Joseph Gordon-Levitt ‘inspired’ by VR, Ponders the Role of the Protagonist

As a brand new medium that iterates on film, videogames and more, virtual reality (VR) is attracting the attention of high-profile names from all kinds of industries. Inception actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the latest star to get attached to the tech, and was present at last week’s Sundance Film Festival where Oculus VR itself unveiled the latest work from Oculus Story Studio. Addressing the crowd at the show, Gordon-Levitt noted that he was ‘inspired’ by VR as he spoke about the role of the protagonist in this new medium.


VR Scout recorded the actor’s speech in which he reasoned: “The question is how is virtual reality going to change storytelling? And I thought just now I’d sort of thing about one particular element or device in storytelling that goes back forever, and one that I’m personally quite interested in being an actor. And that is the device of being a protagonist. What’s going to happen to the protagonist in virtual reality? This is a really interesting question to me.”

He continued, talking about the role of the protagonist in movies and theatre and how that could evolve here. “From what I’ve gathered so far it seems there’s almost like a fork in the road,” Gordon-Levitt said. “There’s almost two different branches. And, in some of the VR that I’ve seen I as the viewer have watched the protagonist, and then in some of the VR experiences I am the protagonist and those are two very different things, right? And the ones where I watch the protagonist, those are closer to movies or actually they’re probably even closer to theatre.”

He later added: “When you are the protagonist, that’s completely different from watching the protagonist. And I feel like– I don’t know but I feel like that’s where VR really becomes its own self and is no longer deriving itself from movies and theatre and stuff and is doing something completely new is when I, the viewer, I am the protagonist. But I have no idea how that’s going to work because how do you tell a story if you, the storyteller, can’t present the protagonist? If the viewer is controlling the protagonist how do you tell a story where at the beginning the protagonist is one way and then he or she goes on a journey and learns something and by the end of the story is new, is changed. I don’t know how you do that.”

He concluded, noting that the only way to work these issues out will simply be to ‘try stuff’ and make experimental projects. “And that’s why it’s so cool just to see you guys making so much stuff and trying things and seeing how it feels to experience them and watch them and it inspires the hell out of me. And all I can say is if I can jump in, if I can be of some assistance, call me up because I can’t wait to get involved with this stuff.”

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