LOS ANGELES — Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a bit of a comic-book movie veteran.
He co-starred in the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy as Robin, and played Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. He’s also set to bring Neil Gaiman’s revered Sandman series to the big screen.
This Friday he adds another notch to his geek cred with a role in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. He joins co-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’ ensemble cast as the cocky gambler Johnny – a new character Miller wrote specifically for the sequel.
The first film (released in 2005) followed storylines of the comics – The Big Fat Kill and That Yellow Bastard – closely, but for the follow-up Rodriguez challenged Miller to come up with something new.
“It’s kind of a cool idea that people can’t just go and buy the book and know what’s going to happen,” Rodriguez tells a group of reporters at a Beverly Hills hotel. And that’s how The Long, Bad Night storyline with Johnny going up against the evil Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) was born.
“I told (Miller) about this guy who I thought would be great, Joseph Gordon-Levitt,” Rodriguez adds. “Since he didn’t have it drawn, he didn’t really see the character in his head, so rather than make a drawing that he falls in love with and try and find an actor, we crafted (Johnny) with Joseph in mind.”
Even though Gordon-Levitt was a big part of The Dark Knight Rises, he loved “fully embracing an abandonment of reality” in A Dame to Kill For.
“I remember when the first one came out and coming out of the theatre and saying to myself, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this; it’s somewhere between a cartoon and a live-action movie.’ For me, and probably a lot of actors, we grew up watching cartoons ... so in this case, we get to become a cartoon in a way and I love that.”
It was total immersion in the comic book, he continues. “We’re going to the movies now; we’re going to Sin City; we’re going into the mind of Frank Miller. The sky isn’t perfect detail, it’s pitch black. The snow is pure white. We’re not in the real world. Isn’t that what we look for when we go to the movies?”
Levitt also got to reunite with his Angels in the Outfield co-star Christopher Lloyd for a scene in which Lloyd’s Dr. Kroenig helps set Johnny’s broken bones after a run-in with Roark.
“I love getting to see Christopher Lloyd do something dark,” Levitt says. “He’s this junkie in dirty clothes, but he’s got this poetic soliloquy going while he’s setting my bones with Popsicle sticks. And you’re thinking, ‘Man, this is Doc Brown.’ But it’s really cool because he’s actually a strong actor and he can do a lot of different things.”
“He got to work with Chris Lloyd in the morning and Lady Gaga in the evening,” Rodriguez quipped.
Among a group of longtime Rodriguez collaborators that included Jessica Alba (back as stripper Nancy Callahan), Mickey Rourke (Marv), Rosario Dawson (as Gail, the leader of the Old Town’s cutthroat prostitutes), Boothe (Roark), Bruce Willis (Hartigan) and Jaime King (as identical twin sisters, Goldie and Wendy), Gordon-Levitt and Josh Brolin (as Dwight McCarthy) were two newbies to Miller’s Sin City cinematic world. The experience shooting the sequel in Austin left the star in awe.
“I was so inspired,” Gordon-Levitt says. “Here’s a filmmaker who has decided to make his own world, his own industry, do it his way. Not only does he have the ability to shoot whatever he wants, the cutting is going on next door and the visual effects and the music and everything else ... It’s so much him, and I really admire that.”