Gordon-Levitt – the 50th recipient of the award presented annually by Harvard University’s distinguished theater troupe – took the good-natured ribbing in stride, even as the evening’s emcees poked fun at his Oscar snubs and less-than-stellar box-office returns.
The decision by the actor – who starred last year in The Walk – to drop out of Columbia University to return to acting was a recurring joke, with one of the emcees telling the audience at Harvard’s Farkas Hall that he knew the reason behind it.
“He got upset when classmates didn’t ask him ‘Why don’t you get back into acting?’ ” he said, eliciting laughs from the crowd – and from the actor himself.
Joesph Gordon-Levitt (right)
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The roast host added that James Franco was first offered the part played by Gordon-Levitt in 2010’s sci-fi thriller Inception.
“He didn’t take it because he was too busy actually graduating from Columbia University,” the emcee quipped.
Gordon-Levitt, 34, demonstrated a great sense of human throughout the 40-minute roast, and rose to all of the challenges thrown his way by the troupe members. He performed a gyrating lap dance for a man in drag posing as a Russian porn star, harkened back to his role in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises by wearing a skin-tight Robin costume over his suit and stripped down to his shirt and underpants as he performed a spot-on impression of friend and collaborator Seth Rogen.
While in character as Rogen, he flung some zingers at the Harvard students, including asking the question “Do you actually have to take tests or just have rich parents to get into this school?”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (left)
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At the request of one of the performers, Gordon-Levitt wrote – and later sang – “10 Things I Hate About Me” (a play on 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You). The list included being Jewish, going to an Ivy League school, being circumcised and being sexy.
At the end of the performance, Gordon-Levitt, who spent six seasons (1996-2001) on NBC’s multiple Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series, 3rd Rock from the Sun, received the prized pudding pot and, getting serious for a moment, thanked the theater students for their hospitality and said he was impressed by them. “I really noticed a confidence, optimism, passion, [and] worldliness – as well as a sense of humor,” the actor said. “It makes me feel really good to see that people who are younger than me are doing great.”
Later, Gordon-Levitt spoke with the media about his upcoming movie Snowden, in which he plays Edward Snowden, and about a musical comedy in which he’s planning to costar in with Channing Tatum.
The new father – he and wife Tasha McCauley, a tech entrepreneur, have a 6-month-old son – said fatherhood is treating him “very well,” but did not elaborate, saying he prefers to keep his family life private.
Earlier in the day, Gordon-Levitt had a two-hour lunch at Harvest in Harvard Square with a group of about 15 students from the theater troupe.
“It was super casual and he was so nice,” said Hasty Pudding Theatricals President Bobby Fitzpatrick, 21, a senior from Boston. “We talked about our ideal super powers and he said he would want to be “Mr. E” – like “mystery” – and have empathy for everyone.”
“Also, he’s super in tune with science and innovation,” Fitzpatrick said of Gordon-Levitt, who developed hitRECord, a popular online forum that allows people to collaborate on creative projects and which has spawned an Emmy-winning TV series.
After lunch, the storied Harvard group broke from tradition by holding a public event on a platform outside the Hasty Pudding Clubhouse honoring Gordon-Levitt as the 50th Man of the Year. With the backdrop of a steady snowfall, he was welcomed by the Lexington Minute Men, had a make-believe lunch date and shared a lengthy kiss with “Lindsey Graham” (Harvard senior Max McGillivray, 22, from North Andover, Massachusetts, in drag), wore a balloon cake hat, and received a key to the city from Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons.
Gordon-Levitt joined a list of pudding pot recipients that includes Clint Eastwood, Neil Patrick Harris, Robert De Niro, and Chris Pratt, who won last year. Last week, Scandal star Kerry Washington was honored as the Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year.