Joseph Gordon-Levitt has had to get in shape for roles before, but not like he did for Premium Rush. The Dark Knight Rises star plays the fastest New York City bike messenger who is drawn into a corruption case that could cost him his life when he accepts an envelope for delivery, as showcased in the Premium Rush trailer.
Movie Fanatic caught up with Gordon-Levitt at the W Hotel in Hollywood as he tells us how the community of bike messengers changed his life and exclusively reflects on the blockbuster four-movie year he’s enjoying.
“Yeah, man… things have gone really well,” Gordon-Levitt said of his 2012 that has or will see him in The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, Looper and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. “I’m super lucky and I’m very grateful. I'm so very proud of each and every single film.”
When it comes to Premium Rush, the actor could have walked away from the bike and never wanted to see it again after the grueling training period and shooting. Instead, the filming of the movie changed his life as he became a bicycle enthusiast.
“I have a love for it now. I enjoy doing it whenever I get a chance. I also like checking out people’s bikes. I’m like, 'Yeah!' Everyone expresses themselves differently with how they decorate their bike, how they ride on it and how they choose to set it up with their handlebars… whatever,” Gordon-Levitt said.
He even admitted that another form of transportation that usually garners men’s attention produces more of a “whatever” response as opposed to a nice cycle.
“It’s funny, I got into a conversation once with someone who has an old Mustang and is really proud of the car. Cars aren’t my thing. We were driving in his car and I was like, 'Check out that bike!' He said, 'A bike, really?' Premium Rush is such a positive thing in that way. It’s great for you. It’s healthy. It’s good for the planet. They are an all-around good thing. I’m proud to be in a movie that glorifies it.”
To prepare for the role, Gordon-Levitt spent time with the real people doing the work that often can land them in the hospital… or worse. “It’s a community. It’s not just a bunch of disparate people,” he said. “It really does bring them together with a commonality, which is nice to see. I now ride wherever I can.”
Another marvel of the Premium Rush experience was having a front row seat for the villainy show that is produced by co-star Michael Shannon (Man of Steel).
“He’s one of the best alive,” Gordon-Levitt said and smiled.
“Oftentimes he’s so heavy and dark, and this movie he’s villainous, but it’s fun. The whole thing has such a tone of just a good time and he was clearly having a ball doing it. It’s clearly an homage to the classic Hollywood heavies. I love him in this movie.”
When it came to the training, the star had a compatriot, his onscreen love interest Dania Ramirez -- who plays a fellow messenger. “It’s not every actress who would necessarily put herself in a situation where she will be in pain, out of breath, riding up a hill for weeks on end. That goes to show she’s into it and she’s game,” he said. “She’s keen and going to do what it takes.”
Gordon-Levitt’s character in the film famously rides through traffic without brakes. The actor, ever game for nailing a role, shot the first sequences without the means to stop other than his feet. “Then I hurt myself. I got 31 stitches. The character is better on a bike than I am,” he said and laughed.
“Then, we put brakes on the bike!”
One of his stunt doubles on Premium Rush proved to be an invaluable asset. “Austin Horse, he is arguably the fastest bike messenger in New York, maybe the world. He rides without brakes. I rode around town a lot with him and I never felt he was unsafe or out of control,” Gordon-Levitt said.
“I wouldn’t recommend it, people. If you’re not Austin Horse, don’t do it.”