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  • - 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.