Joseph Gordon-Levitt Talks Biking, Robin and Directing as NYC Messengers Go Wild
It might have been Joseph Gordon-Levitt and David Koepp's premiere, but they shared Wednesday night in Union Square with a rowdy crowd of bike messengers. Call it a little extra dash of on-location authenticity for the pair's new movie, Premium Rush.
The first handful of rows in the theater were taken up by the spandex-and-shorts-clad road warriors; they cheered loudly and threw popcorn into the crowd whenever one of their own made one of many cameos in the film, in which Gordon-Levitt plays an adrenaline-seeking former law student who races around town on a fixed-speed, no-brakes bike in a life-or-death delivery struggle with a corrupt cop (Michael Shannon).
As impressive as he was on two wheels -- even with four professional stuntmen to help him with the more insane feats of road bravery -- the 31-year-old actor admitted he wasn't yet up to the level of the pros in his midst.
"I would have to practice a little more," he laughed when asked if he could deliver parcels in Manhattan for a living. "I got pretty good riding a bike, shooting Premium Rush, I was riding every day for a number of months, but I would not claim to be as skilled or as in shape as the real guys. They're really special."
The task of biking 12 hour days in New York City summer heat was a physical challenge for Gordon-Levitt, but as he told The Hollywood Reporter, his most recent project was even harder, in a whole different way: directing his first film, Don Jon's Addiction, which just wrapped filming in New Jersey.
"It's sort of a current-day Don Juan story," he said. "Scarlett Johansson is in it, Julianne Moore is in it, Tony Danza over there plays my dad," he continued, nodding over to a glad-handing Danza, who was clad in an NYPD T-shirt underneath a blazer as he took questions from a very familiar media corps.
"I wrote it, directed it, acted in it, and we're editing it now," Gordon-Levitt said. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, and probably the most fun."
One other seemingly difficult task: Even as fans and the blogosphere speculated about it for nearly a year, keeping it a secret that his John Blake character in The Dark Knight Rises *SPOILER ALERT* is actually Robin.
"Well, I like going into movies not knowing what's going to happen, so I didn't want to spoil it, so it wasn't that difficult," he said. As for whether people badgered him about the mystery super-identity, "People do keep asking me over and over," he said with a laugh.
Still, even with a potential Bat-spinoff on the horizon -- "It sounds like fun," he said with a grin to a TV reporter -- and such upcoming films as Looper and Lincoln, Gordon-Levitt was firmly focused on the night's main attraction; as a Columbia alumnus (both in real life and in the film), it was like a homecoming.
It was much the same for his Rush co-star, Dania Ramirez, who spent time growing up and working in New York City and says the experience of making the film changed her perception of the messengers.
"I thought of them as these sort of badass people, individuals riding around New York City, not really paying attention so much," she admitted. "And then I realize that by playing a bike messenger and having to ride a bike myself around the city, that it's really pedestrians not paying attention, and it's the bike messenger's job is really having to be alert. Because they have to watch the traffic, the cops, the people walking -- there's so much that goes into it, and you're not in a car so you're not really being protected."
She also gave a nod to the excited front-row crowd.
At first, she told THR, "I saw [bike messengers] as individuals, and now I see them as a community, and that's something I didn't know. It was nice to find out that, within themselves, they're really tight, really united.
"There's a whole subculture, and there's a whole community, not only bike messengers but cyclists in general," she explained. "We ended up having to hang out with the bike messengers and do our research and watch documentaries, just to make sure we captured them in a very realistic way."
E-mail: Jordan.Zakarin@THR.com; Twitter: @JordanZakarin