Nerdist Podcast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stops by the show talk about the benefits of learning a dead language, his love for Dungeons & Dragons, and playing a character who is trying to assassinate himself in Looper, out in theaters now!

Welcome to the Nerdist Podcast Number 264.

Speaker 1: Super fun chat today with Joseph Gordon Levitt, who was so incredibly warm and sweet, and had a lot of really great stuff today; and it was an absolute pleasure to chat with him. It’s always so cool to see someone who starts off in the business young and then, grows up to be a nice, responsible individual. This seems like a totally normal guy. And then, on top of that, to be able to evolve his career into a really serious acting career. I mean when you think about the movies this guy does, he really is in some of the best stuff that the film industry has to offer.

Speaker 2: And I think he had a really good time on the episode as well because, after the show, he was like: “Hey man, thanks,” and then there was a nice hug. There was a nice warm, like sincere hug.

Speaker 1: So, all the ladies and/or dudes who enjoy the Joseph Gordon Levitt, you’re going to melt a little bit. He’s sweet, and charming, and handsome, and sensitive, but not in a way where you’re like: “Get over it.” This is like a nice guy; sincerely good dude.

Speaker 2: Am I gushing too much?

Speaker 1: By the way, I saw Looper. I saw Looper last week. Really fun movie. I love the Bruce Willis, like kind of — Bruce Willis is his own Sci-Fi genre now and Looper was a terrific movie. So, go out and see it if you get a chance. This particular episode of the Nerdist Podcast was kindly brought to you by You can buy and print official US Postage using your own computer and printer. You don’t need to do anything, people. Well, you have to do a moderate amount of work – of going to a computer and then clicking a couple things, and then printing the exact postage. It’s like moding your own postage; customizing your own postage. Do you realize concept of that would have melted our grandparent’s brains? They’d be like: “What? Are you a billionaire? How do you have the post office print out odd numbered postage stamps? And why are they so expensive now?” And then you’d have to figure out how you were talking to your grandparents in the old days. Are you some sort of time traveler or are they? Basically, you have a lot of stuff to work out with your grandparents, but it’s all exciting. Kind of like Looper. See, I brought it back around unintentionally. But – packages, letters, whatever you need. You don’t have to go to the post office. You can do it right from your own computer. And we have a promo code for Nerdist listeners. There’s a no-risk trial – $110 bonus offer, including a digital scale and up to $55 of free postage. Go Click on the microphone at the top of the homepage and type in Nerdist. That is; and it’s the promo code Nerdist.

Also, if you are in the Nashville area, I’ll be performing in early December. I think the 6th through the 9th at (Unclear 2:44.6). It’s going to happen, people. I’m going back on the road to work out the new hour of the Comedy Central special. It airs November 10th. It’s called Mandroid, and so all that material is burned, which means new material must take its place. And from the ashes must rise the comedy phoenix. So I’m going to be doing a bunch of shows coming up in the next several months on the road. So, come help me work out the new set because, (Unclear 3:12.1), why do we want to see you work out the set? I want to see finished A-list material. I know that the process is fun, and then I’ll probably talk to the audience more to fill time. And you know what happens. That means you could be involved in the show. Just like a Medeival Times, where dinner is the show. Did I do that right?

Episode 264 – the wonderful Joseph Gordon Levitt. Nerdist Podcast.

[Now entering]

Speaker 1: So, they’re the guys that are like operating the remote controls and stuff to land that thing?

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Speaker 1: Wow. Are they any good at video games?

Speaker 2: They’re good at video games, but their precision with space robots did not help their bowling any.

Speaker 1: All right.

Nick: How are you doing sir?

Chris Hardwick: Oh, that’s nick.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Oh, hi, I’m sorry.

Chris Hardwick: Nick’s in his own world there.

Nick: I’m in my own, you know. I recognized through the lines. Oh, okay. I’m doing this to (Unclear 4:30.9).

Chris Hardwick: Nick pulls clips for Ryan. What are you pulling today, Nick?

Nick: Right now I’m working on if the refs settled tonight.

Chris Hardwick: That sounds like sports, Nick. I’m already falling asleep.

Nick: You got to see what happens, but it’s coming down.

Chris Hardwick: Okay.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Should I have earphones too?

Chris Hardwick: The headphone jack over there doesn’t work.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Okay.

