Joseph Gordon-Levitt: “The most moving stories are the most complicated ones.”

Get a sneak peak of our cover story with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, where the actor sits down with HUNGER to chat 'Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F', working with Eddie Murphy and social media addiction.
  • PhotographerRachell Smith
  • WriterAmber Rawlings

While I’m preparing for my interview with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I find an article that says he’s synonymous with the “chirpy everyman”. That’s true, to an extent – it’s probably his roles in The Dark Knight Rises and Inception that are behind that slightly diminutive label. It’s not how I know Gordon-Levitt, though. Like all teens with access to Tumblr and iMovie, films like (500) Days of Summer – in which Gordon-Levitt plays Tom, a hopeless romantic for the ages – were hugely formative. I was palpably nervous before the interview, but when he appears for our call, that immediately evaporates. He’s smiley, animated, passionate and always gracious – “You raise a valid point, but no one stole more stuff than Shakespeare,” he responds when I ask him about the contentious state of reboots right now.

The conversation turns to Hollywood’s penchant for a reprise because Gordon-Levitt, now 43, is about to grace our screens in a reboot of the much-loved Beverly Hills Cop franchise. This time round, it’s called Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, and Gordon-Levitt is Eddie Murphy’s comedy sidekick. That might seem like an odd segue for an actor who has also played weighty roles like Mysterious Skin’s Neil McCormick, a wayward teenage hustler, but those familiar with The Night Before will know that Gordon-Levitt offers a dose of “reality” that complements the broader strokes of comedy titans. That’s on full display in his most recent stint behind the camera, Mr Corman, a series that first aired in 2021. Penned and directed by Gordon-Levitt, Mr Corman is a nuanced exploration of mental health in the modern age, and when I bring it up, the actor is touched that I watched it.

That’s something of an undercurrent to our interview. Though Gordon-Levitt is widely recognised, and most definitely in possession of Hollywood clout, it seems he hasn’t quite reckoned with the fact. He tells me he’s “proud” of his directorial debut, the subversive rom-com Don Jon, but he also pivots our conversation to matters of social media addiction and philosophy. It’s when we get into a back and forth about subjects far away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood that Gordon-Levitt really comes alive. “Are Hollywood romances really that different from porn?” he muses, before waxing lyrical on the problems with big tech and media consumption. It could be said that Gordon-Levitt has been shaped by a lifetime in this profession. As he puts it himself, he’s “been doing this a long damn time”. But he has remained unscathed thanks to his uniquely perceptive humanity. He might just be one of the industry’s hopes for enacting real change.

This excerpt was taken from HUNGER Issue 31: The Dreamers. Full story is available in stores worldwide now. 

  • StylistEllie Witt
  • GroomerJenna Nelson at The Wall Group using LEONOR GREYL
  • Photographer's AssistantsRuth de la Cruz, Elyse Jankowski
  • ProducerAbby Rothwell