Smoothly making the often-thorny transition from kid and teen roles in A River Runs Through It, Angels in the Outfield and TV’s 3rd Rock from the Sun to adult fare like The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, (500) Days of Summer and last year’s Don Jon, which he also wrote and directed, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the enterprising mind behind—and the host of—HitRECORD, a new kind of variety TV series on the Pivot network.
The show grew out of an open-source collaborative production company Gordon-Levitt and his brother Jared founded in 2005 to create films, music, books, animation and live performances with the active participation of the global community via the Internet. The public is invited to contribute material on a specified theme, and those whose work is produced share in the profits. He checked in with Made Man to explain why he got involved, what he gets out of it and what’s next for him.
“This show is very me, very personal. As lovely
as it is to make a movie in a traditional way,
this is an unparalleled thrill for me because
it’s so much more intimate and intense.”
You won raves for Don Jon, and you’ve got Sin City: A Dame to Kill For coming out in August. Why do a TV show now?
I love telling stories, singing songs, making movies, and I’m very grateful that I get to do that. But there are so many artists all over the world who don’t have any of the traditional Hollywood connections and I want to work with them too, and HitRECORD allows me to do that. It’s very exciting for everyone to work together and make cool stuff. This show is an extremely personal and particular demonstration of what I like, probably more than anything else I’ve ever been involved in. I really like satirical and often darkly humorous comedies, like Don Jon, but that’s just one thing. I have a really eclectic taste in what I like to watch. Same with music—I don’t only like to listen to De La Soul or Johnny Cash. I like to listen to all different kinds of music, and HitRECORD is a way that I can work on a variety of eclectic things. That diversity really makes me happy.
Have you always been interested in pursuing the music side?
Yeah, I’ve always loved to do it ever since I was really a little kid. When I was five years old, I was in a community choir, doing community theater and musicals. When I was 7, I played Nathan Detroit and Peter Pan in kids’ productions, and that’s what eventually led to me going on auditions and starting to work as an actor. I’ve always loved music, but I’ve never really wanted to dive into it in a professional way. The traditional record industry never quite appealed to me as a career. But with HitRECORD, we found a way to indulge and embrace what I like to do.
How do you choose the material?
Every episode has a theme and there’s individual collaborations. I’ll make a video with a request and put it online asking for specific things, and people contribute to that.
What do you see as the future for HitRECORD?
Ultimately we could do feature films, documentaries, we’re going to continue publishing books, anything that a traditional production company could do. This show is very me, very personal. As lovely as it is to make a movie in a traditional way and put it out there and have people appreciate it, that feels wonderful, but this is an unparalleled thrill for me because it’s so much more intimate and intense. It’s much more profound feedback.
You’ve enlisted a lot of your famous friends—will we see more of that?
HitRECORD has always been about people who work within the established entertainment industry mixing together with people who are really talented but do not. A lot of my friends—Chan Tatum, Annie Hathaway, Gary Oldman—over the years have contributed to HitRECORD projects. This season we have Scarlett Johansson, John Krasinski, Tony Danza. Tony and I were in Angels in the Outfield together, when I was 12. We’ve been friends for a long time.
How do you divide your time between this and your acting career?
I didn’t take an acting job in 2013. I just did this. It was a delightful year and it was necessary because I was finding the show and doing what we had to do. In the second season, so many questions now have been answered that hopefully I’ll be able to get back to it.
Do you want to do more directing?
This really is my follow-up as a director, even though it’s not traditional film directing. I can’t wait to figure out what the next project is, but before I do that I’m really craving an acting gig.
What’s your secret to staying levelheaded and not getting caught up in the Hollywood drama like some child actors have?
I have really cool parents who always emphasized the work itself, movies and stories and music. There’s a lot of other stuff that goes along with show business that’s never really interested me very much, and I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great people around me, first and foremost my family, who’ve been very supportive.
Photos: Pivot TV