BEVERLY HILLS – Is last year’s Ryan Gosling this year’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt? The “Inception” star has been on a tear in 2012 with four films hitting theaters within five months. Gordon-Levitt became the new hope for Batman in “The Dark Knight Rises”; a bicycle messenger in the surprisingly well reviewed “Premium Rush”; a younger Bruce Willis in the hit Sci-Fi thriller “Looper”; and now he has a key supporting role in Steven Spielberg’s new potential Oscar player “Lincoln.”
Gordon-Levitt plays Robert Todd Lincoln, the first son of the 16th President and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, in the Tony Kushner scripted drama. Set during the months immediately following Lincoln’s re-election in Nov. 1864, Robert Todd returns to Washington as his father (Daniel Day-Lewis) is in the middle of trying to get the 13th Amendment (which abolished slavery) passed by a lame duck congress. For most of the Civil War, Lincoln’s oldest has been at Harvard, basically hidden away by his mother (Sally Field) from joining the army. During the course of the picture, Robert Todd has to come to terms with the horrors of war and convince his parents his enlistment is his choice and his alone.
Speaking to Gordon Levitt earlier this month, the 31-year-old actor admitted he did do some research but noted, “Anything I did was going to pale in comparison to the research that Tony had done. Not to mention the research Daniel and Steven and Sally and a lot of people had done. So, I really found the most informative thing was the conversations with those people.”
One aspect of Spielberg and Kushner’s collaboration that appealed to Gordon-Levitt was the honest portrayal of man touted as one of this country’s greatest Presidents.
“Abraham Lincoln represents so much, he’s become this symbol, this icon in our culture,” Gordon-Levitt says. “But he was also a human being. This movie really shows this. He wasn’t just this angel on our five dollar bill. It shows he was a man who had to make compromises, who made mistakes, who had his hypocrisies and his flaws as well as his virtues and strengths. And I think that’s important to see.”
Day-Lewis wasn’t available to discuss a performance many are already touting as Oscar-worthy, but Gordon-Levitt shed some light on just how in character his co-star was on set. Gordon-Levitt reveals, “He stays pretty focused. It’s not silly. He doesn’t think he’s Abraham Lincoln when the camera isn’t rolling, but for instance his voice. His own voice is so drastically different than the president’s voice or the voice he came up with to be the president. To switch back and forth I think would just be confusing for your mouth muscles. So, he stays in. It’s amazing to see someone so focused and dedicated to their work.”
As for September’s surprise hit “Looper,” Gordon-Levitt smiled when revealing how happy he was for good friend, director Rian Johnson.
“I was delighted. It was great to see something I think really deserve it achieve the success,” Gordon-Levitt says. “Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed ‘Looper,’ is one of the finest filmmakers alive and it’s great to see the good guy get what he deserves.”
You can watch my complete conversation with Gordon-Levitt in the video embedded at the top of this page.
“Lincoln” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Nov. 9. It expands nationwide on Nov. 16.