Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been appearing in feature films since the early 1990s, though his rise to prominence came quite later. I first noticed him in 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You, a sweet romantic film where he starred along with Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger, each one of them yet to make a mark in the movie industry. I expected to hear the long name of Joseph Gordon-Levitt more often in the coming years associated with blockbusters, but that did not happen for quite a while. With 2009’s 500 Days of Summer things really started looking up for the actor, and then when Christopher Nolan cast him as the right hand man for Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception, everyone noticed. The much acclaimed 50/50 alongside Seth Rogen followed in 2011, and then he got to play the cop on whom Commissioner Gordon came to rely on in none other than The Dark Knight Rises. Playing the younger version of Bruce Willis cannot be a joke but Joseph Gordon-Levitt nailed it in the sci-fi Looper, following it up with a brief role in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln in 2012. It was a golden period for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a period which he has unfortunately not been able to elongate.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt decided to pursue something that ain’t so common amongst actors, the art of directing. He made his directorial debut with 2013’s Don Jon, which would certainly have needed a lot of his attention, leaving him with little time to play a part in any other movie. Don Jon did quite well financially, earning $30 million at the box-office as against its production budget of only $3 million, earning good reviews from critics as well. But if you simply consider the box-office earnings in absolute terms, it was one of the lowest figures any of his movies had earned in the previous four years, which also means that fewer people saw the movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt had still made a mark as a director with a hit film, and things would have looked fine if he had gone back to a few big budget movies. That did not go as per plan.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt was part of the $65 million budget Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, created by Frank Miller and released in 2014, where he played a young cocky gambler. The movie though was just a shadow of the 2005 classic, and probably the nine-year wait to release the sequel, hurt its appeal. It was a big flop at the box-office, managing to earn barely a bit more than half of its production budget. Tough to blame Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the movie’s debacle, even though he looked a bit out of place in this franchise where tough guys such as Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin and Bruce Willis have left a mark.
In 2015, Joseph Gordon-Levitt had a lead role in Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk. Based on a true story, Joseph Gordon-Levitt played the role of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, and got a nice sounding French accent too. The movie earned good reviews, and the actor got his share of the praise, but the movie still bombed, earning only $42 million at the box-office while its production budget was $35 million, on top of which will come the marketing expenses. The marketing though seems to not have done its job properly, and the idea of an Imax-only release before the wide theatrical release did not get the movie any extra points.
In the same year of 2015, Joseph Gordon-Levitt came back on the big screen, this time in The Night Before, teaming again with Seth Rogen. The partnership though isn’t seeing a repeat of the 50/50 success, and the movie has earned $38 million so far (still running in theatres) against its $25 million production budget which is an average performance. In all, over the last three years, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has starred in four movies which have cumulatively earned only about $150 million at the box-office worldwide, and only of them can be termed as a hit.
The period of 203-2015 has been in contrast to that of 2009-2012 for the actor. And even though Joseph Gordon-Levitt has never come under flak for his acting quality or the lack of effort, his movies have not been able to create any big stir amongst the audience. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a boyish appearance and a relaxed persona about him, which maybe makes it difficult to take him too seriously in a lead role, though that would be an unfair assessment of his talent to deliver intense roles like the one he played in Looper. He needs better movies, that’s for sure; he needs to pick some roles that allow him to bring out more of his talent; and he does need a lot of luck to get things right once again.
The year 2016 will bring Joseph Gordon-Levitt onto the big screen in the role of Edward Snowden, the US-hunted and Russia-protected American computer professional, in the Oliver Stone biopic Snowden. The movie definitely has the potential to swing things back in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s favour. He is also supposed to star in the movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, with rumours afloat that he may direct the movie too. So let’s hope the career of this talented actor is headed back in the upward direction.