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Joseph Gordon-Levitt: An Origin Story

September 30, 2013

Before he was the writer-director-star of Don Jon, or the do-it-yourself impresario behind hitRECord.org, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a kid actor. For the current Entertainment Weekly cover story, we talked with the one person who vividly remembers those early jobs — his mom.

The kid’s first job was so miserable his mother doubted there would be many more. After enduring months of auditions in 1987, 6-and-a-half-year-old Joseph Gordon-Levitt had finally landed a TV commercial for Sunny Jim peanut butter. “It was a cute Little Rascals kind of set,” Jane Gordon recalls. “The children were dressed in 1920s clothes, sitting on this log under a big tree, and it was raining. When he opened this jar of peanut butter, the sun came out. Sunny Jim — get it?”

There was trouble from the get-go. “The first thing they wanted to do was cut Joe’s hair, to make it kind of Alfalfa-like,” said his mother. She couldn’t allow that because he had also booked a second gig for the following week, playing Tommy Lee Jones’ son in the 1988 TV movie Stranger on My Land. As a hairstylist tried to arrange the boy’s uncut locks, the director snidely warned them: “If it doesn’t work, it’s going to be: ‘bye-bye.’” A half-a-dozen child understudies were standing by, ready to take his place. Read More

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