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Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Birthday
17 Feb 1981 (Age 33)
Biography

Joseph Leonard Gordon-Levitt born in February 17, 1981 is an American actor whose career as both a child and adult has included television series, theatrical films, and stage performances.

Beginning in commercials as a young child, he went on to appear in a number of television films and series, including a lead role in a television revival of Dark Shadows and a film debut in 1992's Beethoven. An appearance in A River Runs Through It followed, along with a starring role in the 1994 movie Angels in the Outfield, as Roger Bomman. Gordon-Levitt subsequently co-starred in the television sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996–2001) as the young Tommy Solomon, and had a major supporting role in the 1999 film 10 Things I Hate About You.

After a hiatus during which he attended Columbia University, Gordon-Levitt abandoned television but returned to film acting as an adult, appearing in various independent films, beginning with the 2001 film Manic, followed by the acclaimed roles in 2004's Mysterious Skin and 2005's Brick. In 2009, he played the lead role in the well-reviewed (500) Days of Summer, which gained him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. In 2010, he starred in the Christopher Nolan film Inception. He runs an online collaborative production company titled HitRECord.

Early life and family

Gordon-Levitt was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in Sherman Oaks. His family is Jewish. His father, Dennis Levitt, was once the news director for the Pacifica Radio station, KPFK-FM. His mother, Jane Gordon, ran for the United States Congress in California during the 1970s for the Peace and Freedom Party; she met Dennis Levitt while she was working as the program guide editor for KPFK-FM. Gordon-Levitt's maternal grandfather, Michael Gordon, was a Hollywood film director between the 1940s and 1970s, known for helming the 1959 Doris Day/Rock Hudson film Pillow Talk. Gordon-Levitt had an older brother, Dan, who was a photographer and fire spinner; he was born in 1974 and died in October 2010.

Gordon-Levitt joined a musical theater group at the age of four and played the Scarecrow in a production of The Wizard of Oz. Subsequently, he was approached by an agent and began appearing on television and in commercials for Sunny Jim peanut butter, Cocoa Puffs, Pop-Tarts, and Kinney Shoes.

Early life and family

Gordon-Levitt was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in Sherman Oaks. His family is Jewish. His father, Dennis Levitt, was once the news director for the Pacifica Radio station, KPFK-FM. His mother, Jane Gordon, ran for the United States Congress in California during the 1970s for the Peace and Freedom Party; she met Dennis Levitt while she was working as the program guide editor for KPFK-FM. Gordon-Levitt's maternal grandfather, Michael Gordon, was a Hollywood film director between the 1940s and 1970s, known for helming the 1959 Doris Day/Rock Hudson film Pillow Talk. Gordon-Levitt had an older brother, Dan, who was a photographer and fire spinner; he was born in 1974 and died in October 2010.

Gordon-Levitt joined a musical theater group at the age of four and played the Scarecrow in a production of The Wizard of Oz. Subsequently, he was approached by an agent and began appearing on television and in commercials for Sunny Jim peanut butter, Cocoa Puffs, Pop-Tarts, and Kinney Shoes.

Acting career

Early work

Gordon-Levitt began his acting career at the age of six, appearing in several late 1980s made-for-television films, two episodes of the series Family Ties and in Quantum Leap Series 4 episode 5 "Permanent Wave". After having a lead role on the short-lived 1991 revival of the television series Dark Shadows as David Collins, he made his feature-film debut with a background role in 1992's Beethoven. Later that same year, he played a young version of Craig Sheffer's character in A River Runs Through It. At the age of twelve, Gordon-Levitt took the lead role of Gregory in the film Switching Parents, which was based on the true story of Gregory Kingsley, a boy who won the right to legally divorce his parents. In 1994, he played a Hutterite boy in the comedy Holy Matrimony and appeared in the lead role of the successful Disney film Angels in the Outfield. From 1993 to 1995 he had a recurring role on the sitcom Roseanne.

