Joseph Gordon-Levitt talks up his new sci-fi thriller ‘Project Power’
Though he had already been a professional actor for almost a decade, most television viewers will remember Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tommy, the youngest character (with the oldest mind) on the 1996 series “Third Rock from the Sun.” Art house moviegoers probably first saw him as the revenge-minded Brendan in “Brick.” Popular films the busy actor has been in include “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Walk,” “Snowden” ... the list goes on. Gordon-Levitt has also dabbled in writing and directing with the feature film “Don Jon” (in which he also starred). He took some time off in recent years when he and his wife Tasha McCauley started raising a family, but his recent return has included starring roles in two action films - “7500” and, premiering next week, “Project Power.”
Gordon-Levitt, 39, spoke, via a Zoom call, about the science-fiction-tinged “Project Power,” in which he plays a detective searching for the source of a drug that gives people superhuman powers, from his home in Los Angeles.
Q: You’ve been picking your acting jobs very carefully these days. What attracted you to “Project Power?”
A: The people I work with sent me the script, said “Jamie Foxx is doing this, it seems fun, and it’s New Orleans.” It was a pretty easy decision. I had just done “7500,” which was a very, very challenging, very heavy movie, so I wanted to do something easy and fun. I’ve been a fan of Jamie since I was a kid, so I was delighted at the opportunity to work with him, and there’s this young actress Dominique Fishback, who is a fantastic up and coming talent, in the film. I had a great time.
Q: For folks who don’t watch trailers, and don’t want to know much about a film’s plot, what would you say about it to draw them in?
A: First and foremost, it’s a ride and a good time. There are some underlying themes that are quite substantial, but this isn’t a movie that’s going to hit you over the head with a message. It does ask some questions: Who has the power in the world? Why do those people have power? How do they keep that power? Who are the people who are not allocated that power ... and is that fair? Those themes run through the movie, but they’re very lightly touched upon. Mostly it’s just a lot of fun.
Q: How would you describe your character Frank?
A: Frank is a detective in New Orleans. I think a lot of what drives him is his love for his city. He makes it pretty clear that he takes a lot of pride and feels very protective of his city and of the people of his city. And when this kind of super powerful global-scale organization comes in and tries to do testing on the people there, he gets very protective.
Q: Frank gets to have a very interesting power in the film, which won’t be given away here. Were you satisfied with that power or was some different one more attractive to you?
A: (Laughs) I think Frank was happy with his power. I would probably want something different than his, but I’m a different person.
Q: You’re an actor in this film. But you’ve directed a few short films and the feature “Don Jon.” Has directing changed you as an actor? Has it made you better understand what an actor does and what a director does?
A: I think I actually became more ready and willing and excited to relinquish control (to the director). An actor really isn’t in control of a movie. An actor needs to provide ingredients for a filmmaker to then make the thing that an audience experiences. Acting and directing are two really different experiences. When you’re directing, you have to keep every single little thing in mind, and when you’re acting, the whole game is to forget all of that, and just have one thing in mind.
Q: You know how movies are made. You know what goes into them and what they’ll probably look like. What was going on in your head while you were watching “Project Power” the first time?
A: I was having a blast watching it. I take it as a really good sign when I’m able to watch something that I’m in, and get genuinely absorbed in it, and not sit and nitpick and critique. When I saw the finished movie, I was just having fun watching a movie, which is the best you could ask for.
“Project Power” will be available on Netflix starting Aug. 14.
Ed Symkus can be reached at email@example.com.