LOS ANGELES – In most walks of life, 25 is young to be developing a second career, but this is Hollywood and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a sitcom staple before he could drive.
Far under the radar of most mainstream filmgoers, the “Third Rock from the Sun” kid has built a resume of acclaimed and underseen indies including “Manic,” “Mysterious Skin” and the new “Brick.”
“If I had run into some good scripts in the studio world and they would have hired me, then I would have done those jobs, but that didn’t happen,” Gordon-Levitt says. “There are very few good scripts in either indie or studio world and in the studio world they wouldn’t have hired me for anything because I was on a TV show a while ago. They would have put me in a horror movie or they would have put me back on TV.”
With “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Halloween H20” under his belt, Gordon-Levitt wasn’t necessarily looking to obliterate his squeaky clean network television past, but with performances like his turn as an amoral teenage hustler in last year’s “Skin,” he may have done just that.
“To me, the most important thing is – it sounds obvious – but is the stuff good? Is the script good? Are the people doing it, are they good? And are they doing it for good reasons? Are they chasing money or stature or do they believe in the movie they’re making?” Gordon-Levitt explains. “And that can happen within the studio system. It’s rare. But it happens. And it can happen in the indie world. It’s also rare. But it happens.”
In “Brick,” written and directed with a pulp-fiction edge by Rian Johnson, Gordon-Levitt plays Brendan, a smart-aleck teen who becomes involved in an underground crime ring when he investigates the murder of the girl he loves.
“When I was in high school, I kind of similarly to Brendan had a sort of superiority complex, which is easy because so many people in high school are such dumba—s, we all know that,” Gordon-Levitt laughs. “But Brendan looks around and he thinks he’s better than everyone and in many respects he is, but he falls victim to the same thing that happens to anybody with that kind of superiority complex and that happened to me, too. You get knocked down.”
While time and experience may have humbled Gordon-Levitt, one thing he doesn’t regret is his sitcom background.
“A lot people that interview me, they construct â€˜Third Rock’ as if it’s this disadvantage that I had to get out of and I don’t see that way at all,” he notes. “I mean, maybe some executive-type people would try to put me in a box or whatever, but who cares, really? I learned so much on â€˜Third Rock From the Sun’ and actually I think â€˜Brick,’ more than any project I’ve done since, was a place I could apply a lot of that knowledge.”