9 Milestones in the Evolution of Joseph Gordon-Levitt
In this weekend's 50/50, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a public radio employee who, when diagnosed with cancer, struggles to survive the disease and the changed attitudes of those around him. So how did a teenager best known for playing a sitcom alien transform himself into one of our most versatile actors who is capable of playing anything from a troubled teen prostitute to a lovelorn greeting card writer?
You can always trace a direct line through a few important roles to illustrate what led to an actor's current success. As such, let's look at nine pivotal performances that track the evolution of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
A River Runs Through It (1992)
A few years after making his musical theater debut at the age of four -- as the Scarecrow in a production of The Wizard of Oz -- the Los Angeles-raised actor began getting small parts in TV movies and a few television series (Family Ties included). It wasn't until 1992, at the age of 11, that the actor -- who is the grandson of director Michael Gordon (Pillow Talk, Cyrano de Bergerac) made his film debut in Robert Redford's Academy Award-winning drama as the young version of Craig Sheffer's character Norman.
3rd Rock From the Sun (1996)
After a few other small roles in major Hollywood movies like Angels in the Outfield and The Juror, Gordon-Levitt was cast in the NBC sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun, which would become his breakthrough role and familiarize him with mainstream audiences. As Tommy Solomon, an extra-terrestrial masquerading as a long-haired adolescent, Gordon-Levitt starred opposite John Lithgow and Jane Curtin. While the series lasted six seasons, Joseph Gordon-Levitt left 3rd Rock as a primary character after its fifth season.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Thanks in part to the popularity of his television series, Gordon-Levitt earned a part in Halloween H20 and a year later in the teen romantic comedy that lifted its plot from Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You. As the sweet new student high school student Cameron James, Gordon-Levitt's character fostered a crush on the popular Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik). Upon discovering that he could only take Bianca to the prom if her sister (Julia Stiles) had a date, Cameron encourages Heath Ledger's outcast to woo the other Stratford sister.
Mysterious Skin (2004)
Perhaps wanting to prove that he had range beyond network sitcoms and rom-coms for the MTV set, the actor took the role of a troubled teen prostitute trying to escape his memories of sexual abuse in Gregg Araki's small town drama. Roger Ebert described the film as "at once the most harrowing and, strangely, the most touching film I have seen about child abuse." This is the film that gave Gordon-Levitt real dramatic credibility.
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