It's a Hollywood cliche when actors say they want to direct, but when Joseph Gordon-Levitt decided to make his own movie, it seemed more like a natural extension of his already remarkable career.
"Don Jon" — also starring Gordon-Levitt in the title role — is a brave, bold and wonderfully funny film about trying to connect in a world of media distractions, including pornography.
Gordon-Levitt — who has displayed his acting chops in "Mysterious Skin," "Brick," "(500) Days of Summer," "50/50," "Inception" and "Lincoln" after an early role as a boy in "A River Runs Through It" and achieving fame on TV's "3rd Rock from the Sun" — says learning how to direct large groups of artists was essential in the making of "Don Jon."
Also, making "hundreds" of short films and learning the post-production aspect of filmmaking gave him the experience he needed to tackle a feature.
"That seedling of an idea — a boyfriend who watches too much pornography and a girlfriend who watches too many romantic comedies — is from 2008," says Gordon-Levitt, who helped found hitRECord, an artists' collective that produces short films, music and books.
At one point during the movie's gestation process, Gordon-Levitt decided to make "Don Jon" into a comedy.
"If you're going to talk about substantial subject matter, the best way to do it in a movie is with humor," he says.
Gordon-Levitt shortened the movie's initial title, "Don Jon's Addiction," because people were getting the wrong idea.
"This is not a movie about pornography addiction," he says. "I think the movie's funny. I know what makes me laugh, and ultimately that's what I was going for. I've heard Christopher Nolan say that he makes movies that he wants to watch. I tried to do the same thing."
Working with friend and producer Ram Bergman, of "Brick" and "Looper," Gordon-Levitt rehearsed and polished the screenplay with his actors. He filmed quickly and on a very low budget, but still came up with what he calls his "director's cut."
"The movie that's coming out in theaters is frame for frame, line for line, exactly the movie that I wanted to make, and I'm really grateful for that," he says.
IF YOU GODon Jon
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
Written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Running time 1 hour, 30 minutes