Joseph Leonard Gordon-Levitt (born February 17, 1981) is an American actor whose career as both a child and adult has included television series and theatrical films. He is known for his roles in the 2009 indie (500) Days of Summer and Christopher Nolan's sci-fi Inception. The former earned him a Golden Globe nomination. Beginning in commercials as a young child he made his film debut in 1992's Beethoven. Gordon-Levitt subsequently co-starred in the television sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996–2001) as the young Tommy Solomon. After a hiatus during which he attended Columbia University, Gordon-Levitt left television for film acting, appearing in various independent films, beginning with the 2001 film Manic, followed by critically acclaimed performances in 2004's Mysterious Skin, 2005's Brick, and 2007's The Lookout. He runs an online collaborative production company titled HitRECord.
Gordon-Levitt was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in Sherman Oaks. His family is Jewish. His father, Dennis Levitt, was once the news director for the Pacifica Radio station, KPFK-FM. His mother, Jane Gordon, ran for the United States Congress in California during the 1970s for the Peace and Freedom Party; she met Dennis Levitt while she was working as the program guide editor for KPFK-FM. Gordon-Levitt's maternal grandfather, Michael Gordon, was a Hollywood film director between the 1940s and 1970s, known for helming the 1959 Doris Day/Rock Hudson film Pillow Talk. Gordon-Levitt had an older brother, Dan, who was a photographer and fire spinner; he was born in 1974 and died in October 2010.
Gordon-Levitt joined a musical theater group at the age of four and played the Scarecrow in a production of The Wizard of Oz. Subsequently, he was approached by an agent and began appearing on television and in commercials for Sunny Jim peanut butter, Cocoa Puffs, Pop-Tarts, and Kinney Shoes.