Joseph Gordon-Levitt Wasn't Sold On 10 Things I Hate About You At First

Joseph Gordon-Levitt started acting professionally when most millennials were still learning basic math. At the tender age of 7, Gordon-Levitt began appearing in popular television shows like "Family Ties," "Murder, She Wrote," and "Quantum Leap," which eventually led to roles in the critically acclaimed movie, "A River Runs Through It," and one of my childhood favorites, "Angels in the Outfield." His most notable performance came in 1996 when he landed the part of Tommy Solomon, an alien teenager in the popular series "3rd Rock from the Sun."

A steady gig on a popular sitcom might be enough for some actors, but Gordon-Levitt had loftier goals for his career. He told Vanity Fair in 2020 that he always wanted to act in "serious movies" that would premiere at independent film festivals and end up in art house theaters, but he was a young, attractive, up-and-coming actor during what /Film's Chris Evangelista calls "The Era Of Cool Shakespeare," so he was offered a role in "10 Things I Hate About You." The teenage adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" was not the dramatic material he was seeking, and it took some serious convincing to get him to do the movie.

Another high school romantic comedy

The '80s are commonly associated with the teen film boom because of the popularity of John Hughes and The Brat Pack, but the '90s had its fair share of teen-centric cinema. "Romeo + Juliet," "Clueless," "She's All That," and "American Pie" are just a few examples of the decade's cult-classic films that focus on teenagers and all the drama they inevitably produce. For the entire decade, it seemed audiences couldn't get enough of adolescent angst, but not all of Hollywood's young actors were on board with the trend.

In 1999, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a perfect choice for the next teen rom-com. He was fresh-faced, adorable, and he had an established presence on a popular sitcom. Unfortunately, he wasn't interested in doing a teen movie. "I was not sold on doing '10 Things I Hate About You' when I first read the script," He told Vanity Fair. "I was like, 'I don't want to do one of these high school, romantic comedies. I want to do serious movies.'" Gordon-Levitt explained he was more interested in deep, insightful films. "When I was that age, I was going to art house cinemas and watching movies coming from Sundance, and watching 'Sling Blade' and 'Reservoir Dogs,' and Soderbergh and Tarantino," he said. "That's what I wanted to do."

Although I'm a big fan of '90s teen films, it's a fact that the genre doesn't appeal to many critics and most of the movies are a far cry from the intellectual art Gordon-Levitt was seeking. Because of this, he initially passed on auditioning for "10 Things I Hate About You," but people in his inner circle saw the film's potential and convinced him to audition.

He was embarrassed by 10 Things I Hate About You

When he finally read for the movie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt auditioned for two parts: the lovesick new kid, Cameron, and his awkward sidekick, Michael, who was eventually played by David Krumholtz. He was more interested in playing Michael, but the director, Gil Junger, thought he was a better fit for Cameron. Gordon-Levitt wasn't interested in playing the smitten nerd, and shared his concerns with the filmmaker:

"I remember having a meeting with [Junger] where I was like, 'This doesn't make sense. That doesn't make sense. This feels cheesy. That feels cheesy.' They listened, I think, to some of my ideas, but mostly I think I was probably just wrong and being too serious about the whole thing."

Gordon-Levitt eventually loosened up, accepted the role, and became a part of '90s teen movie history. The actor enjoyed spending time with his cast mates while filming, but he was ashamed of the movie after it was over:

"I know this sounds weird to say, or it sounds like I'm not grateful, I was always a little embarrassed, I think, before that. I didn't have a good reason to be. I should have been proud to be in 'Angels in The Outfield.' And I was. I was. And I was super proud of '3rd Rock From the Sun.' I was mostly embarrassed of '10 Things I Hate About You,' to be honest. I was."

In the mid 2000s, Gordon-Levitt finally won leading roles in two Sundance movies, "Mysterious Skin" and "Brick." It was a dream come true for the actor, and it helped him move past any shame he had about his teen movie past. "When I got to do these Sundance movies, I felt like I was doing what I wanted to do," he said. "It felt like a reflection of me and the art that I liked."

A self-proclaimed 'snobby brat'

If Joseph Gordon-Levitt's thoughts on "10 Things I Hate About You" and film in general sound pretentious, don't worry, he knows. The actor also told Vanity Fair during the interview that he has the tendency to be a "self-serious, snobby, little brat" about his art, but it seems to work for him. Over the past two decades, Gordon-Levitt has appeared in everything from Sundance darlings to indie rom-coms like "500 Days of Summer," and massive intellectual blockbusters like "Inception." Along the way, he's also won two Primetime Emmy Awards for his YouTube Original Mini-series "Create Together." Although a part of his career will always be linked to "10 Things I Hate About You," I think it's safe to say he's proven himself to be a talented actor who is capable of making serious movies.