Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been gracing our TV and movie screens since the early 90s, with roles in A River Runs Through It and Angels in the Outfield, eventually gaining attention as a teen for his role on 3rd Rock from the Sun. He rounded out the 90s with a role in the iconic teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You, before taking a break from acting to attend Columbia University.
After leaving college, Joseph starred in a string of well-received movies, from the indie noir Brick to the romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. In the last decade, he has appeared in a number of memorable films including Inception, 50/50, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Lincoln, Snowden, and Don Jon, which he also wrote and directed. Joseph's latest film, Project Power, in which he co-stars opposite Jamie Foxx, premieres on Netflix this month.
Recorded remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, NPR's Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg and house musician Jonathan Coulton talk to Joseph Gordon-Levitt about starring in a peanut butter commercial as a child, taking a break from acting to attend Columbia University, and starting his company HitRecord in 2005.
Then he takes on an Ask Me Another challenge based on an iconic scene in (500) Days of Summer, where songs famously associated with movies are rewritten to be about the movie scene in which they appear.
On Playing An Old Man Alien Trapped In A Teenage Body On 3rd Rock From The Sun
"It was appropriate for me to play that role in that way. Because part of me was precocious. Part of me was completely immature and a really late bloomer and just wondering what it would be like to kiss a girl. Just normal teenager things."
On Deciding To Pause Acting To Go To College
"I think I just wanted to do something more normal, and all my friends were sort of heading off into the world, and being like, 'What am I gonna do?' And I think I envied that wide open sense of possibility. And so I just wanted to go to college and see like, well, who knows what I'll be, I don't know. I might not keep acting, I might want to do something else. But it really didn't take very long before I started missing it a lot."
On Starting HitRecord in 2005
"It was a little bit before it was easy to post stuff online. And HitRecord just became this little mantra of mine. It was like, the red record button became a symbol. Like, I'm going to do it, I'm going to push that button. I'm going to start making stuff. But this community gradually started to form."