Joseph Gordon-Levitt began his career as a child actor, appearing in A River Runs Through It, Angels in the Outfield and TV’s 3rd Rock from the Sun. Unlike many young stars, he made the transition to adult roles effortlessly, recently playing opposite Zooey Deschanel in the sleeper hit (500) Days of Summer.
He’s currently co-starring with Leonardo DiCaprio in Christopher Nolan’s new sci-fi thriller, Inception, playing Arthur, ‘The Point Man’ of a team of thieves whose job it is to assist Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) enter people’s dreams and steal vital information.
In the movie, Gordon-Levitt has perhaps the most unusual dream sequence, set in a hotel where the room revolves.
Can you tell a little about your character?
Arthur is the organized one, the one making sure everything is in its right place. The way I see it Cobb is the artist and Arthur is the producer. He’s the one saying, ‘Okay, you have your vision; now I’m going to figure out how to make all the nuts and bolts work so you can do your thing.’
But as fastidious and professional as he is, Arthur didn’t want to apply his organizational skill to being a lawyer or doctor or any of the things he could have been because sharing dreams is fascinating. It’s not just a job for him. I think the technology of dream sharing is something that has inspired him since he first heard about it so, ultimately, it’s not the money he’s doing it for. He wouldn’t risk his life for a good paycheck. He loves it.
Do you feel you have anything in common with Arthur?
I consider myself a creative person and dreams are where we’re all artists. Everything you do in a dream – everything you see, everything you hear, everyone you talk to – is your creation. That’s evidence of how powerful the creative mind could be if we were to let it, so it intrigued me to do a movie about dreams.
You could call it a heist film, but I think of it more as a con artist film. I think of our characters as gentlemen thieves, and I identify with them because they are artists, or actors. They’re lying for a living … not just lying but manufacturing truth. They’re creating reality, and that’s what I do, too.
What was it like working with Chris Nolan?
One of my favorite parts of working for Chris is that as well thought-out as everything was, he leaves room for spontaneity on the day. He and Wally [Pfister, the Director of Photography] work together in this very kind of organic way. It’s nice to not feel like you’re just re-enacting a preconceived moment, but there’s room for an organic feeling to develop while the camera is rolling. Even amidst these enormous technical productions, Chris always prioritized making sure that sort of spontaneous and organic feeling could happen at the moment.
Can you talk about the dream sequence in the revolving room?
It was just about the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie set; it was also, probably, the most pain I¹ve ever been in on a movie set.
I was really grateful to the whole stunt team, including Tom Struthers, who Chris has worked with before. He and his guys really took me in and taught me a lot and let me do it, because I’ve had the opposite experience, where stunt teams can be a little exclusionary towards actors.
What was it like working on a set that revolved?
I definitely got in better shape than I’ve ever been in my life. I had to be fit enough to pull it off, and I also had to learn to keep my balance and carry out a fight scene while jumping from surface to surface.
In order to get it done, I couldn’t think of the floor being the floor and the ceiling being the ceiling. I had to think of it like, ‘This is the ground. Okay, now this is the ground. And now, this is the ground.’ It was just that the ‘ground’ was always moving under me. That was the mind game I had to play to make it work. That was also the most fun because no one else was controlling me; it was up to me to keep my balance. But the wires were a different story.
Gravity and I went head-to-head a lot in this movie. But I loved it. I got to fly, which, I don’t think I’m alone in saying, has always been a dream of mine.