In a world where young creative geniuses often implode before they even break past their teens, former child actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt has blossomed into a noted actor, director, screenwriter and producer.
He’s also added entrepreneur to his résumé, after founding the online production company hitRECord in 2004. Gordon-Levitt, 33, connects artists from his global online community to create short films, live performances, music, animation and books. A new take on the variety show concept, hitRECord on TV premiered in January on the fledgling network Pivot, which targets viewers in the elusive 18–34-year-old demographic.
“He’s not just an artist, he’s a visionary. He’s got an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Pivot President Evan Shapiro. “This generation is digitally native, and they are turned off by inauthenticity. When you look at Joe, he has emerged as an authentic voice because there’s no holding back with him.”
The young show-biz veteran never got caught up in the crazy side of his industry. “I have really cool parents who emphasized the work itself,” the modest Gordon-Levitt says. “I really love movies, stories, music. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in show business that’s never interested me very much.”
Gordon-Levitt says he was in a professional dry spell when he and his late brother, Dan, came up with the concept for hooking up creative people with work. As a child actor, he had worked with Oscar winner Robert Redford in A River Runs Through It, and Emmy and Tony winner John Lithgow in the hit TV series 3rd Rock from the Sun, but adult roles were harder to come by.
He decided not to let that stop him from starting his company and making his mark in independent films. Before long, he was starring in mainstream movies like Inception and The Dark Knight Rises. As he moves on to a second season on Pivot, he’ll also be busy this year producing a film based on The Sandman, Neil Gaiman’s comic book series.
“I work with so many talented people, so I don’t use this term lightly, but Joe is a genius,” says producer Brian Graden, former president of entertainment at MTV Networks. “As a producer, you are often trying to manage people’s contributions. But with Joe, I know you can just let him go, and what will result is something magical.”