Chris Hardwick: Because no one ever upkeeps this studio.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: I know, right?

Chris Hardwick: And we don’t own it, so we’re like: “Let’s just run it into the ground. We are waiting for essentially the ceiling to cave in, and then no more podcast.” transcribed by don’t copy

Joseph Gordon Levitt: All right.

Chris Hardwick: It’s awesome to have you on. Nice to meet you.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Hey, nice to meet you too.

Chris Hardwick: Andy Kendrick was on last week, and she was like: “Oh, you have to tell Joe I said hi.”

Joseph Gordon Levitt: She’s such a sweetheart. I can’t wait to see her new movie.

Chris Hardwick: I know. Well, you guys — there’s like this really cool sort of cadre of young actors. And Anne is in that, and you’re in that.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Oh, thank you.

Chris Hardwick: It’s like a nice group of people.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: I’ve never heard the word cadre used before.

Chris Hardwick: It’s sort of like a cluster.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Well, it’s a French word, right? Doesn’t that mean frame?

Chris Hardwick: Well, we had it and I know it from my Latin classes.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Okay.

Chris Hardwick: When I went to all boys, like.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Wow, so you studied Latin.

Chris Hardwick: I studied Latin. Yeah.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Wow.

Chris Hardwick: Why not study a dead language? I was like: “You know, maybe it’ll help me learn other languages.”

Joseph Gordon Levitt: And?

Chris Hardwick: Well, I didn’t really learn many other languages.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: No?

Chris Hardwick: So, it was — but, you know, it’s good to know.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Never too late, man. Never too late.

Chris Hardwick: I feel like it’s too late.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: No, I think you’re wrong about that.

Chris Hardwick: What?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: It’s never too late.

Chris Hardwick: Oh my God, you’re right. You already changed my life on the show. Is it Joe; Joseph?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Whatever you like. Jose. Joseppi.

Chris Hardwick: Joseppi?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: (Unclear 6:15.1).

Chris Hardwick: Which is very appropriate. Very appropriate today. I saw Looper.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Oh, thanks. Yes?

Chris Hardwick: Man, I think one of the most fun things, besides just the Sci-Fi element of the movie, is watching your Bruce Willis mannerisms throughout the movie. And just like little things it seemed to have in the background, where you kind of do the side mouth. transcribed by don’t copy

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Is that what is it? Mer.

Chris Hardwick: It’s just that mer. Isn’t that what you remember from Die Hard? Mer.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah, that or Double Indemnity.

Chris Hardwick: John Mclaine.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: It was a unique challenge in that way; and that’s always my favorite thing. Acting is becoming somebody else.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: If I see a movie I’m in and anything I do reminds me of me too much, I feel like I messed that part up. I always want it to feel like somebody else there. And most of my favorite performances are that. You know, they’re from these actors who are chameleons. You know, they really disappear and you don’t see them on the screen; you see the character that they’re playing in the story. And so, the premise of Looper, you know, this time travel story where I’m playing a younger version of, you know, Bruce Willis really posed a unique challenge in that way that I had to transform myself more than I ever had to before.

Chris Hardwick: Please tell me that you’ve shadowed him and then he would just like open his closet to get a tie; and you were like: “Hey buddy, how’s it going?”

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Good morning.

Chris Hardwick: Is that how I sound? Did he do that at all? Is that how I fucking sound?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: He did one time. Oh, can we say fuck on this show?

Chris Hardwick: Yeah, you can say whatever you want.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Oh, this changes things. He did one time. He’s a very understated guy and not the kind of guy that’ll buddy you up or just throw out compliments very often, but he did at one point, you know, just kind offhandedly say: “Eh, you sound like me.” And I was like: “Yes!” – Internally. I kept it cool on the outside. It was a big victory. transcribed by don’t copy

Chris Hardwick: Nothing against Bruce Willis, but young Bruce Willis never had as much hair on his head as you.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Well.

Chris Hardwick: But there’s even kind of just a second in the film where you just kind of look at your hairline, and it’s a second.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah.

Chris Hardwick: And it just completely sets up. It justifies the entire thing.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: That’s funny. I think that’s probably the one moment in the whole script that I improvised.

Chris Hardwick: Nice!

