Boy won­der

From act­ing to di­rect­ing, Joseph Gor­don-Le­vitt proves he can do it all.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By Ni­cholas Bar­Ber

Read enough in­ter­views with Hol­ly­wood film stars and two themes keep crop­ping up. Theme one is that the star in ques­tion is work­ing on a screen­play. Theme two is that they hope to be­come a di­rec­tor. Per­haps we can all take some com­fort from the knowl­edge that, how­ever much power and in­flu­ence th­ese stars may have, the vast ma­jor­ity never fin­ish that screen­play or di­rect that film.

a few stars do get around to di­rect­ing when they’ve passed their act­ing peak (Robert de Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, dustin Hoff­man). a few man­age the tran­si­tion once they’ve es­tab­lished them­selves as a-lis­ters (Ge­orge Clooney, Ralph Fi­ennes). and some (Ben af­fleck) turn to di­rect­ing in des­per­a­tion, fol­low­ing sev­eral years of lurch­ing from one flop to the next. But War­ren Beatty aside, al­most none start out as ac­tors and switch to writ­ing and di­rect­ing just when their box­of­fice clout is sky­rock­et­ing.

Now, how­ever, there are three. There was the re­cent re­lease of Don Jon, an indie rom­com writ­ten and di­rected by Joseph Gor­donLe­vitt, who also plays the ti­tle role. Gor­donLe­vitt, star of Looper and 50/50, is 32; so is Ryan Gosling, who has made a “fan­tasy neonoir” called How To Catch A Mon­ster. Three years their se­nior, James Franco has al­ready com­pleted a dozen fea­tures as writer-di­rec­tor-star, with more on the way, ap­par­ently.

Co­in­ci­dence? If it were, it would be re­mark­able enough. But there’s more to th­ese ac­tors’ new­found “multi-hy­phen­ate” sta­tus: it’s a sign that a new mood is creep­ing into Hol­ly­wood - one that has a fight­ing chance of rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the in­dus­try. But let’s not get ahead of our­selves. In it­self, the de­ci­sion to veer away from act­ing is a bold one for Gor­don-Le­vitt and co. They’re all ris­ing stars. They’re all pin-ups. and they’re all re­spected by crit­ics (Franco and Gosling are Os­car nom­i­nees, for 127 Hours and Half Nel­son re­spec­tively). None has trou­ble land­ing roles in dra­mas, come­dies or ac­tion movies - and they’re all grad­u­at­ing to the lead­ing-man phase of their ca­reers. If their am­bi­tions were more con­ven­tional, this would be the mo­ment for them to make friends with Paul Thomas an­der­son and Martin Scors­ese, and to swag­ger from one Os­car-bait­ing role to another.

In­stead, they’re do­ing what Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Johnny depp, Will Smith and Leonardo diCaprio never did. They’re mak­ing their own films – and they’re not do­ing a bad job. How To Catch A Mon­ster won’t be seen un­til next year, but Franco’s adap­ta­tion of As I Lay Dy­ing was screened at the Lon­don film fes­ti­val in Oc­to­ber. While it isn’t a tri­umph – there’s a whiff of Ye Olde Her­itage Vil­lage about it – it isn’t em­bar­rass­ing. Get­ting to the end of Wil­liam Faulkner’s book is al­ready quite a feat, with­out then wring­ing an in­tel­li­gent and en­gag­ing film from it.

Gor­don-Le­vitt’s Don Jon is even more en­gag­ing. a cau­tion­ary tale about a New Jersey don Juan whose porn ad­dic­tion plays badly with his dream girl, Scar­lett Jo­hans­son. It’s rough at the edges, as you might ex­pect of a low-bud­get de­but. But it’s also big-hearted, thought­ful fun. and, con­sid­er­ing that Gor­donLe­vitt is a Jewish Los an­ge­les na­tive who’s spent his life in showbiz, it’s to his credit that he chose to write about an Ital­ian-amer­i­can east-coast bar­tender.

all three men have been in showbiz for much of their lives, which might ex­plain how com­fort­able they are with its non-act­ing as­pects. Gor­don-Le­vitt was on TV at the age of six, and starred in the sit­com Third Rock From The Sun through­out his teens. Franco was cast in Judd apa­tow’s Freaks And Geeks when he was 19. and Gosling had the hon­our of be­ing in The All New Mickey Mouse Club along­side Brit­ney Spears, Christina aguil­era and Justin Timberlake, be­fore play­ing a skinny demigod in Young Her­cules. Pre­sum­ably, early and pro­longed ex­po­sure to the film­mak­ing process de­mys­ti­fied it for them.

