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Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Got a Premium Rush

Aug 22, 2012

By: Lynn Barker

Hot young actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt just impressed us as Batman’s young cop friend in The Dark Knight Rises and he was really sweet in the quirky romance 500 Days of Summer costarring Zooey Deschanel. Joseph was in the G.I. Joe movie, the twisted thriller Inception and will star in the new Sci Fi movie Looper. This week you can catch this cutie as a bike messenger in NYC whose life is on the line when he agrees to deliver a certain iffy package in premium rush time!

This film moves like lightning weaving through New York City streets and yes, Joseph did get injured….

Kidzworld: Joe, at one point in the movie you hold up your arm and it’s all messed up! Were you really injured making the movie?

  • Joseph: Yeah. There was a bit of an accident even though everyone on the set was very safety-conscious. A diplomat broke through our lock up. (Note: Movie companies can arrange to lock off public streets for a while when they are shooting.. no traffic or pedestrians allowed). In New York City, you have the United Nations so there’s diplomats driving around and they can break the law. So, he broke through our cones and double-parked right in the middle of where we were going.
  • Basically, I ended up going through the rear window of a taxicab and getting 31 stitches. I’m flooded with adrenaline right when it happened. You don’t feel any pain right when your arm breaks open. (The director) was terrified. I was like, “You’ve got to record this, man. Look at this. This is crazy.” So, I convinced him to and he took out his phone and recorded some video. I was stoked that he actually put it in the movie.

Kidzworld: Ouch to the max! Did you do all your stunts like jumping off of cars and all that stuff?

  • Joseph: My character Wilee was played by five of us, me and four other guys. Everyone had their own specialties. One was an actual bike messenger. One was a Hollywood stunt man who would get hit by cars. One’s really good at trials bike riding, which is the chase towards the end of the movie where he’s on a different bike. Then there was a fourth guy who’s really good at doing tricks on a track bike. Insane guys like Danny MacAskill. Look him up on YouTube. I think it’s more exciting watching real human beings do crazy things than watching computer-generated cartoons.
    Joseph (as Wilee) rides like...heck!Joseph (as Wilee) rides like...heck!

Kidzworld: I agree. Aside from the rude diplomat you were telling us about, were there any experiences dealing with real New Yorkers?  They don’t like being told they can’t go somewhere.

  • Joseph: Absolutely. Normally, you lock down a location to shoot in New York City and that’s a street corner or outside a doorway but we were locking up 6th Avenue between 32nd Street and 39th Street because we do a whole scene and it takes seven blocks of distance to get through the scene. So it was very impressive. We had a really skilled crew of people.

Kidzworld: There’s a fast pace in the film and a sense of it being in real time, 90 minutes. You don’t get a wardrobe change. Does that make a difference in the way you are performing because you know that each minute on screen is actually a minute in the character’s life?

  • Joseph: Yeah. It’s a pacey film. Not a film where you can take a long pause. You’ve gotta learn your lines real good because you can’t do that bulls**t move where you pretend you’re trying to think of what to say but actually you are just trying to remember the line that you didn’t learn well enough. (Writer/Director) Dave Koepp writes in a really crisp fashion. He writes great dialogue. It’s snappy.

Kidzworld: Your character wants to deliver a certain package for a noble reason. Was it important for you to get across to an audience why Wilee decides to deliver the package no matter what? 

  • Joseph: Sure. That’s the difference between a meaningless, gratuitous thing. There is a good reason and it gets at the heart of who Wilee is and his personal growth on this day. It’s not merely a chase movie. You see the hero sort of learn something.

Kidzworld: Compared to some of the other action roles that you’ve had in GI Joe, Inception and Looper coming up, how would you compare the intensity of this to those?

  • Joseph: Just as far as the physical challenge I would say this was the hardest one. Inception would come in with a close second. I was on a bike every day, all day. The whole movie’s on a bike. Inception has some cool action sequences but this is the entire movie.

Kidzworld: Could you talk about meeting some of the real bike culture guys and is the group really like that? Would they get together to save each other?

