In fact, he's been in some of the biggest movies of the past few years, including Inception and The Dark Knight Rises. And now he's appearing in one of this year's most anticipated films: Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Honest Abe, and JGL plays his feisty son, Robert.
He doesn't have a ton of screen time in Lincoln, but Gordon-Levitt's scenes are memorable -- especially when he's facing off against the famously even-tempered Lincoln. Robert just wants to fight in the war like a real man! Gordon-Levitt expertly portrays Robert's angst without coming off as bratty, and holds his own against acting legend Day-Lewis. (Again, no easy feat.)
With Lincoln under his belt, JGL has demonstrated that he really can pull off everything -- including political period pieces. No genre is beyond his range; he can do anything, from quirky rom-coms (500 Days of Summer) to big-budget action (Premium Rush, The Dark Knight Rises) to thoughtful dramedies (50-50), intense indies (Brick) and elaborate sci-fi flicks (Looper).
His career path actually isn't that different from Ryan Gosling's, when you think about it. Both baby-faced actors managed the tricky transition from teen heartthrob to respected performer, and both have diverse bodies of work behind them.
With that diverse body of work in mind, I've compiled a list of my top five favorite JGL roles thus far, including an oldie-but-goodie.
1. Adam in 50-50. This multi-layered role showcases JGL's depth well. He's funny, charming and vulnerable all at once as the 20-something radio producer battling a rare form of cancer. Don't you just want to reach through the screen and hug him? (Or bust in and yell at his super-bitch girlfriend, as Seth Rogen does?)
2. Arthur in Inception. OK, yes. Busted. It's totally the super-sharp three-piece suit that bumped this role up to the #2 position. But it's also how he handles the awesome fight scene, the cool action sequences and the tender moments with Ariadne (Ellen Page).
3. Wilee in Premium Rush. JGL usually plays the sweet, reserved guy who sticks to the rules, so it was refreshing to see him tackle something completely different as Wilee, the anti-establishment bike courier. Watching him zip haphazardly around Manhattan was totally enthralling. (Of course, having the amazing Michael Shannon playing the bad guy helped, too.)
4. Cameron in 10 Things I Hate About You. Before Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg, JGL was making nerdy smart guys cool in 10 Things. That jock Joey (Andrew Keegan) never stood a chance against sweet, funny Cameron. Nerds everywhere owe partial thanks to JGL for making them cooler than they've been since, well, ever.
5. Tom in (500) Days of Summer. JGL is adorable as the hopeless romantic in this quirky anti-romance. In lesser hands, Tom could have come off as pathetic and, well, kind of obsessive. Instead, he's sweet and endearing -- and you want to shield him from that insensitive Summer!