But there’s more to their ca­reer changes than been-there-done-that non­cha­lance. all three ac­tors, as pop­u­lar as they are, have stated that the main­stream movie in­dus­try isn’t for them. They’ve al­ways grav­i­tated to­wards chal­leng­ing roles in in­ter­est­ing films, from allen Gins­berg in Howl (Franco) to a man in love with a sex doll in Lars And The Real Girl (Gosling). and now they’re tak­ing the next step away from Hol­ly­wood.

“Some of us are tired of all the sissies in this town,” Gosling told New York Mag­a­zine in 2010. “The ones who go along, flow with the flow, line up where they’re told to line up at. The stu­dios want you to make the same movie over and over - if that’s the movie they liked, that’s the movie you should keep mak­ing.”

Gosling’s scorn is un­der­stand­able. He and his con­tem­po­raries were im­pres­sion­able teenagers dur­ing the 1990s, when indie movies were in the as­cen­dant, and when Quentin Tarantino and the Sun­dance Fes­ti­val made writ­ing and di­rect­ing seem like the hip pas­times of rel­a­tively au­ton­o­mous au­teurs. Since then, they’ve seen the indie scene col­lapse, crushed by ever-more su­per­hero fran­chises and se­quels (and they’ve been in a cou­ple them­selves). But they’ve also seen dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy and the in­ter­net en­able any­one to shoot and dis­trib­ute a film.

“The en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness as it has been is not go­ing to be around that much longer,” Gor­don-Le­vitt told men’s life­style mag­a­zine GQ. “The way it’s go­ing, there’s go­ing to be artists, and they’ll make their shit, and they’ll con­nect to their au­di­ence, and you don’t need any of the mid­dle­men - the stu­dios or the agents.”

Gor­don-Le­vitt has put his money where his mouth is. With a per­sonal in­vest­ment of

US$500,000 (rM1.6mil), he set up hitreCord, an online pro­duc­tion com­pany. The con­cept is that any­one can up­load cre­ative work to the site, whether it’s a poem, draw­ing or snip­pet of mu­sic. Other hitreCord users can then tinker with it.

“ev­ery­one on the site,” says Gor­don-Le­vitt on the in­tro­duc­tory video, “has per­mis­sion to remix ev­ery­one else’s stuff, so what­ever you put up here, get ready to have it down­loaded, sam­pled, built upon, re­fined, re­vised.” The re­sult may be­come part of a book, record or con­cert, and the prof­its are split be­tween the con­trib­u­tors and the com­pany. Don Jon is credited as a hitreCord pro­duc­tion, and a tele­vised hitreCord va­ri­ety show is in the off­ing.

Franco, too, is us­ing the in­ter­net for crowd­sourc­ing. Hav­ing poured his own money (“and I mean a lot”) into nu­mer­ous stu­dent films, and hav­ing per­suaded his A-list friends to ap­pear in them, he has launched a Kick­starter cam­paign to find more fund­ing for as­pir­ing film­mak­ers.

Writ­ing and di­rect­ing, then, are just part of the story. We are see­ing a wave of ac­tors, who could eas­ily milk the Hol­ly­wood sta­tus quo, choos­ing to seize the means of pro­duc­tion - and hand them on to oth­ers. They’re push­ing the film in­dus­try to­wards a more di­verse, demo­cratic, in­de­pen­dent fu­ture. When your lo­cal mul­ti­plex is show­ing the next dose of The Fast And The Fu­ri­ous, you may feel that fu­ture can’t come soon enough. – Guardian News & Me­dia

a few tricks in his bag: Joseph Gor­don-Le­vitt has tran­si­tioned from a child star to a bonafide lead­ing man and now a film di­rec­tor. his di­rec­to­rial de­but is a film ti­tled don­Jon which tells the story of a man ob­sessed with porn.

ryan Gosling is not in­ter­ested to take the fa­mil­iar path.

James Franco, with ac­tor Scott haze, at the 70th Venice Film Fes­ti­val to pro­mote childOfGod.

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