About Joseph Leonard Gordon-Levitt
A refreshing antidote to the common Hollywood tale of child actors gone bad, Joseph Gordon-Levitt survived his teen years on a top-rated sitcom and successfully reinvented himself as a formidable adult actor in a string of critically acclaimed independent features. The popular fish-out-of-water sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun (NBC, 1996-2001) brought Gordon-Levitt his initial fame, and over five years he earned multiple award nominations for his portrayal of an adult alien leader trapped in the body of a powerless suburban teen. Gordon-Levitt acquiesced to a few teen-oriented movies like 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), but seamlessly transformed into a well-regarded indie film actor with the dark dramas Mysterious Skin (2004) and The Lookout (2007), as well as the charming 500 Days of Summer (2009) and such mainstream fare as Inception (2010) and 50/50 (2011). Clearly committed to his craft and willing to take chances, Gordon-Levitt's subtle charm and formidable talent made him one of the most in-demand working actors of his generation.
Born on February 17, 1981 in Los Angeles to liberal parents Dennis Levitt and Jane Gordon, Gordon-Levitt was raised in the San Fernando Valley. His maternal grandfather, Michael Gordon, had studied acting in New York with Elia Kazan, and was a rising filmmaker whose career was cut short when he was blacklisted for being deemed a Communist by the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare of the 1950s. Evidence pointed to Gordon-Levitt having inherited his grandfather's acting gene when he hit the stage for the first time at age four. When asked by an agent in the audience if he might like to be in commercials, the youngster gave a resounding "yes." He quickly tired of the hyperactive acting style required of TV commercial kids but enjoyed the process more when he began doing movies at age six. His debut found him playing the son of Tommy Lee Jones in the television Western Stranger on My Land (ABC, 1988), and he also appeared as another "son" in Settle the Score (NBC, 1989) with Jaclyn Smith.
Gordon-Levitt appeared in a number of TV movies and series during the late '80s and early '90s, including a recurring role on the hit sitcom Roseanne from 1993 to 1995. After making his feature film debut as the young version of Craig Sheffer in A River Runs Through It (1992), the young actor garnered further notice as the boy whose prayers are answered in the sleeper Angels in the Outfield (1994) and as Demi Moore's son in The Juror (1996).
It was the role of Tommy Solomon in the hit television sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun (1996-2001) that brought him considerable TV fame. As old/young alien, he cracked wise with multiple Emmy-winner John Lithgow and attracted teen fans. Making the most of the late-'90s teen movie resurgence during the series' hiatuses, Gordon-Levitt appeared in the teen slasher sequel Halloween: H20 (1998) and starred as one of the romantic schemers in the popular Shakespeare-via-high school comedy 10 Things I Hate About You (1999).
After voicing the lead in the expensive animated flop Treasure Planet, Levitt made a conscious decision to shed his TV image. He appeared in a series of challenging indie films including Mysterious Skin, Brick, and The Lookout, and succeeded in redefining his public image. He appeared in Spike Lee's Miracle At St. Anna and the Iraq War drama Stop-Loss in 2008. The next year he starred in the big-budget action film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but earned better reviews and more respect as the lead in the hit indie romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer. He was cast opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception the next year, and earned arguably the best reviews of his career in 2011 when he starred in the cancer comedy 50/50 as a young man learning to cope with an unexpected, and possibly lethal, illness. He would team with director Christopher Nolan again in 2012 as part of the cast in The Dark Knight Rises, and Steven Spielberg cast him as Robert Todd in the director's long gestating biopic Lincoln