Brow Beat

When Joseph Gordon-Levitt Turned the Tables on the Paparazzi

Joseph Gordon-Levitt recently made his feature directorial debut at Sundance with Don Jon’s Addiction, which earned raves and is scheduled to hit theaters this summer. But the actor has been honing his production skills for years, as evidenced by an old video that was widely shared over the weekend after being posted on Reddit. In “Pictures of Assholes,” Gordon-Levitt turns the camera upon a pair of aggressive paparazzi, making them stunningly uncomfortable in the process.

The men are immediately on the defensive when he playfully asks for their names—“Asshole” and “Asshole, Jr.,” one of them replies—and they resort to insults when he begins to follow them. One points out that Nicole Kidman, a much bigger star than Gordon-Levitt at the time, was a more willing participant in their “journalistic” pursuits.

But perhaps the most fascinating moment comes when Gordon-Levitt gets one of the pair to admit why they were so adamant about taking his picture. “We saw you know, a young star, you know with another guy,” he reveals coyly, referring to Gordon-Levitt’s accompanying male friend. “It’s implied that, there’s something going on… I don’t know, you know the whole gay thing, intrigues people.” The actor cuts out any audible reaction to this revelation and mentions it nowhere within his description of the video.

What Gordon-Levitt does comment on, in the description of the video on YouTube, is the contemporary culture of celebrity, which, he says, “is not just innocently shallow entertainment, but a powerful and fundamental part of a larger movement revolving around greed, apathy, and hierarchy that is currently dragging us down.” In 2006, he was only on the cusp of the stardom he’s achieved today. I, for one, would be interested in a sequel.