In 1996, Gordon-Levitt began playing Tommy Solomon on the sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, a role that put him on the map and for which he is most well-known. The San Francisco Chronicle noted the coincidence that Gordon-Levitt was a "Jewish kid playing an extraterrestrial pretending to be a Jewish kid".In 1998, he was a guest star in the first season of That '70s Show, appearing in the episode "Eric's Buddy" as a gay schoolmate of Eric Forman's. During the late 1990s, he also appeared in several films, including The Juror (1996), Sweet Jane (1998) opposite Samantha Mathis, and the Shakespeare-based teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), in which he and Heath Ledger had the male leading roles. He performed the voice of the main character Jim Hawkins in the Disney animated feature Treasure Planet (2002), which is a science fiction adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure novel Treasure Island.

Gordon-Levitt was attending Van Nuys High School while acting on 3rd Rock from the Sun. During the 1990s, he was frequently featured in teenage magazines, something he resented. He has also said that during this time period, he did not enjoy being recognized in public, specifying that he "hates celebrity". As part of starring in 3rd Rock, Levitt appeared in five of NBC's public service announcements, The More You Know. His topics covered drinking while driving, peer pressure, hate crimes, staying in school, and violence prevention. He also appeared in the annual White House television special Christmas in Washington during the Bill Clinton administration in 1996, the thirteenth season of Celebrity Jeopardy! in 1996, The Daily Show on March 18, 1999, and in the Fox Family television special Dear Santa in 2002.

Gordon-Levitt left 3rd Rock from the Sun during its final season, becoming a recurring character and appearing in only half of the season's episodes. For the two years following, he quit acting and attended Columbia University (the only university to which he had applied). He entered in 2000 and attended from 2001 to 2004, studying history, literature, and French poetry in General Studies. Since his study at Columbia, he has become an avid and self-confirmed Francophile, and a speaker of the French language. He has said that moving to New York City (he currently resides in Manhattan's Lower East Side) from his hometown "forced" him to grow as a person. Gordon-Levitt dropped out of the university in 2004 to concentrate on acting again.

Later work

Gordon-Levitt has said that he made a conscious decision to "be in good movies" after returning to acting. Since the early 2000s, he has appeared in what has been described by the Boston Herald as a series of "acclaimed and underseen indies" that "pegged him as a rising star on the indie film circuit." Gordon-Levitt has received praise and positive reviews for his performances. Observing Gordon-Levitt's acclaim from critics and audiences alike, Showbiz notes that he has "defied the cliched fates that befall most underage actors when they grow up", while The New York Times has described him as "one of the hottest young stars in the indie firmament." Although he regularly researches his roles by exposing himself to real-life versions of the character before shooting, Gordon-Levitt does not label himself as a method actor.

His films include 2001's drama Manic, which was set in a mental institution, Mysterious Skin (2004), in which he played a gay prostitute and child sexual abuse victim, and Brick (2005), a modern-day film noir set at a high school, in which he had the lead role of Brendan Frye, a teen who becomes involved in an underground drug ring while investigating a murder. Brick received positive reviews, with The Minnesota Daily's critic commenting that Gordon-Levitt played the character "beautifully", "true to film's style", "unfeeling but not disenchanted", and "sexy in the most ambiguous way." Another reviewer described the performance as "astounding". His roles in Mysterious Skin and 2005's Brick prompted Salon.com to describe him as "one of the most interesting leading men in independent film, a thoughtful performer, simultaneously outspoken and introverted, who specializes in playing troubled characters at war with themselves and the world." He also starred opposite Steve Sandvoss as a young judgmental missionary in Latter Days (2003), a film that centers on a sexually confused Mormon missionary (Sandvoss) who falls for his gay neighbor. Gordon-Levitt had originally auditioned for Sandvoss' part, but was eventually cast as Elder Paul Ryder because of his good sense of humor and aggressiveness. In 2005, he also had roles in the youth drama Havoc and the critical failure Shadowboxer, a film about a terminally ill assassin, played by Helen Mirren, carrying out one final killing.

His next role was in The Lookout, where he played Chris Pratt, a janitor involved in a bank heist, which was released on March 30, 2007. In reviewing the film, The Philadelphia Inquirer described Gordon-Levitt as a "surprisingly formidable, and formidably surprising, leading man", while New York magazine stated that he is a "major tabula rasa actor ... a minimalist", and that his character worked because he "doesn't seize the space ... by what he takes away from the character." The San Francisco Chronicle specified that he "embodies, more than performs, a character's inner life." Several critics suggested that his role in The Lookout would turn Gordon-Levitt into a mainstream actor. His 2008 films include Killshot, in which he played a hoodlum partnered with a hired killer played by Mickey Rourke, and Stop-Loss, directed by Kimberly Peirce and revolving around American soldiers returning from the Iraq War.

