Joseph Gordon-Levitt has 500 things to fill his days this summer — including filming his directorial debut (which stars Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore), tending to his record label and ramping up for the release of several new films with August’s bike-messenger thriller “Premium Rush” and September’s promising sci-fi film “Looper,” in which he and Bruce Willis play the same contract killer at different ends of a time-travel adventure.
And then there’s the topic that everyone wants to hear about the most but Gordon-Levitt wants to talk about the least: “The Dark Knight Rises,” the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which arrives July 20 with Gordon-Levitt as one of the stealth weapons in its all-star ensemble.
If you approach Gordon-Levitt now you’ll get the same answer he offered last year during an on-the-set interview between scenes filmed at the University of London. “I’ve been asked not to say anything,” said Gordon-Levitt who (according to a Warner Bros. press release) plays John Blake, a Gotham City beat cop assigned to special duty under the command of Commissioner Gordon.
The Internet rumor mill nearly burned out its bolts and belts with speculation that the “Inception” costar was playing the role of the Joker, the Holiday Killer, the Riddler, Robin the Boy Wonder, Azrael or pretty much any other comic book character who has passed through Gotham City other than Batgirl and Clark Kent. Hmm, wait … he could play Kent if he put on some glasses.
Nolan is notoriously protective of his plots and plans, but Gordon-Levitt said that shows a deep understanding that modern mythology films rely on tension and revelation, which can be easily undermined in this era of information saturation.
“Chris is very savvy in the way that he knows the story begins before you reach the theater,” Gordon-Levitt said. “What you know and don’t know, what you expect and the way a story unfolds … I will say this movie is very much a conclusion. This feels like a final chapter, it’s not just another one in a series. This is a final statement.”
Nolan is also savvy enough to let fans spin their wheels. In addition to bats and cats, a wild goose might be chased across Gotham City every now and then, Time will tell — and that could also be the motto of “Looper,” which reunites Gordon-Levitt with “Brick” director Rian Johnson. Gordon-Levitt plays a mob hit man who specializes in killing people in the future but problems arise when his next assignment is the incarnation of himself 30 years from now.
Gordon-Levitt studied Willis to find his rhythms as a speaker and in his body language. For director Johnson, watching his two stars morph into different versions of the same man was startling.
“Once we cast Bruce we knew that we would be taking the cues from him, and Joe started working on this transformation, and it was strange for people,” the filmmaker said. “Joe’s an incredible actor, so I never worried that it would be just imitation. I knew it would go deeper. But it was still shocking to watch it happen.”
Gordon-Levitt also will be seen later this year in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” (he plays Robert, the son of the 16th president) and beyond that, in “Don Jon’s Addiction” (on-screen he’s a porn addict, off-screen he’s the writer-director of the indie film). These are chameleon seasons for the former child star who has covered a lot of ground since his breakthrough role in the TV comedy “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
“On some level, we as human beings can be who we want to be,” Gordon-Levitt said. “Our identity and our nature can be in our control. I don’t just mean the presentation of our identity. Look at Gary Oldman — look at his characters in ‘True Romance’ or the ‘Harry Potter’ films or in the Batman movies — you can’t be as good as he is by doing it just on the surface. We have the power to be who we want to be, whoever that is.”
— Geoff Boucher
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