trial called “They Can’t Turn the Lights Off.”
Yeah, it was a Schoolhouse Rock-style short about civil rights and transparency in the media when the trial was being kept from being public. The song’s chorus basically says that corruption thrives on secrecy. Someone in the HitRECord community — she goes by the name Teafaerie — wrote that song, a bunch of people got together to record it into an audio record, then lots of other people worked on the animation, and it was all put together within the span of Sundance. That was one of my favorite triumphs of that Sundance experience, and the fact that it won [the Human Rights Campaign E-Hero Award] was a real honor. That’s the first thing we’ve made that’s won an award like that.

But you’ve used your celebrity to make political statements before. You participated in NBC’s “The More You Know” campaign, including a PSA on hate crimes, and you made “Politics is BULLSH1T,” an endorsement video for Barack Obama’s election.
I appreciate you supporting the notion that I like to do things that have something to say, but any good story has something to say. I’m not an expert in politics, but I am an observant human being who likes to tell stories. There’s a recent trend of thinking of storytelling — movies, music, whatever — as strictly a business where the only goal is to get people to buy your stuff, but that’s not what storytelling is really about.

During filming of (500) Days of Summer, director Marc Webb shot a short video for Mean magazine’s Cinemash series starring Zooey Deschanel as Sid Vicious and you as Nancy Spungen. Was that your drag debut?
No, I’ve done drag a few times, but that was one of my favorite days on set. We did drag stuff on 3rd Rock, and I’ve definitely done some Halloween costumes. There was also a drag number on SNL, but it got cut.

You showed off your musical comedy skills in the (500) Days of Summer dance sequence and in your SNL opening monologue. Any desire to do a Broadway musical?
I’d absolutely love to do more song-and-dance numbers, so thanks for saying that. I don’t want to spoil it, but there is something in the works, man, and I can’t wait.

You’re turning the big 3-0 in February. How does it feel?
I’m so grateful for what I’m getting to do with my life, so I couldn’t possibly complain. I can’t imagine what else I’d want to be happening at 30, so I just say “thank you” a lot.
Tags: film