By Adam B. Vary
Updated July 30, 2020 at 05:52 PM EDT

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is no stranger to Sundance — at the 2005 festival alone, the one-time costar of NBC’s 3rd Rock from the Sun shouldered the lead roles in two auspicious U.S. debuts, Mysterious Skin and Brick. But while both those films certainly established Gordon-Levitt’s acting chops and indie cred, the debut of the unconventional love story 500 Days of Summer at this year’s fest could very well be seen as the moment his career launched to the next level. The Fox Searchlight film, due in theaters July 24, received a standing ovation at its premiere last Saturday night, and the word “heartthrob” was tossed around liberally when describing Gordon-Levitt’s performance as a lovelorn greeting card writer struggling to win back his girlfriend Summer (Zooey Deschanel, a Sundance veteran herself).

If that wasn’t enough, this year’s Sundance also marked Gordon-Levitt’s debut as a director (and screenwriter, editor and composer) with his short film Sparks, a rock-and-roll flavored adaptation of an Elmore Leonard short story. And he launched his video community website, which he’s been promoting throughout the festival with an ubiquitous camcorder adorned with the site’s logo. In fact, when I caught up with Gordon-Levitt this Wednesday — after the media din surrounding 500 Days… had ended and he was in town just for screenings of Sparks — the actor used that camera to shoot my video interview with him. It was all quite meta.