Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles - I'm putting a positive spin on my career as a whole right now, because I'm making a video for Vanity Fair. I could have made the opposite version of this video, where I just [beep] on myself for all this time that I've been sitting here talking and meant it just as much. [upbeat music] Hi, I'm Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and this is the timeline of my career. [upbeat music] [paper crinkles] - Again. - I always took acting very seriously, maybe too seriously. But even from a very young age, when you might assume, oh, a 10-year-old kid is not taking anything too seriously, I took it very seriously. "A River Runs Through It" was the first feature film I was ever in. Up until that point, I'd done some TV shows and some commercials. I hated doing commercials because it wasn't serious acting. The director of "A River Runs Through It" was Robert Redford. He was an actor himself. And that was the first time I'd ever been directed by an actor. And he did not treat me like a kid at all. He treated me just like an actor, which is what I was dyin' for. It was what I always really wanted. The story I remember most vividly from working with Mr. Redford was this scene where I had to walk up to my dad's desk, say some lines. When you have to walk somewhere and land somewhere on a movie set, you have, they call it hitting your mark. You have to hit your mark, which is this little piece of tape on the ground. And you have to hit your mark, because they've set up the camera and they've set up the lights all in such a way to where you look really beautiful, if you stand on that mark. But if you're not standing on that mark, then it's all wrong. And it doesn't matter how good your acting is you have to do it again. I did it, the scene a couple times and the DP, the director of photography, asked me very nicely, if I could make sure to hit my mark. And of course I was like, "Oh no, I've been blowing it." Like I haven't been hitting the mark. And we were getting ready to shoot the next take, and I was just focused, laser focused, on that mark, on that little piece of tape on the ground. Bob, Robert Redford, he goes by Bob, Bob came up to me, he said, "I never hit my marks." And, he didn't let anybody else hear that that's what he had said to me. But first of all, here's the strength of having an actor for a director. He understood exactly what was going through my mind. All of a sudden, all the things that I was supposed to be focused on were out the window, and I was just focused on hitting that mark. Acting's always a balance between feeling what your character needs to be feeling, telling an authentic story, but also accomplishing all the technical things that you need to accomplish to make a movie work. [audience laughs] How about this? If you believe in miracles, love at first sight, and breakfast in bed, contact me for adventures in truth. - Oh! [audience chuckles] What a wonderful lie let's print it. [audience laughs] - I got the part on "Third Rock From the Sun" the same way that I got most parts, I just went on an audition and then went on another one, and then another one. And if they like you, they bring you back. And finally, I was in a room with a whole bunch of executives from the network and the production company and John Lithgow. I remember really specifically getting to do my audition with John. And when you get to audition with another actor, it's a lot more fun. I remember the energy in that room. There's just a lot of people and we were getting laughs and I hadn't done that much comedy by that point. It just felt so good, I came away from that being like, "Well, who knows if they'll give me this part." You just never know, but that seemed great. That was fun. I'm glad I got to do that. Of course, I really, really, really wanted the part and got lucky, it worked out that time. Been on lots of auditions where it felt good and didn't get the part. That one I did. I just loved being on set. I loved acting and yeah, it's true I had to sign a contract that says like for the next, I don't remember how many years, many years we have the right to say that this is what you do for nine months of your year, is this show. And I was like, great, perfect. That's exactly what I want. When all you wanna do is act and then you don't have a job, it sucks, it's the worst. For a kid my age who just loved, loved acting, all I wanted to do was act more, act all the time, have a steady gig. And so the idea of signing a contract like that sounded great to me. When I was doing "Third Rock From the Sun," did I miss this and that and the other normal high school thing? Yes, I did, I did go to high school. I didn't get to go to prom or whatever. I didn't go to prom 'cause I didn't wanna go to prom. I was that kid. It was like [beep] prom, bunch of conformity. [Beep] you guys! I'm gonna listen to Operation Ivy and give you all the middle finger. That was me. - Oh. - Listen, forget her, incredibly uptight father, and it's a widely known fact that the Stratford sisters aren't allowed to date. - Uh huh, yeah, whatever. Yeah, I'll be honest, I was not sold on doing "10 Things I Hate About You." When I first read the script, I was like, I don't wanna do one of these high school, romantic comedies. I wanna do serious movies. That's all I wanted to do when I was that age, 'cause I was goin' to art house cinemas and watching movies coming from Sundance and watching "Sling Blade," and "Reservoir Dogs," and Soderbergh, and Tarantino, and these kinds, that's what I wanted to do. And "10 Things I Hate About You" came around and I was like, "Nah, no." And a buncha people in my life, my agent, and other people were like, "Are you sure? Just consider this. This is a pretty good one of these. And probably good things, just like try, try." And I auditioned for two parts, when I auditioned for "10 Things I Hate About You." I auditioned for the part I played Cameron, the character name. And then I also auditioned for, the role that I really wanted, that I thought was actually kinda funny, was the character's name is Michael, that was played by David Krumholtz. And I auditioned for both of those parts. And the director offered me the role of Cameron. So I was like, "Uh, uh." And I remember having a meeting with them where I was like, "This doesn't make sense. That doesn't make sense. And this feels cheesy and that feels cheesy." And they listened, I think, to some of my ideas, but mostly I think I was probably just wrong and kind of being too serious about the whole thing. Luckily I did do it. I did the part and almost didn't, but luckily I did. And all of us had so much fun. I'm so glad I did that movie. Not only because it's a movie that audiences still love, all this, whatever it is, 20 years later. The experience is actually what I love the most about that whole thing. Even if people didn't like the movie, we had such a good time. All of us hung out all the time. [punch thuds] - Throw one at me if you want hash head. I got all five senses and I slept last night. That puts me six up on the lot of you. - Just easy bro. - I always dreamed of being in Sundance movies. And then I got to do that with "Brick". Also with "Mysterious Skin," but I sort of see them as a pair, 'cause I shot both of those movies the same year, 2003. And they both played at Sundance the same year, 2005. They're two very different movies. And I got to play two very different characters in them. But that was sort of in a way for me the beginning. But yeah, finally getting to do what I had always wanted to do, what I had always been drawn to do. It was also sort of a turning point, I guess if you're talking about career. But just personally, it felt like, I know this sounds weird to say, or it sounds like I'm not grateful, I was always a little embarrassed, I think before that. And I didn't have good reason to be. I should have been proud to be in "Angels in the Outfield." I was, and I was, I was super proud of "Third Rock From the Sun." I was mostly embarrassed of "10 Things I Hate About You," to be honest, I was. When I got to do these Sundance movies, I felt like I was doing what I wanted to do. It felt like a reflection of me and the art that I liked. I don't know when I look back now, I'm kinda equally proud of all those things, but subjectively at that time, it was really meaningful to me. "Brick" is just such a unique, weird, hilarious, impenetrable piece of writing. I remember the first time I read it, I didn't know what it was. I kept thinking that a ghost was about to enter the story, or something supernatural was gonna happen. 'Cause it was like, this is just so strange. I always feel compelled by writing. If the words inspire me to perform them and say them out loud, and Rian's dialogue is second to none. I was instantly pacing around my apartment. And just tryin' to say these words and it takes a lotta practice. Rian's writing is not always easy, it's challenging. And I love that kind of challenge. - So what first, tip the bulls? - No, bulls would gum it. They'd flash their dusty standards at the wide-eyes, probably find some yegg to pin, probably even the right one. But they'd trample the real tracks and scare the real players back into their holes. If we're doin' this I want the whole story, no cops. So it's rare to find a screenplay of a movie that's being made now, like a little independent movie where the writing is, is so well-crafted that it's gonna really challenge you. And I remember just meeting with him and talking with him all about his writing. So I don't know, we talked about all this stuff and been friends ever since.