Joseph Gordon Levitt: That wasn’t written by Ryan. You know, some movies you improvise quite a lot. Like the movie that I did with Anna – 50/50.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: You know, that’s their whole type. Seth and Evan. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Their whole thing. They’re comedy writers, and so they write the script, but then they’re always like trying new things. And like: “All right, let’s do another take and just try something else; see what happens.” And you know, that’s a great style, but it’s different. You know, Ryan’s style is he writes these very carefully and extremely well-worded scripts, and they’re very economical and very particular, and very stylish in how everything’s worded. And so, you don’t improvise at all really. But that one moment in the mirror you just brought up. That was one thing that I was like: “Ha! I came up with that.”

Chris Hardwick: And like I said, it’s one second of the movie and it just totally like — then you go: “Okay. I get it. I totally get it.” A lot of improv with Nolan on Inception?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: No. No.

Chris Hardwick: Like let me try something.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Not much improv on Nolan’s stuff either.

Chris Hardwick: Do you like that, or do you sort of feel — I mean some actors, I think, feel. I think it’s more of a challenge to have to do someone else’s words rather than like: “Oh, well, I can just however I feel like doing it.”

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah. I mean it’s not to say that you don’t bring your own self to it. You still do. You just — I guess it’s improv in a different way. You’re not improvising the words, but you’re still improvising; trying to make it organic with what you actually do. How you feel. How you say a line. I mean all those little subtleties are really what, you know, make the difference.

Chris Hardwick: Well, I think that’s also something that I’ve never been able to figure out. I am not a great actor, but taking someone else’s words — it just feels like: “Oh, I have to put this suit on and I don’t know how to make this suit fit because I, as a person, would never say that.” So, how do you find? You know, like how do you find the essential quality of that character that justifies in an organic way, you know, what the words are?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Well, first of all, the writing has to be good.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: So, I mean I don’t know what experiences you’re talking about, but maybe the writing wasn’t so good.

Chris Hardwick: Engineer number two in Terminator 3. You probably recognized me when you sat down.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Probably. Probably. Well, I don’t know. How was the writing? Was it well written?

Chris Hardwick: It was actually all right.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: I didn’t see that movie.

Chris Hardwick: Well, it all made sense. Let me just tell you.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Oh, right, I did see Terminator 3. Sorry, man, I don’t remember you.

Chris Hardwick: Spoiler alert. The robots take over the world. Sorry.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Wait. Terminator 3 or 4?

Chris Hardwick: Terminator 3. Not Terminator Salvation.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right, Terminator 3. The last one with Arnold.

Chris Hardwick: The last one with Arnold in it, yeah.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah, I did see that, but T2 is really the one for me.

Chris Hardwick: Oh my God, still holds up.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah. Yeah, really. I haven’t seen it in a while.

Chris Hardwick: It still holds up. Like even the effects from ’92 or whatever it was. It’s still like those, you know. Were you a Sci-Fi fan when you were growing up?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah, always. I was always a Sci-Fi fan. My dad is like a Treky, and you know, for sure. But I remember seeing T2 when I was young, and I remember that really being the first time that I was exposed to the idea of nuclear holocaust. And it’s scaring the shit out of me. And I always think of that as an example. Like that is something you should be scared.

Chris Hardwick: Right.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: And that, to me, is a great example of a movie that’s completely a pot movie; completely entertaining, and yet it is kind of doing something positive. It’s like putting out there this warning that like hey, there’s nuclear bombs out there, and it’s probably something we should do something about, as a human race, you know? It’s not okay that we have all these nuclear bombs.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah, but also the message is don’t empower the robots.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right. That’s actually a really good point. You’re right. And there are. There’s a bunch of those Sci-Fi movies that are sort of anti-technology in that way, aren’t they?

Chris Hardwick: Well, it’s the commentary on humanity. I mean when you really break it down, it’s: “Hey Americans, let’s not be slobs and lean on convenience too much because, when you relinquish control to the robots for convenience sake, that’s when the robots crush your skull.”

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right. Right. There is a good robot though. Arnold is a good robot.

Chris Hardwick: Arnold is a good robot in T2, yeah.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: So, not all the robots are bad.

Chris Hardwick: No. No. The robots are what you make them.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right. Right.

