You might remember Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the punk kid on Third Rock From the Sun, but that was a long time ago. And five minutes into the new movie Hesher you’ll forget everything but what’s on screen. The 30-year-old actor plays a long-haired, self-tattooed, nutso transient who whiplashes into the lives of a grief-stricken father and son whose wife/mom has suddenly died, cranks up the Metallica, hangs out with a nerdy/sexy Natalie Portman, eschews shirts and, as you’ll see in the trailer (at bottom), sets a lotta stuff on fire. We’re not sure what it all means, but it got nominated for the Grand Jury prize at Sundance, and it sure looks badass. Anybody who’s successfully transitioned from sitcom alien to Hollywood maverick has advice worth sharing. Even if he hates advice. Here’s his.
MADE MAN: What item do you never leave home without, and why?
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: Well, I’m not really big on physical belongings. I’ve got a nice camera and I’ve got nice computers. But I don’t have a nice car or anything. I guess it would be my camera.
MM: What’s your drink of choice after a tough day at work?
JGL: When we were shooting Hesher, I drank Pabst Blue Ribbon, just like my character does. I drank a lot of it. Now, well, it varies. Water, I guess.
MM: What grooming, style or fitness thing can a guy do in the morning to look good all day?
JGL: I’d say cut your hair. I grew my hair long when I was like 12 or 13 so that I could head bang to Metallica and Guns ’N’ Roses. Then I got on a television show and they dug my hair, but they wouldn’t let me cut it, so I had to keep it for years. Whatever. I can’t complain. But once I got to cut it, I was relieved.
MM: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about women?
JGL: I get asked that a lot about advice. I don’t know about you, but I don’t give anybody advice, and I don’t usually listen to advice when people give me advice. I think my parents have taught me what they taught me by being who they are and treating me with respect—not by postulating advice.
MM: What can Hesher teach us about being better men?
JGL: What I like about him is that he’s really present. He’s detached himself from a lot of the things that we all carry around with us. Like our material things, our cars and our houses and our clothes and our this and that. He’s detached himself from the future. We all get wrapped up in, “Whoa, what’s going to happen if I do this? What’s tomorrow going to be like? What’s five years going to be like?” He’s just sort of here and now. You can’t live only that way. Well, you can, but you’ll be homeless in a van! But I think even if you’re not going to live as extremely as Hesher does, there’s merit in forgetting all those things and just paying attention to what’s going on right now. That’s illuminating. I think everybody has some of that in them.
MM: Any parting words?
JGL: I’m really glad we got Metallica’s songs for this movie! A lot of the character of Hesher is actually based on the old Metallica bassist, Cliff Burton. So when our director made a cut of the movie with temp music, and put Metallica on there, we’re like, “That sounds great but they’ll never let us use their music.” But the band actually really dug the film, and they let us use their music! And they don’t let anybody use their music! It’s so gratifying to have the people who inspired a lot of what we did have the movie resonate with them.