If 2011 was the year of Ryan Gosling, 2012 will undoubtedly be all about JGL, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Gosling starred in a mere three movies last year, looking Photoshopped (Crazy, Stupid, Love), stoic (Drive) and in over his head (The Ides of March), amid stirs over snubs for People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” and an Oscar nomination. Each provided plenty of Tumblr fodder as “Baby Goose” mania reached a fever pitch, one that seemingly peaked at the Golden Globes, where Gosling was feted in both “Best Actor” categories and rubbed famous elbows with the likes of Clooney, Pitt, DiCaprio and, fittingly, JGL, who picked up a well-deserved nod for 50/50.
Only the spotlight is shifting. For starters, JGL potentially has five major releases scheduled in 2012, including the latest from Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, and Quentin Tarantino. Meanwhile, Gordon-Levitt, who celebrated his 31st birthday today, plans to shoot his directorial feature debut in April, and add screenwriter and feature director to his list of multi-hyphenated talents. He will co-star with Scarlett Johansson in the untitled film, billed as “a sexy comedy about a modern-day Don Juan” (Deadline).
But his movie is much more than that. Gordon-Levitt is understandably coy about revealing further details about his first film, since the crux of the story is not just about a “selfish dick” discovering Miss Right. The story also focuses on his character’s destructive addiction to Internet pornography, a role that has more in common with Michael Fassbender’s Shame part (sans the full-frontal nudity) than with Gosling’s Crazy, Stupid, Love womanizer. It’s just the sort of raw, unconventional role he isn’t getting on his own. Johansson appropriately plays his stunning pick-up, a “dime” who manipulates him to her will (see: Rachel Weisz in The Shape of Things). A second, uncast female lead calls for an older actress to play a widow he meets during his girlfriend-mandated night class. (Is Catherine Keener busy?)
It’s a new chapter for Gordon-Levitt, who dabbles in just about everything now via his own, “open-collaborative” production company hitRecord and other endearing crossovers, like song duets with Zooey Deschanel and Anne Hathaway or his famous “Saturday Night Live” monologue/dance routine set to Singin’ in the Rain‘s “Make ‘Em Laugh.”
Meanwhile, JGL has built his post-”3rd Rock from the Sun” acting career from discerning choices and strong performances. Indie roles that stretched his chops and showcased his versatility, like The Lookout, Hesher, and (500) Days of Summer, each a directorial debut of their own and a possible source of wisdom or inspiration for the future first-timer.
More importantly, those savvy career choices are paying off in a big way this year. After a riveting performance in Rian Johnson’s first feature, Brick, Gordon-Levitt is returning for Johnson’s third film, this September’s Looper, a sci-fi, 12 Monkeys type thriller in which he shares screen time with Bruce Willis. It is potentially the sleeper hit of the year. Trust me.
Also in 2012, JGL is co-starring in The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated final Batman film. JGL’s beat cop role appears to be a more prominent one than his layer of Nolan’s Inception, with potential for a rug-pulling surprise if the rumors are true.
Plus he scored supporting roles in Spielberg’s Lincoln biopic (as the first son of Daniel Day-Lewis’ presidential part) and Tarantino’s slavery-era film Django Unchained (time permitting). His fifth movie in 2012 is August’s Premium Rush, a bike messenger thriller.
Of course, with this much on the horizon, Gordon-Levitt risks “overexposure” and a subsequent backlash (“the James Franco effect”). But I doubt it. There’s a reason he’s working with a few of the industry’s best directors, and it has to do with talent, charisma, and the energetic buzz that accompanies those traits. So prepare yourself for JGL, or Joe-Gor, or some other inevitable nickname (JoGo?) as Gordon-Levitt fever catches on this summer.
Oh, on the subject of ScarJo — she apparently hates the abbreviation — her upcoming slate is looking especially eclectic, too. Mixed in with recent sexy, high-profile cash-ins like The Spirit, Iron Man 2, and The Avengers, Johansson is quietly putting together a few unexpected roles of her own.
Aside from playing a lead in JGL’s debut, ScarJo is preparing for Can a Song Save Your Life?, a musical from Once director John Carney in which she will be expected to provide much of the song vocals (two originals, at least). In the split narrative, she plays Gretta, a sidelined singer/songwriter discovered by a down-and-out record company executive (Mark Ruffalo). It’s a familiar story for Carney (just with bigger stars), but CASSYL? is a new direction for Johansson, who released her own Tom Waits cover album in 2008. And in Under the Skin, due out sometime in 2012, Johansson plays a shape-shifting alien succubus who draws in unsuspecting men with her beauty. A dark Species (1995) meets… reality?