He played a lead role opposite Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer, a 2009 release about the deconstruction of a relationship, which received positive reviews. His performance, described as "the real key" to what makes the film work, credits him with using "his usual spell in subtle gradations." Variety's Todd McCarthy praised his performance, saying he "expressively alternates between enthusiasm and forlorn disappointment in the manner Jack Lemmon could". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said the movie "hits you like a blast of pure romantic oxygen" and credited both lead actors for playing "it for real, with a grasp of subtlety and feeling that goes beyond the call of breezy duty." He was subsequently nominated for a Golden Globe Award.

The same year, he appeared in Uncertainty, which details about a couple who thrust into two alternative realities by the flip of a coin, and his first blockbuster, portraying villain Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a live-action film of the toy series. In G.I. Joe Gordon-Levitt wore a mask and prosthetic makeup underneath it. After seeing concept art of the role he was being offered, he signed on saying that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. He later explained that the film was a welcome relief after the heavy films he filmed in between 2007 and 2008. The movie grossed over $300 million,but received mixed reviews, with Stephen Whitty of Newark Star-Ledger calling it "incredibly silly". On November 21, he hosted Saturday Night Live.

In 2010, Gordon-Levitt starred opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Christopher Nolan's science fiction thriller Inception, replacing James Franco in the role of Arthur, who is the "Point Man", Dom Cobb's (DiCaprio) partner and the person responsible for researching the team's targets. Inception received critical acclaim and was number 1 at the US box office for 3 consecutive weeks and has made over $800 million, becoming his most successful film to date. His other 2010 films include Hesher, an independent drama co-starring Natalie Portman in which he plays the title character who becomes a mentor and tormentor to a young boy. Other films he will appear in are Live with It, opposite Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick, which is a dramedy about an adult male's struggle with cancer and Premium Rush, where Gordon-Levitt plays a bicycle messenger who is pursued by a dirty cop for information. While filming the latter he crashed into the back of a cab while riding a bicycle; the injury required 31 stitches. In addition, he will play the younger version of Bruce Willis' character in the time-traveling thriller Looper.

Stage

In 2001, Gordon-Levitt made his stage acting debut in the off-Broadway premiere of Austin Pendleton's play, Uncle Bob opposite George Morfogen at the Soho Playhouse.

Gordon-Levitt was one of the producers of the Broadway show Slava's Snowshow, a job he shares with, amongst others, Jared Geller, who acted as the stage manager during the production of Uncle Bob. In 2009, he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event as one of the show's producers.

Other projects

Gordon-Levitt's side project, hitRECord.org, is an online collaborative production company. According to the hitRECord website, "we create and develop art and media collaboratively here on our site; we use my position in the traditional entertainment industry to turn that creativity into money-making productions; and then we share any profits with the contributing artists". Gordon-Levitt has owned the website hitrecord.org since 2004, when it hosted six videos and short films. Beginning in 2009, he opened the website to host films by others. In a 2007 interview in Salon, he was attributed as describing his website as "[an] alternative outlet of where [he] get[s] to be a little less professional and just freak out a little bit." The site has since expanded, with more than 10,000 participants collaborating to make songs, images, stories, and short films. According to a 2010 article in Details magazine, Gordon-Levitt oversees the site from a bank of computers in his home studio.

Gordon-Levitt's first film as director, the 24 minute-long Sparks, an adaptation of a short story by Elmore Leonard, was selected for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival as part of a new program for short films. In August 2010, Gordon-Levitt directed another short film, entitled Morgan and Destiny's Eleventeeth Date: The Zeppelin Zoo, which he also acted in with his G.I. Joe co-star Channing Tatum. It premiered at two houses during the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Sundance Institute founded by Robert Redford.

Gordon-Levitt is one of GQ Magazine's 2010 Men of the Year, as "Rising Star of the Year".