Chris Hardwick: And they were able to make one adorable – oh, when that big guy goes into that molten pit. The thumbs up.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: The thumbs up.

Chris Hardwick: Not a dry.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Like I’m warning you not to go.

Chris Hardwick: Stop it, please. “I have to do this.” Don’t you think when Schwarzenegger left office that that should have been it? There should have been a pit right in front of the Governor’s mansion.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: That whole thing was embarrassing. I’m from California. That was too bad to happen.

Chris Hardwick: Just a hand going down.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Do you think the robots are going to take over the world?

Chris Hardwick: Eventually, yeah. I mean it’s just the lines are becoming blurred. I mean people are living these digital – you know, like the whole idea of the Matrix is in a roundabout way starting to happen.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah.

Chris Hardwick: In a sense that people lead, you know, completely separate lives online. And how soon before some sort of a software bug gives those digital avatars some type of consciousness?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right.

Chris Hardwick: And then they start making decisions. Everything’s automated.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right.

Chris Hardwick: It’s going to happen. We are going to turn into Cybertron.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right.

Chris Hardwick: At some point.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: It’s just the question of how we let it happen, or how we make it happen. Not let it happen. How we make it happen? I don’t know. I like to be optimistic. I think that that could be a really cool thing. With all the dire circumstances running around these days, if anything is going to keep us from going extinct, it’s going to be miraculous technology.

Chris Hardwick: Sure.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: That sort of helps us, you know, figure it out.

Chris Hardwick: Well, it is that double-edge sword. Like it’s your best friend, but be warned. It’s like Prometheus and the fire, you know?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right. Right.

Chris Hardwick: It’s like be warned.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Sure. Well, if we keep using it just to make money, then we’ll probably kill ourselves.

Chris Hardwick: Oh, I was going to say that was awesome. Shit. See, I’m the first one to go, man. You might be a robot. You’re a robot.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Maybe.

Chris Hardwick: Handsome. Young looking. Good performer. You’re not a real person. People like you don’t really come out of other people. They are created in laboratories.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: All right, you got me.

Chris Hardwick: That’s how the robots go. All right, you got us.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: All right, sorry.

Chris Hardwick: We’re going to fucking kill you, but you got us.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: You got us.

Chris Hardwick: Good one for you. You know, the people that I meet who were actors as kids, who grow up and end up being okay, I always feel like: “Yes,” you know? It made me feel like it can happen. Like you and Neil Harris. You just grow up to seem to be like nice guys. What do you attribute your crossing over to? transcribed by don’t copy

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Well, first of all, thanks, I’m glad you think I’m a nice guy.

Chris Hardwick: So far.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: I don’t know. My parents are really cool. I think that has probably the most to do with it. And they never taught me to, you know, be going for the fame and fortune. They never made it about the money, or status, or anything like that. It was always just acting was something I always loved to do and they encouraged me to do things that I love to do.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: And they never pressured me into doing it. So, I don’t know. I guess that’s kind of what happened. I think when you start focusing on some of the other acutrama that can accompany an acting career, that’s when you get into trouble.

Chris Hardwick: Acutrama sounds like a robot word.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: What did you say earlier? Cadre?

Chris Hardwick: I said carde. Oh my God, now here’s the M. Night movie where I find out I’m the robot and everyone else is human. But I always wonder where the shift happens because when you’re a kid and you’re acting, you’re not really thinking about the craft of acting. You’re just kind of pretending, I assume. But at a certain point, you really do kind of, I assume, step out of it and then really approach it more as a craft. Does it feel like that way to you? Or is jut sort of like a natural muscle that’s exercised?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah, that’s a good question. Well, I only ever had one acting teacher. I never studied other than with this one guy; and it was when I was quite young. I was like seven, eight, nine, ten when I was taking classes with him. His name is Kevin McDermott. And he really taught us. Like he didn’t treat us like kids. He taught us like actors. And he didn’t use, I guess, the words, like I never knew who Stanislavski was or any of that stuff.

Chris Hardwick: Right.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: But he taught us, you know, to approach it like a craft, I guess; to you know, think about — oh, there’s that muppet guy you were talking about.

Chris Hardwick: There’s Kyle. There’s Kyle Clark. Yeah, I said our show PA, Kyle Clark, looks like Henson walk-around muppet. He’s just sort of like — his hair flaps, and he’s got the big beard, and he’s like: “Hello, can I hang out with you?”

