This Week's Cover: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the amazing, Technicolor dream career

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For Joseph Gordon-Levitt, pushing buttons is the ultimate turn-on.

And we’re not just talking about the little red one you find on a recording device.

The former kid actor turned leading man is obsessed with cameras, and after growing up in front of them, he’s now getting behind them in a big way. With his sexy writing and directing debut, Don Jon, hitting theaters this Friday, and his do-it-yourself online storytelling operation hitRECord.org currently building a new TV show, he has become one of the most innovative creative forces working in Hollywood.

“I love making things. I always have,” Gordon-Levitt tells Entertainment Weekly. “When I was a kid, all I really cared about was that creative process. I didn’t care if anybody liked the work I was doing or if it meant anything to anybody. I was frankly doing it out of my own selfish enjoyment.”

Gordon-Levitt’s mother, Jane, talks about the fiasco of a first job that inexplicably made her 6-year-old boy fall in love with the movie business. And the actor, who became famous on NBC’s 3rd Rock from the Sun, explains how quitting acting for a period made him care more about his choices.

“I realized that the books I read — and the shows and movies that I watched, and songs that I heard — inspired me and helped me get through my life,” he says. “It’s meaningful to me when something I’ve done is meaningful to someone else.”

He tells EW exactly why he was so invested in Don Jon, the R-rated sexual satire in which he plays a New Jersey tough-guy who is as preoccupied with the fantasy of porn as his girlfriend (Scarlett Johansson) is obsessed with treacly Hollywood rom-coms. “I wanted to talk about how media influenced people’s expectations,” Gordon- Levitt says. “Pornography is a huge, huge part of our media culture. … Whether it’s rated X or approved by the FCC to sell Doritos, the message is the same.”

We also went behind the scenes as Gordon-Levitt assembled his upcoming variety show, hitRECord on TV, which starts airing Jan. 18 on the Pivot network. The website he founded seven years ago seeks to connect talented people from all over the world, regardless of their connections to Hollywood, for the shared goal of putting their skills to work making movies, books, songs, and now — of course — a television program.

It’s no surprise that the logo for hitRECord is a big red power button.

“That stands for my own philosophy about being creative, and pushing the button, and getting started,” he says. There’s also a deeper, more personal reason hitRECord is so special to him: Gordon-Levitt opens up about the death of his only brother, Dan, who co-founded the movement, and still inspires him to encourage others to push their own buttons, and tell their own stories.

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For more on Joseph Gordon-Levitt — including how you (yes, YOU) can join his hitRECord filmmaking movement — pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly on sale Friday and check out an exclusive interview with Gordon-Levitt on our Facebook page.

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