The actor faces death head-on in his upcoming film 7500. It's not the first time he's done so.

By Omar Sanchez
June 16, 2020 at 11:00 AM EDT
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Take a look at Joseph Gordon-Levitt's filmography and you'll find that most of his recent characters have one distinct similarity: they love testing fate. He had only a 50 percent chance of living in 50/50. He perilously balanced on a high wire for The Walk. Don't get us started on Looper. There's Inception, duh. Oh, did we mention he played Death himself in Hesher? 

Gordon-Levitt recognizes this trend. His next death-defying role is in 7500, which hits streaming on Amazon Prime June 18. Speaking to EW, the actor first mentions the mystery of death as an enticing place for exploration. Maybe that's why he keeps coming back to it. But then, he takes a pause.

"If there's one lesson to take from all this that we're going through today, it's to be grateful for every day you've got," he tells EW.

7500 takes flight with Gordon-Levitt starring as an American airline pilot who fends off a terrorist attack 30,000 feet in the air, in real-time. There's no distraction from the harrowing situation, no flashback or dream sequence. There is only one major storyline besides the attack: His wife, the mother of his child, is on the plane with him.

Gordon-Levitt had to work with director Patrick Vollrath since he saw the 2015 short film Everything Will Be Okay, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Live Action Short. Gordon-Levitt was captivated by Vollrath's filmmaking process. "When I talked to him about how he made his short film, he told me about this pretty unorthodox way that he likes to do things," Gordon-Levitt says. "Where the script really becomes a springboard. He likes to leave the camera running for a long, long time. Let the actors just really immerse themselves in the reality of the story. And improvise. Just be there."

The actor's 7500 character Tobias is in a claustrophobia-inducing conundrum from the get-go. He must decide whether to be a hero by trying to take on the terrorists with the passengers or do as he's told and stay in the cockpit for fear of complete hijacking. Throughout its 92-minute run time, that moral quandary proves unrelenting. "One of my favorite movies is Lifeboat," Levitt says of the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock drama. "When you can constrain the setting like that, it really reveals a lot about the human story." Levitt adds, "This is an art movie. To be perfectly honest, you know sometimes distributors of this movie will call it a thriller. And I think they're so wrong. It's just not that. It never was that."

Don't expect the movie to be "typical Hollywood entertainment," Levitt says. The cast and crew is "steeped in the tradition of European art films," as evidenced by the presence of Viennese cinematographer Sebastian Thaler.

The climax of the film puts Tobias face-to-face with death in an encounter with a young, conflicted, and erratic terrorist named Vedat (Omid Memar). It's a sequence that highlights how complex the "good vs. evil" trope can be. Levitt says, "It's telling us a complicated story where it's all about the shades of gray. It's not black and white. It's not heroes versus villains."

When reflecting on his own eventual death, he admits he has a fear of what lies beyond. "I love living. I feel really really grateful for every day I'm alive. I never want it to end," he says.

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