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Joseph Gordon-Levitt discusses his first directing gig, 'Don Jon'

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has appeared in films such as 'The Dark Knight Rises' and 'Lincoln' but makes his directorial debut with the movie 'Don Jon,' in which he also stars.

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Of course, there's more to the story: through relationships with two key women, the film explores just what men and women should expect from each other. Scarlett Johansson plays Jon's dream girl — a "dime," he says in his crass 1-10 rating system. Julianne Moore is the quirky, blunt older woman he meets in night school.

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The mere fact that on a low budget — "one-hundredth of a 'Batman' budget," he says — Gordon-Levitt was able to secure such a high-powered cast is a tribute to his growing clout and his network of friends. He wrote the part of Barbara with Johansson in mind, and she was one of the first to read the script.

As for "Boogie Nights" star Moore, her first thought was, "Ugh, porn!"

"But then I realized it wasn't about porn at all," she says. "It's a film about a personal ideology, that real life and authenticity are the most important things. I think he had something really important to say about how people are defined by things."

Ask Gordon-Levitt if he ever doubted that he could, or would, serve as director-writer-star of "Don Jon," and his answer is disarmingly succinct: "Nope!"

For one thing, he explains, he's been making short films for years, ever since he bought himself a 21st birthday present of Final Cut Pro, the video editing software. "I've made literally hundreds," he says. "And a lot of them, I'm in."

As a writer, he adds, he spent five years on the "Don Jon" script, so he felt supremely comfortable with the character. And as an actor, his ease with comedy is obvious — just check out his "Saturday Night Live" stints — a skill he attributes to years on "3rd Rock," which he says was like working in theater. Some of the best scenes in "Don Jon," in fact, are like little plays, centered around the family dinner table.

Finally, he notes, "Whatever people say, filmmaking is an extremely collaborative endeavor, and I was surrounded by really great people."

That may sound like a stock line, but for Gordon-Levitt, collaboration is actually a mantra. As his fans well know, he has an online collaborative production company called hitRECord; earlier this year he announced a partnership with the new cable network Pivot for a hitRECord variety show, featuring films, live performances, and virtually everything else.

Often, movie stars seek distance from their fans, but Gordon-Levitt invites virtually anyone to come join him by submitting their work, or just their opinions.

As if he doesn't already have lots to do, he promises to "be on there every day."

"He's always been very self-directed," sums up Moore.

In more ways than one, clearly.

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