Acting ultimately won his heart: From 2007 to 2016, he was part of at least one favorably reviewed film every year, including scene-stealing performances as Leonardo DiCaprio’s right-hand man in Christopher Nolan’s visually arresting “Inception” and as a young contract killer in Rian Johnson’s 2012 time-traveling epic, “Looper.”
His collaborators are among Hollywood’s biggest heavyweights: Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Robert Zemeckis. He added Aaron Sorkin to the list last year by playing the conflicted young prosecutor in “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
Zemeckis, who directed Gordon-Levitt as the French high-wire artist Philippe Petit in “The Walk” in 2015, said that Gordon-Levitt had a singular commitment to immersion. Before filming began, Gordon-Levitt trained for eight straight days with Petit in a warehouse — and came away having learned how to walk on a wire.
Zemeckis was flabbergasted.
“Going in, I had it all planned,” Zemeckis said, outlining his designs for staging Petit’s walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. “We’d have stunt people, wire-walking doubles, C.G.I. effects and rigs where the performer was actually walking on a big, thick blue screen plank that we’d then remove and put the wire under his feet.”
“But it was so much more magnificent when he could actually do it from 12 feet up!”
Gordon-Levitt was also learning behind the camera. He directed his first feature film in 2013, the romantic comedy “Don Jon,” in which he plays a pornography addict who can’t deal with the living, breathing women who end up in his bed. The film was a critical and commercial success — and left him with a taste for more.
But he knew he had more to master.
“I’ve since become more collaborative,” he said. “One thing I’ve noticed great directors have in common is the ability to balance their own vision with input from others.”