“so impressed that he ended up training as a clown”

Easy as it is to forget in the light of the career he has built for himself, Gordon-Levitt went through his own transformation after 3rd Rock, taking time out to study French at Columbia University before landing a role in Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, the film that first broadcast the actor’s post–3rd Rock intentions. As Neil McCormick, a young gay hustler in denial about the sexual abuse he was subjected to as a child, he was bewitching to watch, not least for the way he balanced vulnerability and imperviousness. “At that point, I so badly wanted to act in a really good movie, in a really creative, challenging role that I could sink my teeth into,” says Gordon-Levitt. “I auditioned for lots of little movies and no one wanted to put me in their creatively challenging roles because they didn’t think I could do it. And I don’t blame them. I was known for being on a farcical television show.”

For those familiar with him as an alien in a boy’s body, his metamorphosis into a hard-boiled, languid cock tease was a revelation that put him at the vanguard of a new generation of young actors willing to take risks in return for creative reward.

Read More | “Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt” | Aaron Hicklin | Out