  • Joseph: Yeah. One of my doubles, his name is Austin. He is arguably the fastest bike messenger in the world. He races and competes. He happens to look a lot like me. So, he ended up doubling me. There’s a really cool community of (bike riding) people that are really thoughtful, that think a lot about the environment.
  • Riding a bike instead of a car is really healthy for you and for the planet. It’s such a positive thing. This is a popcorn chase movie. It’s not a documentary about bike culture, but I’m glad that it glorifies bicycles. I think they’re a really positive, healthy thing.

Wilee (Joseph) watches Vanessa (Dania) fix her bikeWilee (Joseph) watches Vanessa (Dania) fix her bike

Kidzworld: Did you learn anything about riding a bike really fast in traffic from this movie?

  • Joseph: I thought a cool kernel of wisdom that multiple people told me was if you want to avoid hitting something, don’t look right at it. Look at where you’re going. If you’re trying to thread a needle and get between two cars, say, as soon as you start looking at where you don’t want to go you’ll hit them. You have to kind of just have the confidence to stay straight and go forward.
  • Wilee, the character I play, is that kind of confident guy that has no hesitation and will make a split second decision. There’s a lot of virtue in that but there’s also a complication. That’s where you get the love story. There’s a downside to not having any consideration for your future.

Kidzworld: Ah, you might lose the girl. You went to school at Columbia in New York and you must have seen plenty of bike messengers. Does it help to find that memory or connection with your character?

  • Joseph:  Yeah. You always have to find a connection because if you’re alienated from your character it won’t be believable. I come away from acting learning how much we all have in common. I think we all can connect with just about anybody if we allow ourselves to.

Kidzworld: You trained out here in L.A. for about six weeks before going to New York. Did you find a difference in the way people treat cyclists out here in L.A. because it’s been an issue. People don’t yield the road all the time.

  • Joseph: Yeah. There’s a big difference. New York drivers are just more used to it because Manhattan is a city that is more conducive to riding a bike. You have to be a pretty good cyclist if you’re gonna use a bike as your main mode of transportation in L.A. It’s rare but in New York you can really do it and a lot of people do it.

Kidzworld: A lot of your character’s relationship with girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) happens over your cellphone headsets while you are riding to deliver packages. Did you do most of those scenes first or after you’d had scenes working together. How did it affect your chemistry on screen?

  • Joseph: We’d already gotten to know each other really well in (six weeks of) training and once you’ve been out of breath together riding bikes, there’s a real (link).

oseph tears down a New York streetJoseph tears down a New York street

Kidzworld: You are a real multi-tasker, a writer-director-actor. Aren’t you in post production on a full length feature film you directed?

  • Joseph: Yeah. I wrote a movie that I wrote called Don Jon’s Addiction. Thank you for bringing it up. I learned so much from working with so many great directors that allowed me to do it I think. I’m stoked to talk to you once it’s closer to coming out. I had a blast. Scarlett Johansson read it and liked it and is starring in it and Julianne Moore is also starring in it. We had a great time.

Kidzworld: Once you’ve directed, is it easy taking that hat off? If a director asks you to do something, do you stop and think “Well, would I ask an actor to do that”?

  • Joseph: I think, as an actor it’s important always to try to understand what the director is after. That, to me, is what my job is while I’m acting. I like to ask a lot of questions and understand exactly why the director is doing what they’re doing so I provide him or her with the ingredients they need to get the scene that they want. It’s not to challenge them in any way. It’s so I can do my job best. I can’t wait to act again and not direct. They are two very, very different creative challenges.

Kidzworld: You have a cool website called like an online production company. What’s going on with that project?

  • Joseph: Thanks for asking. We’re releasing a vinyl record right now. We spent the summer putting together a bunch of collaborated music. HitRecord is a production company I run and we use the internet to collaborate so artists of all kinds can contribute to projects. We do music and short films and writing. We’re about to put out two 12-inch records.
  • Out of thousands of people contributing to the songs, we pared it down to the collaborative work of 78 different artists, about 12 songs. I have a song on there that I wrote. I’m so proud of it. We keep getting better and better as a community, the level of artistry, as it sticks around and continues to grow, it goes up and up. The quality of the music on this release called “Move on the Sun” just blows my mind. I’m so proud of it.

Kidzworld: Why will kids and teens love seeing Premium Rush?

  • Joseph: It’s a Hollywood chase movie that does glorify the heck out of bicycles. And I think it’ll be a rocking good time for anybody who loves to ride bikes or who’s never been on a bike.