Joseph Gordon Levitt: He just kind of put his face up to the window. That’s why it was distracting.

Chris Hardwick: That’s exactly. Now, see, Kyle would be a great robot plant because no one would suspect it.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Because he’s so cuddly?

Chris Hardwick: Yeah. And then you go to hug him, and then crush your spine, and then it’s all over.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah, so, anyway. To get back to my original point, I was talking about–

Chris Hardwick: You were talking about acting and you were saying like–

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah. So, this teacher used to teach us stuff, like becoming a character and like, you know, considering your character somebody different from yourself; and what would that person do in that circumstance, and where’s that person coming from, and teaching us stuff like back story and things like that. So, I always really did sort of approach it like an art and a craft. Even when I was young; and I hated doing commercials and stuff because, even what I was seven, I was like: “That’s not acting.” And I was right.

Chris Hardwick: But you really have to pretend to like a thing for a pile of money.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: “They just make us look stupid.”

Chris Hardwick: Oh, I gave up on commercial auditions so long ago because I mean there are people who just book. Like some people just book commercial, after commercial, after commercial; and I’d go in and be like: “I love Fritos” and they’re like: “Fucking get out.”

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Like get out of here.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah. Come on in, Kyle Clark. Thank you for mashing your face up against the window Kyle.

Kyle Clark: Hey dude. How’s it going?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Joe.

Kyle Clark: Kyle. Nice to meet you.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: How’s it going?

Kyle Clark: Good. I couldn’t not shove my face against. It’s a plate glass window.

Chris Hardwick: Oh, good, of course.

Kyle Clark: You know, the court says I can still do my face.

Chris Hardwick: Kyle is on probation for a lot of things.

Kyle Clark: Let’s not commit it tape. Why do we need to repeat said acts?

Chris Hardwick: Does it make you feel better if you know we’re not recording on tape because this isn’t ’84? All right, Kyle. Sit there politely and be nice.

Kyle Clark: All right.

Chris Hardwick: Okay. This is Joe. This is Kyle.

Kyle Clark: Nice to meet you.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: And you.

Chris Hardwick: We were just bowling together, but Kyle was on our bowling team.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Against the JPL guys?

Chris Hardwick: Against the JPL guys.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Cool.

Chris Hardwick: It was fun. It was really fun.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Man, they just landed a thing on Mars, right?

Chris Hardwick: Didn’t help their bowling skills.

Kyle Clark: But they do kind of look like the A-team.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Do they?

Kyle Clark: And that’s exactly who you want to have the group of guys who get to Mars.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Are they young? How old are the guys that are doing that?

Chris Hardwick: Ranging in age. I think Bobick – the mohawk guy, Bobick – is probably — he’s got to be like thirty, maybe thirty-one.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: It is kind of like playing a video game. The way that they control it, or what?

Chris Hardwick: Yeah, it’s a video game with a lot of extra math. But ultimately, yeah, I mean — and a lot of stuff is auto programmed and then, you know, other things they can control.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: And are there separate guys to operate the controls as apposed to the guys that like design and engineer the thing?

Chris Hardwick: Yes.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Are there special pilots that they’re just good at skilled?

Chris Hardwick: They’re like eight-year-old kids who are really good on XBox.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right. Yeah, that’s what I was wondering.

Chris Hardwick: I just put them down there. It’s amazing how well kids integrate and interface with technology now. Even at like four years old, you see like tiny little kids just whipping through iPads.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Oh yeah, sure.

Chris Hardwick: Like they’re already way ahead. They’re already way ahead. But going back to the thing we were talking about before. Is it hard for you, because I feel like actors have to be naturally sensitive because you have to be empathic in a way because you kind of have to get in other people’s heads?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: You have to.

