He knows what you’re going to ask, but his lips are sealed.
Maybe it’s because he has come to L.A.’s Luxe Hotel to talk about “Hesher,” the moving, wildly unconventional new drama opening Friday about a belligerent metalhead who, it turns out, just might be Jesus.
Or maybe it’s because Joseph Gordon-Levitt is honoring Christopher Nolan’s gag order. Even that he will not say.
He smiles. He grimaces. He seems quietly exasperated, but the bat is out of the bag: Gordon-Levitt, 30, will play a yet undisclosed role in “The Dark Knight Rises,” next year’s hotly anticipated return of the Caped Crusader.
But today he’s ready to talk only about his chain-smoking, free-spirited headbanger, known only as Hesher.
The online Urban Dictionary defines “hesher” as a “long-haired, usually mulleted person who rocks out to metal … generally seen wearing acid-washed jeans or [a] denim jacket covered with band and skull patches.”
In the film, not quite a comedy, not strictly a drama — its resistance to labels a point of pride with director Spencer Susser — Gordon-Levitt’s hero more or less fills that bill. But he’s far from a grown-up Beavis.
He’s a character who, like the film, defies type; he could be Jesus as easily as he could be the Devil. He might not exist at all — except, perhaps, as a harbinger of death.
You can float these theories to Susser and Gordon-Levitt, and neither will so much as blink. Sometimes they even agree.
So maybe the question you should be asking Gordon-Levitt is, who is Hesher?
“You think you’ve got his number — long, dirty hair, some rockin’ bum,” he says. “He’s actually quite a thinker. And even though he doesn’t adhere to standard conventions of morality, he’s very ethical. That surprised me.”
Asked if the character could actually be a savior type, or some sort of dark avenger, Gordon-Levitt says he might. Susser, for his part, is fascinated by the Jesus analogy, though he won’t say he had that in mind. Still, it’s hard to imagine the Lamb of God slamming his van into a child he’s supposed to be saving, falling down drunk at a funeral or, for that matter, listening almost exclusively to Cliff Burton-era Metallica.
But that, Gordon-Levitt says, is the kind of ambiguity he loves.
“You can’t put [Hesher] in a box or reduce him to a sound bite,” he says. “I love that. The character is open to any kind of mystical or even magical interpretations. Spencer liked to compare him to Mary Poppins. Whatever the case, he’s real to me.”
IF YOU GO
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson
Written by Spencer Susser, David Michod
Directed by Spencer Susser
Running time 1 hour 45 minutes