Joseph Gordon-Levitt — Actor, Filmmaker, and Entrepreneur (#312)

“Art and fame are sort of odd bedfellows.” – Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (@hitRECordJoe) is an actor whose career spans three decades, and ranges from television (3rd Rock from the Sun) to arthouse (Mysterious Skin, Brick) to multiplex (Inception, 500 Days of Summer, Looper, Snowden). He made his feature screenwriting and directorial debut with Don Jon (Independent Spirit Award nomination, Best First Screenplay). He also founded and directs HITRECORD, an online community of artists emphasizing collaboration over self-promotion. HITRECORD has evolved into a “community-sourced” production company that publishes books, puts out records, produces videos for brands from LG to the ACLU, and has won an Emmy for its variety show HitRecord on TV.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt — Actor, Filmmaker, and Entrepreneur

Want to hear another podcast with a filmmaker? — Listen to my conversation with Darren Aronofsky. In this episode, we discuss his creative process and “nomadic writing,” how to navigate tough conversations over creativity and control, and much more! Stream below or right-click here to download.

Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky — Exploring Creativity, Ignoring Critics, and Making Art

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Joseph Gordon-Levitt:

HITRECORD | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


  • True or false: Joseph can breathe fire if you tickle his feet. [06:40]
  • Who the hell is Evan Goldberg and how did he and Joseph first meet? [07:59]
  • A word of caution for anyone who might find themselves sitting down to a meeting with Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. [09:40]
  • Weed vs. alcohol. [11:38]
  • The power of an actor to say “no.” [13:27]
  • “The ability to balance a thorough plan with spontaneity is right at the crux of being a good director.” [19:40]
  • Working with Robert Redford when Joseph was 10 years old. [21:32]
  • Pondering Steven Spielberg’s sparse use of shot lists. [25:45]
  • A Jaws story about on-set spontaneity. [29:25]
  • Robert Rodriguez’s take about the real job of a director. [32:05]
  • How did Joseph learn to direct and edit? [34:48]
  • How Final Cut Pro made Joseph drop out of college — and why he went back to school in the first place after an already lengthy career in acting. [37:19]
  • Why did Joseph go back to school? [38:38]
  • On moving from Sherman Oaks to Manhattan. [41:40]
  • Joseph’s favorite thing to do in New York City. [42:51]
  • Why Joseph took classes in French. [43:27]
  • On learning additional languages. [46:42]
  • Joseph talks about directing his first film, Don Jon, and what prompted him to write the story. [48:40]
  • The most challenging aspects of bringing Don Jon to the screen. [52:18]
  • Were there any books on screenwriting that helped Joseph during the process? [53:53]
  • Advice for someone whose goal is to get famous. [57:16]
  • Does Joseph experience fear of missing out when taking breaks from show business? [1:07:30]
  • Coming back to show business after his first break. [1:12:39]
  • What helps Joseph get through periods of rejection and self-doubt? [1:15:05]
  • “It’s easy to be extrinsically motivated when the world’s giving you a bunch of thumbs-ups!” What does the other side of that look like? [1:16:50]
  • Why does Joseph think Zooey Deschanel described him as “lighter, less burdened” during the second movie they did together? [1:23:46]
  • What is HITRECORD, how did it come to be, and where is it headed? [1:26:00]
  • The projects worth sticking with are usually the ones we start without hope of financial gain. [1:35:09]
  • Joseph talks about the conversation his mother had with him going into acting at age six. [1:39:05]
  • How is Joseph thinking about the next few years ahead? [1:41:01]
  • What I like about HITRECORD. [1:44:26]
  • A recommendation I often make to people who want to start their own company — and how it ties in to collaborating at HITRECORD. [1:45:08]
  • Parting thoughts from Joseph. [1:53:55]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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14 Replies to “Joseph Gordon-Levitt — Actor, Filmmaker, and Entrepreneur (#312)”

  1. Excellent interview. Nice to really get to know a talented actor like this. So many TV/Magazine interviews are short and superficial. This really allowed me to get to know this talented young man. As a long time actor and newbie filmmaker, I am also excited to sign up for his HITRECORD collaboration website.

  2. Podcast idea = Neurosurgeon bodybuilder, bio hacker, author, Dr Brett Osborn… hey Tim met you at Joe Polish conference in SoCal and love your podcasts, books, et al! Thanks for all you do! Jerry

  3. Fantastic interview! It would be great if you could upload the video to YouTube again

  4. Hey Tim-

    You’ve spoken a lot about the 4 hour body, intermittent fasting, and ketoegenic diets. Just curious as to what you’re currently practicing or if it’s a hybrid of the three.



  5. Tim – this is unrelated to this post, but wondering if Ample’s new Keto meal replacement shake works for the Slow Carb Diet.

    [Moderator: link removed.]

    Thanks in advance!

  6. Attitude and focus on activity are believed to be determinant. Congratulations!

  7. Loved this interview. Truly shows how those with the most talent are a)the most humble and b) the most interesting! So relatable and his vision for hit record I think is just beautiful especially vs his description of you Tube etc ‘hey look what I made’ – so true and when put so simply, very funny.

  8. Overall, I’m really disappointed and alarmed at the lack of female representation in your content. It’s offensive and it’s hard to not disregard you all together.

  9. It’s really interesting that Joe knew he wanted to be an actor at age six but still thought college was the place to learn and not earn a piece of paper. Every young person should be encouraged to start working if he/she doesn’t want to go to college straight from high school.

  10. Thanks so much for this Tim. I really enjoyed your conversation with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I have been a fan of his work for a long time. I also wanted to mention how much I enjoy all of the content you provide. From your blogs to the podcasts. Its fair to say that I am an avid consumer of your work. Please keep up the amazing work!

    FYI – just for the sake of sharing, I recently came across Message to Bears. Their album Maps is awesome (al least I think so!). You mentioned in one of your 5-Bullet Friday emails that you struggle to listen to music with lyrics in them while doing work. I also cannot work with such a distraction. This album has a few songs with lyrics but they blend beautifully into the songs. Some of it is rather sad but there is nothing wrong in that. I thought you might be into checking them out.

    Again, thanks for everything!