Joseph Gordon-Levitt wants superstardom. He’s already in the mix for the next Batman, carrying into DC/WB’s Justice League movie, and now he’s been revealed as the late entry into Marvel’s casting pool for the lead role in Guardians of the Galaxy, as space captain Peter Quill/Star-Lord. So, that’s it. That’s the new route to movie stardom—book franchises out the wazoo while doing artsy stuff in between—and JGL has put himself firmly on that path.
I previously laid odds on Lee Pace winning the Guardians casting lottery, but he did not (booo). Of that original testing pool, only soggy Jim Sturgess remains in the mix for the part, with Zachary Levi, who joined the Thor franchise last year, and JGL being among the last candidates. Rumors of an unnamed actor coming under consideration popped up right around the holidays, but JGL was not a name I ever expected to hear. Partly because he’s tangled up in that Batman mess and while cross-pollination is totally possible—Ryan Reynolds is Green Lantern for DC and Deadpool for Marvel and RIPD’s Nick Walker for Dark Horse—that Batman mess really is a mess it doesn’t seem possible to be dealing with that and another project of such caliber, too. But also partly because I didn’t realize JGL was interested in superstardom.
It’s a point I’ve been making a lot lately—the Movie Star is dead and for an actor to achieve that level of stardom they need these big franchise parts. (Click here for a refresher.) The shift has gone from celebrity to character, and they need that identifiable role to help push them over the edge with the public. If JGL wants to be a Big Star, then he needs this kind of gig, even if it does seem to fly directly in the face of his arty persona. But clearly, this is something JGL is pursuing. In 2012 he appeared in Lincoln, sure, but he also starred in the B-grade action flick Premium Rush, Rian Looper’s higher minded Looper, in which he made a solid badass leading man, and The Dark Knight Rises, which has left him holding the cape, so to speak.
No one is above these kinds of roles. It’s not just superheroes—one of these days they’re going to crack the code on how to translate video games successfully and then it will be an unending deluge of sci-fi war movies and smash-’em-up car chases. But these big franchise parts are unavoidable, if an actor’s ambitions follow a certain vein, which clearly JGL’s do. He’s very talented and has a lot of solid prospects, but he’s making the kind of moves that will take him from industry and internet darling to mainstream star. They’ve been trying to make this new leading man happen for a few years now but no one has hit the mainstream sweet spot yet. Could Joseph Gordon-Levitt be the one to make the leap?