Chris Hardwick: So, how do you rinse the residue of like a day, or month, or six months of playing a character that, for instance, might be a bummer? Like how do you not absorb that into your own personal life and kind of shake it off?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: That’s a really good question; and the answer is you don’t always manage to completely rinse it off. There was one year where I played three characters in a row; all of whom were really. Like one of them was a sociopathic killer, one of them had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, and one of them was a soldier going through PTSD. And I played them right back to back. And by the end of that year, man, I was a mess. I was really fucked up. My emotions were all cracked out. I didn’t feel anything very well honestly, and it was after that year that I started thinking about shit. Like I have to figure out another way to approach this so I don’t ruin myself.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: And I once heard a story. This one driver on a set once told me a story about how he drove Walter Matthau; and I wish I could remember what movie he was talking about, and I don’t remember what movie he was talking about. But apparently, he told this story where Walter Matthau had to do this really, really intense scene. And before they started rolling, he was telling this guy a joke. And he was in the middle of telling this driver the joke, and then they said, “All right, Walter, we need you. It’s time.” And he went and did the scene. Like really intense. Yelling, screaming, angry, dying. Like the scene is so intense that he’s so mad that he has a heart attack and dies in the scene. And then he got up and came back to the driver and finished telling the joke. And I remember, when the driver told me that story, I was like: “Fuck, man, I couldn’t do that at all.” Like that’s just not how I’d be able to do it in any way. If I were doing a really intense scene like that, I’d be fucked all day. And that’s how I do it. I wake up knowing that I have to do that scene, and just allow myself no pleasure and don’t let my mind go to any nice places, and just you know, it’s a head game. You focus your head into that place. And yeah, at the end of the day, it has taken its toll. And if you do a whole part like that for three months – twelve-hour days doing that -, it does wear on you. And I don’t know. I don’t have an answer yet, but I do kind of look out for myself more than I used to.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Like when I was in 50-50. I would consciously because I spent all day telling myself I had cancer. So, I would. I would actually. I remember. I proactively went home and like reminded myself that I didn’t.

Chris Hardwick: Oh my God.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Because I don’t know. I’m maybe a little superstitious about stuff like that.

Chris Hardwick: Sure. Like you can will yourself into cancer in a weird way.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: You know, I think it’s powerful stuff. You know?

Chris Hardwick: Yeah.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: And there’s a lot to it, and I don’t think we understand it all. And I don’t think, you know, there’s necessarily like empirical evidence for stuff like this, but I believe in certain kinds of magic and things. And I don’t believe it like I know how to use it or like I have seen anybody shoot a magic missile out of their finger or anything like that–

Chris Hardwick: Magic missile.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: As you played indie.

Chris Hardwick: Yes, I did play indie. I was a fifth-level wizard. Lawful good.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Lawful good?

Chris Hardwick: Yeah, I tried law full for a while because I was like: “I want to be a (Unclear 24:44.8).” I know. I know. Everybody wants to be chaotic good, or you want to be like neutral evil or something.

Kyle Clark: I don’t think you’re bringing gritty realism even to your (Unclear 24:51.9) here.

Chris Hardwick: See, I was just about to say magic is science we haven’t figured out yet.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it.

Chris Hardwick: But I much prefer your D&D (Unclear 25:00.2). It’s so funny. It’s just the nerd brain is just automatically trained; and the second you hear a certain juxtaposition of words, when you heard magic missile, you’re like: “That’s very specific.”

Joseph Gordon Levitt: That’s right.

Chris Hardwick: Would you aim this magic missile at an owl there perhaps? Maybe I would.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: What armor class would that monster have?

Chris Hardwick: (Unclear 25:22.1). That’s fucking awesome. Wow, you’ve just opened up, man. So, here was I. I was about to go down the acting rabbit hole for a second, but do you still play?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: No, it’s been years since I’ve played.

Chris Hardwick: It’s hard, right? It’s really hard.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: I would be down to play. It’s sort of like acting. D&D.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah. When you have a really good team and a really good party it is. The problem for me and the group that I played with is that we all started to get so busy; and a good D&D game is like a band. If one person can’t show up, no one can play, unless you know, they try to roll side missions or whatever. But you just don’t want to be that guy who is like: “I’m sorry I’m the reason we can’t all do the thing we want to do today.”

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right. It’s true. It’s different than basketball. One guy doesn’t show up.

Chris Hardwick: You throw layups.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: You get someone else or whatever.

Chris Hardwick: With D&D, you’re just rolling a 20-sided dial. Like miss. Miss. Hit. Miss. Hit. Hit. Yeah, I love the D&D. It’s the perfect marriage of fantasy and math.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right. Right.

