Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Dream Project: Toppling the "Fascist Cult of Celebrity"

Mother Jones

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For a 32-year-old, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has quite the diverse filmography. He’s played a teen psych ward patient. He’s played a womanizing porn addict. He’s been Robin to Christian Bale’s Batman, and Abe Lincoln’s son. He’s even played a black man.

Well, kind of.

READ THE INTERVIEW: “Yes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt Will Marry You.”

Near the end of the first season of NBC’s 3rd Rock from the Sun (his breakout role as a child star), a young Gordon-Levitt donned Blues Brothers attire and strummed a Fender Stratocaster while belting out 12-bar blues about how much Planet Earth “sucks.” His character Tommy—a crotchety old alien trapped in a schoolboy’s body—was having an identity crisis. “Well, I’m black now,” Tommy explains. “I’m black, and I got the blues!”

It was a silly sitcom moment—but it offered a hint of the versatile, musically talented performer who would fully emerge in the years to come.

“I’ve played music really my whole life,” Gordon-Levitt told me. “I wouldn’t consider myself an aficionado on the blues. I know the normal names—Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson—but most of what I know about the blues came from Jimi Hendrix…Whether it’s a rock ‘n’ roll song or a pop song or an R&B song, generally those three chords are at the core.”

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Dream Project: Toppling the "Fascist Cult of Celebrity"

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