Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What's Joseph Gordon Levitt Been Up To Lately?

Commissioned by and cross-posted on Film.com

Since reappearing on the film scene big time, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been one of the most prolific and beloved actors around, rocking six projects in 2009, and five in 2010 (and winning the Fangirl Award for Actor I Most Want To Marry two years running, his crush-worthiness inspiring this article). But with only one 2011 release, 50/50, which hit theaters back in September, we can’t help but wonder, what has he been up to since? We took a look at his last few months and broke it down.

Shooting His Five 2012 Projects
From May to November, Levitt found himself shooting scenes for Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. I’m sure lots of people know who he is playing, or at least have an idea, but not me! After an initial casting rumor that he was stepping in as Alberto Falcone, most notably from The Long Halloween, I removed myself from speculation and have stayed safe from any and all news and rumors since. But in addition to that, he shot or began shooting Premium RushLooperLincoln, and Django Unchained. For those keeping track at home, that means in 2011 he worked with Chris Nolan, Steven Spielberg *and* Quentin Tarantino, just to name a few. Damn, boy.
Tweeting (though he hates that phrase)
Whenever you find yourself wondering what JGL might be doing with himself, you can always take to his verified Twitter account and/or tumblr. Mostly what he says is themed to hitRECord, his collaborative production company, with announcements about artists or shows, but every so often we also get treated to personal photos, musings (including a favorite tweet where he admits to being a bad Jew by eating latkes with ham and cheese) and favorite links, including this one which, if you like music at all, you should click on right now, recommendations (Movies: La Strada, Pizza: Antonio’s in the Valley), and pimping out his friends (see below), like any other Twitter account. This is easily the best way to stay connected to JGL during those long months when you can’t catch him on the big screen or on the red carpet.
Supporting Zooey Deschanel
JGL has tons of equally well known friends, but the one that by far gets the most love on his Twitter account and sparks the imagination of his fans the strongest, is Zooey Deschanel. He regularly posts about or in support  of her. Join me over here for Exhibit AExhibit B,  Exhibit C, and of course Exhibit D, which leads me to...
So much singing. Swoon.
-Thriller, with a full band including Sean Lennon on bass
-Doing a cover of Redneck Woman by Gretchen Wilson
hitRECord – Website & Shows
The main focus of JGL’s 2011 was his website and arts collective of sorts, hitRECord. I’ve been a fan of hitRECord since its inception (see what I did there?) and seriously regret not participating more before it became as huge as it is now. The idea is simple – contribute your art. That’s it. A writer posts a poem. An actor submits a recording of himself reading the poem. An illustrator submits a series of illustrations. An animator animated them. A composer adds a score. Suddenly, a short film is created, the product of artists from all over the world, brought together thanks to one mister Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Ever seen theMorgan M. Morgensen shorts? All started (and ended) with hitRECord. Furthermore, hitRECord hosted a creative center called the RECroom at Sundance and is returning this year with a show, and JGL regularly puts on similar events where collaborative projects are screened and created, always featuring a few surprise guests and at least one musical number from JGL himself. I’ve been to two, one in New York and one LA, and have always had a great time. The Fall Formal, which boasted Anne Hathaway singing, also had Gary Oldman stepping in to do a reading (an activity that famous friends and audience members get to partake in from time to time) and a foray into scripted work done live, filmed, and later edited, like this scene with Neil Patrick Harris, written by Rian Johnson.
Occupying Wall Street
In November, Levitt spent some time Occupying Wall Street in NYC, and went on to turn the footage into a hitRECord project. The result will screen on January 26th at Sundance.
Releasing RECollection and the new edition of  The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories
The Tiny Book Of Tiny Stories is a compilation of multiple stories made up of only a couple sentences, each written by a hitRECord member and illustrated by another. RECollection is  a 64 page book, DVD and CD collection, comprised of work from 471 hitRECord artists. Badass.
All in all, the coolest thing about Joseph Gordon-Levitt is how active he is – CONSTANTLY – and it all stems from his true passion for art. I know people who have gone to hitRECord shows and found the whole thing a little self important, but frankly, the reason why thousands of people go to these shows across the world (yes, he had a show in London and Toronto for TIFF in 2011) is mostly because of *him*, and yet it exposes them to the art of people who aren’t famous and normally don’t get a showcase like this. And if JGL has an air of “what I’m doing is awesome”, well, that’s because it is. I recently had the chance to chat with Pete Forester, a filmmaker based in New York, whose piece Find the Sun was turned into a short film with hitRECord and played at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, who was able to speak brilliantly to this,
At the heart of all this is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, or as anyone from hitRECord knows him: Joe. Joe created the original website with his incredible brother, Dan, and has ushered it into the gigantic force it’s become. The way that he’s done this, though, has not been through talking about his indie accolades or the long list on imdb. He’s done this by caring about content and quality. Joe goes by “Joe” – sometimes “Regular Joe” – to make a point, I think. That when you sit down with him as a hitRECorder, you sit down with a fellow hitRECorder. Sure that fellow hitRECorder happens to be in the next Batman movie, but the discussion is about the short film you’re going to make together, not some study in celebrity. In 2010, anyone who came into the RECroom would have to take a second to find Joe – as we were all at our computers working as hard as we could to get done what we could. And Joe was there, in the trenches working with us – he blended right in: falling asleep at his computer and taking showers whenever there was a free minute. But what’s funny, from someone who was there, is that this isn’t remarkable at all to me – or to anyone else who was in that room. Because to me, to us, to the hitRECord community: Joe is Joe. He’s a worker, a curator, a fellow artist who is eking out the best that he can from us. He definitely acts as a shepherd to his flock, but he’s as elbow deep as anyone else.
I should say that Joe does use his celebrity in the hitRECord community. He uses it to inspire and to add volume to voices that would otherwise go unheard. He’s quick to mention that his career started because of a great number of variables that leaned beautifully in his favor. But he doesn’t think creative enterprise should be hampered by visibility. And the only way to change the system is from within – he’s our ace in the hole; he’s the mole. But it’s not a secret. You can see that when he has a mic in his hand: he speaks into it so more people can hear what others are saying. That’s Joe: turning up the volume on what he sees as beautiful.
So, to answer the question, what has Joseph Gordon Levitt been up to lately? A LOT more than anyone might have expected.


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