Chris Hardwick: just like you have statistics and you have imagination.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Do kids play it anymore?

Kyle Clark: Oh yeah. I think it’s one of those things that continue to exist. Like it’s one of those timeless things like buying a guitar. Like you know, despite whatever is happening, there are kids playing guitar in garage and there are kids playing D&D in the back of a classroom somewhere.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: That’s me at fourteen. That’s what I was doing. Playing guitar and playing D&D.

Chris Hardwick: Oh wow! I’d love to hear that story. You got to play again too. It’s fun. I mean it is a commitment, you know? Like you can do a day mission and play for like a few hours, but you really need like a year of just of every week.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right. To really develop your character and what not.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah.

Kyle Clark: Melt down comics. Like work at the theater over there. They have the spot that’s catty cornered to us is a D&D group, and they’ve been together for years. And it’s funny because you’ll see them and there are times when they are all emotionally going through stuff that none of us know. And you’ll just see people walking out torn apart and they’re just like: “We’ll get through this in two days, but I got a lot to think about.”

Chris Hardwick: If you have a character that you’ve been playing for like a year and it dies–

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah.

Chris Hardwick: –it is a piece of you has died.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah, sure. Sure. Wow, they must have a really great DM.

Kyle Clark: Yeah, that whole gang is just amazing to watch. Like they are dedicated on a level I’ve never seen a group of D&D, like they are hardcore.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Wait, do the people that are listening to this understand at all what we’re talking about?

Chris Hardwick: This is the Nerdist Podcast. Not only do they understand what you’re talking about, I think I just heard the collective gush of a thousand nerd girls squealing in delight that you just said DM and you didn’t mean direct message.

Kyle Clark: That’s on (Unclear 28:02.1) now.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Twitter sort of stole DM.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah. Oh, you’re going to send me a dungeon master? Oh, you mean a direct message. I think D&D is a perfect game for imagination. Certainly for actors. You know, it’s all theater of the mind stuff.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah, you create a character. It’s really like that. Good acting – that’s what it is. You create a character. You come up with where they’re from, what their parents were like, what their strengths and weaknesses are, etc. And then you act it out. And that really is D&D. I don’t know. It’s funny. Some people I don’t really think know what D&D is – they’ve seen the board games and the computer games, and stuff, and they think it’s a board game or a computer game. And it’s hard to explain to somebody that’s never seen it done that there isn’t anything to buy. Maybe some dice.

Kyle Clark: I think it’s clustered in with like War Hammer and Magic.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Magic: The Gathering. Yeah.

Kyle Clark: Sort of fringes, and it’s more abstract that that.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah, sure.

Chris Hardwick: But with Magic, you know, you have cards. But with D&D, like you–

Kyle Clark: You can just use graph paper.

Chris Hardwick: Graph paper and then just like a velvet bag, and some fun, and some dice. you know?

Kyle Clark: Did you say funions in the middle there?

Chris Hardwick: No. And funions too. You need funions.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: But your dice do have to be in a velvet bag.

Chris Hardwick: They have to be in a velvet bag. I started using that as an insult to people. So I’d be like: “Oh, hey, what’s up dice bag?” I started using dice bag as an insult. But you know, sometimes you might have the painted figurines or what not.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: I never played with the figurines.

Chris Hardwick: They don’t really. I mean it just sort of gives you, you know, if you have a map, it just kind of gives you somewhat of a representation of what’s happening. There’s a lot of fun, you know, role-playing game. Like Dragon Age is really fun. It’s not just D&D. And when I grew up, there was a little D&D boom when it first got popular. There was also like Boot Hill was the Western one. There was a future one. There we just like role-playing games when our video games were squares shooting lines at squares. You know, like we had RPG-type games.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right.

Kyle Clark: Imagination was at a premium then. Yeah, it was just the top of imagination’s time.

Chris Hardwick: We don’t have to imagine anything anymore.

Kyle Clark: Oh, no.

Chris Hardwick: I’m looking at you and I almost can’t imagine you. That’s how crutched I am on technology.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: I’m going to need to see your avatar if I want to know who you really are.

Kyle Clark: Could we do this while playing Halo, guys?

