Born: February 17th, 1981
Place: Los Angeles, California
Major Awards and Citations: Golden Globe Awards (2010): Nominated for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for ‘(500) Days of Summer’
Gotham Awards (2005): Nominated for Breakthrough Award for ‘Mysterious Skin’
Independent Spirit Awards (2010): Nominated for Best Male Lead for ‘(500) Days of Summer’
Seattle International Film Festival (2005): Won Best Actor for ‘Mysterious Skin’
(plus a bunch of nods for Best Ensemble in 2010 as a part of the film ‘Inception’)
Oscar Snubs: ‘Mysterious Skin’ (2004), ‘Brick’ (2005), ‘The Lookout’ (2007), and ‘(500) Days of Summer’ (2009)
One of the rare child actors to successfully transition into a well regarded adult thespian, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is widely considered to be one of the best young actors in the business. He constantly chooses interesting projects and almost never does anything that you’d consider to be a “paycheck” job. He’s sort of been on the fringes of major stardom, but his profile is growing with each year, and I feel like he’s in prime position to really hit the A-list, and this just might be the time for him to add “Academy Award Nominee” to his resume. He’s certainly got the right project to do it, but as much as anything, it’ll be interesting to see if the Academy finally wakes up and realizes what a talent they’ve been ignoring for years. I don’t think he can win the Oscar this year, but I do believe that he’s more likely than many realize to get that elusive first nomination. Come with me as we look back on the career of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and see what’s next for him as well. Yes, it’s time to go…Under the Circuit!
Gordon-Levitt got his start at a young age, first working in TV at the age of 7. He’d continue with small parts up until 1992 when he got a few small roles in films. One was a tiny part in ‘Beethoven’ in which you can barely notice him, and the other is in ‘A River Runs Through It’…where you definitely notice him. Things continued on that small path until he got the lead in the remake of ‘Angels in the Outfield’ (1994). For many, this was when he first became someone that people recognized. For others, that would come in 1996 when he became a part of the hit TV show ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’. I’ll admit to being a big fan of that show, and JGL had one of the biggest parts and was a constant source of amusement. Gordon-Levitt was definitely beginning to make his mark. For many child stars, this would be the pinnacle of their stardom. Not for him though, it was just beginning, in fact.
Besides showing up in ‘Halloween H20: 20 Years Later’ (1998), Gordon-Levitt’s screen persona was rather limited until 1999 when he won over many a heart in ’10 Things I Hate About You’. He and Heath Ledger made plenty of young women swoon, but critics took note of the talent both men had. This film launched many a career, and remains a guilty pleasure for myself and something I revisit at least once a year. Plenty of people were excited for where JGL’s career would go from here. Well, they weren’t about to be disappointed. Not in the least…
In 2001 he made an underrated super indie called ‘Manic’ that served as his first pairing on the big screen with previous Under the Circuit alumnus Zooey Deschanel. It was a moody little flick, but one in which both of them were terrific. He took a Disney job after that, voicing the lead in the cartoon ‘Treasure Planet’ (2002), then went on to wow audiences again in 2004’s ‘Mysterious Skin’. It’s a mesmerizing role, and the first time I personally thought about him in terms of awards. He got a mention or two during the precursor season, but mostly was ignored. It was a shame too, as this was easily one of the best acting jobs of that year. Unable to be satisfied, he followed that up the next year with an almost equal job in the modern noir ‘Brick’. He handled the dialogue with aplomb and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. At this point, I was incredibly excited to see what he did next. He had solidly shaken the child star baggage and was a certifiable “actor” now.
Ironically, the next two projects for him were real letdowns. 2005 had him in the mediocre ‘Havoc’ in a smaller part and in the downright bad ‘Shadowboxer’. Briefly, you started to wonder if his predilection for different roles was going to keep him from being in consistently high quality projects. He answered that in 2007 with the magnificent thriller ‘The Lookout’. JGL was back. The following year was his biggest one to date, and really was going to set him up for what was to come after.
In 2008, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a part of 4 big films. There was a cameo in ‘The Brothers Bloom’, a small part in ‘Miracle at St. Anna’, a gonzo supporting role in the long delayed ‘Killshot’, and an incredibly underrated performance in ‘Stop-Loss’. Some don’t care for that film, but I adore it and found his acting to be top notch in it. He was very memorable and one of the best parts of Kimberly Peirce’s follow-up to ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. Gordon-Levitt’s profile had never been higher. How did he follow this big year? By having an even bigger 2009.
You can be forgiven for dismissing JGL’s small part in the mediocre comedy ‘Women in Trouble’, or his bizarre decision to be the villain in ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’, or even his strong performance in the disappointing indie ‘Uncertainty’. What you can’t dismiss is his career best work that year in ‘(500) Days of Summer’. Yes, it seems that few in the business love this movie more than I, but I still maintain that it was a crime that the flick was snubbed for Oscar love. Gordon-Levitt got some major awards attention for his work and magnificent chemistry with Deschanel, but it didn’t translate into an Academy Award nod. What it did do was make him one of the most sought after young actors in the world. Some very interesting projects were headed his way now that he’d turned in some remarkable work as the heartbroken protagonist struggling to get over the object of his affection/obsession.
In 2010 he put in a larger appearance in the sequel to ‘Women in Trouble’, the slightly better ‘Elektra Luxx’, as well as chewed the scenery in a great way with ‘Hesher’. The latter film is a mixed bag, but his acting is a real winner. What last year is truly noteworthy for him though is his collaboration with Christopher Nolan in his sci-fi epic ‘Inception’. Some thought he may have been in play for Best Supporting Actor, but it was more of an ensemble work and he didn’t stand out enough. It was still good work, and if managed to raise his profile even more. This brings us to this year and his best shot yet at a nomination.
This week you can see Joseph Gordon-Levitt in ’50/50’, a cancer comedy that somehow has managed to win critical acclaim. The film could be an Oscar player, and some have speculated (myself included) that he could finally get a nod for this role. It’s certainly very baity and seems to hit all the right notes. We shall see if it happens or not, but it’s certainly going to be interesting to watch this season (the early reviews have me extremely excited for this one). As for next year and the future, he’s got a couple of intriguing action flicks in ‘Premium Rush’ and ‘Looper’, as well as a second encounter with Christopher Nolan in a little film known as ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. I’m not sure any of those will get him Oscar love, but coming up as well he’s got a real good shot with Steven Spielberg’s long in development Abraham Lincoln biopic ‘Lincoln’. He’s got a juicy supporting role and could really do some damage with it. I know I’ll be watching to find out.
Will Joseph Gordon-Levitt eventually be a nominated actor? My money is on yes, but it’s not for me to decide. We’ll get a glimpse at his chances as the precursor season plays itself out in 2011, and the future is looking incredibly bright for him. I think the sky is the limit for JGL. What do you think about him though? Could ’50/50’ be the one for him? What’s your favorite performance of his? Who should we feature next in this series? Sound off!