Few actors have enjoyed success in as wide a range of genres as Joseph Gordon Levitt, from sitcoms to romcoms, to thrillers to dramas. During a retrospective of his career, Levitt recalled one particular project he tried very hard to get out of, which was 10 Things I Hate About Life, the 1999 retelling of The Taming of the Shrew starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles.
"I'll be honest, I was not sold on doing 10 Things I Hate About You when I first read the script. I was like, 'I don't wanna do one of these high school romantic comedies. I want to do serious movies.' That's all I wanted to do when I was that age. I was going to arthouse cinemas and watching movies coming from Sundance. Watching Sling Blade and Reservoir Dogs and Soderbergh and Tarantino. That's what I wanted to do. And 10 Things I Hate About You came around and I was like, 'Nah. NO.'"
As a young actor anxious to be taken seriously, Gordon-Levitt's reluctance to appear in a high-school rom-com was understandable. Even when he was finally convinced that the film could be a valuable opportunity for him, the role in the film that Joseph Gordon-Levitt actually chased was handed over to a different actor.
"A bunch of people in my life, my agent and you know other people were like, 'Are you sure? Just like consider this, this is a pretty good one of these. And you know it would probably be a good thing. Just like try.' I auditioned for two parts when I auditioned for 10 Things I Hate About You. I auditioned for the part I played Cameron, and I also auditioned for the role that I really wanted. That I thought was kind of funny was the character Michael that was played by David Krumholtz. The director offered me the role of Cameron and I was like, 'Uh, ugh.'"
Fortunately, the actor's misgivings proved unfounded. The film received praise for its intelligent take on Shakespeare, and many of the lead cast, far from getting boxed in as high-school comedy actors, went on to have sterling careers. During a past interview regarding the film, Gordon-Levitt had credited the talent of the cast and their closeness for making 10 Things I Hate About You a classic of its genre.
"We all just hung out so much. I think we all just kind of fell in love with each other like we all just really loved hanging out genuinely and I think that's, if I had to guess, I think that's why the movie turned out so good and why people like it so much is because we really, really liked hanging out together and that kind of thing doesn't actually always happen."
"This is, of all the movies that I've done, probably the most outstanding example of that. Of a whole cast all like actually liking each other and hanging out with each other all the time. And that kind of thing shows through."