Chris Hardwick: Would that be all right? Could we do a Land party? Let’s do a Land party podcast. The whole performer mentality. Do you find that relationships are challenging? Because unless someone is another actor, and even then you run the risk of: “Oh, well, they’re having their emotional thing that they’re going through with their role.” I feel like performers are a hard group to date.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: That’s interesting. Maybe you’re right. That’s probably about as much as I’m going to say about that.

Kyle Clark: Can I ask a question? Because you were talking about the intensity and sort of getting into it. Were there actors or artists and stuff because there is sort of that proud lineage of the super intense artist, like were there guys who were your guys that you sort of looked at and went: “Well, they went through the pain and intensity process”?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah, like I watched all of Dustin Hoffman’s movies when I was younger. And I mean just this last year I got to work with Gary Oldman, who I think is one of the great chameleons as well as Christian Bale too.

Chris Hardwick: From that little indie film – The Dark Knight Rises.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: The Dark Knight Rises, yeah. And I mean like Christian in The Fighter is just like unrecognizable. He’s so, so good in it.

Chris Hardwick: What about The Machinist, where he’s like–

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah, that too.

Chris Hardwick: –essentially the size of like Alison Brie.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah. I also got to work with Daniel Day Lewis last year.

Chris Hardwick: Oh, wow.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: He played Abraham Lincoln, and I have a part in Lincoln. And it’s uncanny – it’s really uncanny – watching him do what he does. I love it. I love watching people transform like that. And I guess it is a certain sacrifice. I only got to know Daniel a little bit the night that we finished shooting. I was lucky enough to be there on the last night. And prior to that, I had never interacted with Daniel or heard his voice. I only interacted with the President and called him sir. And I had gotten text messages from Daniel and a couple of really nice letters, but personally, I had never met him until that last night. It was the first time I ever saw him in just jeans and a t-shirt, drinking a Guinness, like have a good time, speaking in a British accent. Yeah, it was really something.

Chris Hardwick: Did you play any jokes on him? Like did you hand him a five-dollar bill and go: “Here, you dropped your ID”?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: No.

Chris Hardwick: No Lincoln pranks?

Joseph Gordon Levitt: I didn’t do that actually.

Chris Hardwick: God dammit. I’m curious to hear. I haven’t heard his Lincoln voice yet.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: It’s really something. Well, and it’s not what you’d expect it to be because–

Chris Hardwick: Lincoln’s voice was high.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Historically, yes. It’s documented that Lincoln had a really high voice. But every time you ever see, you know, whatever – a cartoon or whatever – with Abraham Lincoln, it’s always [--].

Kyle Clark: Made famous by Phil and Ted.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: That’s right. You’re right. That’s probably why (Unclear 33:22.9). Lincoln’s right here.

Chris Hardwick: Lincoln didn’t say the Amendment of the Gettysburg Address: “Party on dudes”?

Kyle Clark: In my heard he did.

Chris Hardwick: But I think there were a lot of things about Lincoln that weren’t necessarily the image that we have of him. Like the beard was only something he had for a short period in his life. And then his voice, like you said, was high and he was actually, apparently, kind of gangly. So, sort of all these ideas.

Kyle Clark: He had a beak.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah, that was the other thing. But I’m so excited to see.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: It’s a great movie, man. And it’s actually not a whole biography. So you don’t see him without the beard. This movie – Lincoln – that Spielberg directed that’s coming out in November, it’s just the story of this one brief interval of time where he’s trying to pass the thirteenth amendment to the constitution to end slavery in the context of the Civil War. And you really do see him being a human being with all the flaws, and hypocrisies, and compromises that he has to make.

Chris Hardwick: Yeah.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: You know, people coming at it form all sides; telling him he’s a terrible person and that he’s doing the wrong thing. And him sort of staying the course and figuring out how to navigate all this shit, and get the right thing done.

Chris Hardwick: I mean when you peel back the layers of the mythos of Lincoln, I think it’s important for people to see the humanity of Lincoln more than just the icon that’s Lincoln.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Yeah.

Chris Hardwick: Because I think people can relate. I mean you might want to strive for the icon, but I think he was, you know, an anxious guy, a depressed guy. He as in a shitty relationship.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Right.

Chris Hardwick: You know? And had to sort of stand alone in this. Team of Rivals is a really great book.

Joseph Gordon Levitt: Well, they took a part of Team of Rivals and based the script off of that book.