Hollywood Profile: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

By Vivian Fullerlove

Dodging speeding cars, crazed cabbies and eight million cranky pedestrians were just a few of the hurdles Joseph Gordon-Levitt had to contend with in his new hi-speed action movie Premium Rush. All of this chaos is just a normal day’s work for Levitt’s character, Wilee, who just happens to be one of New York’s most agile and aggressive bicycle messengers. It takes a special breed to ride the fixie, a super lightweight, single-gear bike with no brakes and riders who are equal part skilled cyclists and nutcases who risk becoming a smear on the pavement every time they head into traffic. But Wilee is about to get more than even he is used to when his last envelope of the day – a routine “premium rush” run – turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan. I talked with Gordon-Levitt about the film and about the uber adrenaline rush of racing through the streets of the Big Apple!

Tell us about your character.

Wilee is the fastest bike messenger in New York City, and he rides with no brakes and that’s kind of a good metaphor for just how he is and who he is. He sort of decided that it’s better to be just present and go for it.

What is the film about?

The story is just about a bike messenger who gets caught up with this villain. I think when people look back on this movie they will say it had bad ass chase scenes and Michael Shannon (who plays a dirty cop chasing Wilee) was so good. Like everyone else is very good, but Michael Shannon, I think the character he’s made in this is such a classic Cagney (like) heavy.

Speaking of chase scenes, I know a lot of what we see has to do with the shooting and editing of the film, but still you had some pretty harrowing scenes in this movie. Tell us about that whole process.

The way we shot with cameras on the motorcycles and mounted on the SUVs and stuff, it just created lots of movement and makes the movie really dynamic. The movie also really shows the mental process, in an instant, of what you have to do when you’re riding. And it’s true, when you’re riding in New York, one of the things I love about riding in New York, you have to be 100% focused on riding. You can’t think about anything else. It’s not like driving where you can listen to the radio at the same time or have a conversation or whatever. You have to focus because at any given time there are a hundred different things coming at you that you have to make sure you don’t hit.

So was all the riding a challenge for you at all?

I just got done doing Inception which before Premium Rush was probably the hardest job I’ve ever done physically, and it was hard for different reasons, but just as far as pure like physical energy and exertion, Premium Rush was harder, and I guess I kind of wanted that. I’ve always wanted to get into riding a bike, and I just never put in the time to do it. It’s a beautiful thing that I’m really lucky for and grateful for doing the job I get to do cause you know, you get to try out new things like that.

So, overall you had fun.

This whole job has just been so much fun. I’ve done a lot of different movies, and it’s always really fulfilling and feels really good. It’s my favorite thing to do is work. But this job in particular was fun. It’s not just fulfilling, it’s not just satisfying it was actually like big smile on our faces fun. There’s nothing quite like going down a hill at 40 miles an hour. There’s just nothing like that kind of adrenaline.

You can feel the rush at a theater near you tonight! Premium Rush is playing nationwide and the film is rated PG-13 for some violence, intense action sequences and language.

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