Actor Profile: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

We take a look at the career of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of such films as Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Looper.

Thirty-one year-old actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is on the cusp of becoming the next big thing (and some say he already is). From his humble beginnings as a commercial and television actor, Gordon-Levitt has slowly risen through the ranks to become one of the most promising young actors of his generation, and a firm favourite of hotshot director Christopher Nolan.

Joseph Gordon Levitt by Gage Skidmore 2012

Born in Los Angeles, California, Gordon-Levitt started acting at the age of four when he joined a musical theatre group and played the Scarecrow in a production of The Wizard of Oz. He was quickly signed by an agent, and began taking on roles in television adverts and made-for-TV movies. In 1996 he played David in the Dark Shadows television series, and later he appeared in the Disney film Angels in the Outfield, playing an orphan with the ability to see angels.

In 1996, he was offered the role of Tommy Solomon in the television sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. Alongside John Lithgow and Jane Curtin, he played an alien assuming the identity of a teenage boy in order to live on earth incognito. The NBC series was very popular, and ran from 1996 to 2001, during which time Gordon-Levitt was also attending Van Nuys High School in Los Angeles.

In 1999, he starred with Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You, a modernisation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. The film essentially launched the careers of both Ledger and Stiles, while Gordon-Levitt took a back seat.

In 2000, Gordon-Levitt took a break from acting in order to attend Colombia University School of General Studies. He studied Literature, History and French Poetry, and became fluent in French while he was about it. He has never had much love for the celebrity lifestyle, and has said that he was uncomfortable with being recognised and featured in magazines while a teenager.

After he left university in 2004 to return to acting, his career seemed to switch into a different gear, concentrating more on independent and niche features. He played a gay prostitute and abuse victim in Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin (2004), and later took the lead role in modern day film noir Brick (2005). He also appeared in Scott Frank’s The Lookout (2007), a film about a bank heist, and Stop-Loss (2008), which centred on US soldiers returning from the Iraq War.

In 2009, he began moving slightly back towards the mainstream when he took a role opposite Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer, which was very well received, and for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe. Also in 2009, he played the villainous Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra. He was nominated for a second Golden Globe when he played Adam in 2011’s 50/50, a heart-warming comedy about a man dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

2011 was also the year in which Gordon-Levitt got film fans to really sit up and take notice when he starred opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, replacing James Franco. While once again taking a back seat, this time to DiCaprio’s troubled lead, Gordon-Levitt’s subdued yet confident performance as Arthur garnered much favourable notice (and he got to have a cool zero-gravity fight scene).

Director Nolan was so impressed that he cast Gordon-Levitt once again in The Dark Knight Rises, the third instalment of his rebooted Batman trilogy. He played Blake, a Gotham City Police Officer who catches the eye of Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and is assigned to special duty (but there is more to Officer Blake than meets the eye… spoilers!)

Gordon-Levitt is revealing himself as a man of many talents, directing short films and owning and running the creative website He is known and praised for the highly capable and realistic acting style that he brings to his roles; while he is usually cast as the right hand man rather than the hero, it looks as though he is beginning to draw the kind of attention which may land him larger roles in the future. Keep an eye out for him as the younger version of Bruce Willis in time-travelling thriller Looper in late September 2012 – Joseph Gordon-Levitt is definitely one to watch…

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