There are many things you can get out of six years on a sitcom. Cash; a comfort-zone; a catchphrase. Having a career afterwards – especially at a young age – doesn't normally come in the same package. Joseph Gordon-Levitt went from Third Rock from the Sun and Treasure Planet voice-overs to sex and death in Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin and taking punches to avenge his dead girlfriend in Rian Johnson's Hammett-meets-high school film Brick. In San Francisco, Gordon-Levitt spoke about reading screenplays, small-scale moviemaking and the benefits of passion.

Cinematical: When you first read the script for Brick, did you have any – I almost want to say warning – about the nature and character of the material, or did you just dive into it?

I had no idea what the script was; I opened it like any other script, going 'I wonder what this is. …' and by the time I was through page three, I was flabbergasted. People don't write movies like this anymore. People try to create movies through digital effects and camera tricks – and not that there aren't really cool camera tricks in Brick, but none of them are digital. Rian Johnston, the writer-director, he created the world of Brick with his words … and no one tries to use words anymore; it's like a dying art, the wordsmith. And the language that he came up with for Brick is so fun to say that when I was done reading it, I turned over the last page and went to the front again and started reading it again, just because I liked saying it.