Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dania Ramirez on Premium Rush

How to make a film while riding bikes, the 'Quantum Leap' factor and (of course) that one question about The Dark Knight Rises...

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


Premium Rush is Speed on a bike. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, a rogue bike messenger who rides New York streets with one gear and no breaks. Dania Ramirez plays Vanessa, another messenger who uses a hand brake and needs a more reliable guy. But when a package needs to be there by 7 and there’s bad guys on your tail, Wilee’s the guy to deliver, literally. We got a quick chat with the stars of Premium Rush together. (Possible spoiler for The Dark Knight Rises if you haven’t seen it yet, but I was as vague as possible with the question you want me to ask.)


CraveOnline: We have 10 minutes so this interview will be a premium rush.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Okay.


Is the message of the movie: We should really tip our delivery men and women?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Sure.

Dania Ramirez: [Laughs]


You’ve each experienced people acclaiming your work. How does it feel to have people saying, “Awesome?”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: [Laughs] Great.

Dania Ramirez: Great.


Is that a new form of feedback for you?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Every movie’s unique.

Dania Ramirez: I think every movie’s unique but it’s always great to be celebrated.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I hope that people rather than just watching and saying, “That’s awesome,” I hope that people want to ride bikes. I remember specifically going to see White Men Can’t Jump in a movie theater, coming out and just really wanting to play basketball. Movies really do have the power to do that, even just a fun movie like this that’s not really trying to forward any message or moral per se. But if it inspires people to ride, man, bikes are just about the healthiest thing you can do, both for yourself and for the planet. So I’m all about it.


If White Men Can’t Jump made you want to play basketball, did you ever see Quicksilver back in the day?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I still haven’t seen this movie.  A lot of people brought it up.

Dania Ramirez: We were just talking about that. Everybody comes up to both of us.


I didn’t want to bring it up because obviously Premium Rush isn’t copying it, but thinking about how you might see it in the same context as White Men Can’t Jump.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Yeah, no, but I found especially a lot of people who are really into bikes had seen the movie and brought it up, but I meant to see it. I just didn’t get around to it.


Had you ever thought about bike messengers before this movie?

Dania Ramirez: I mean, I’m originally from the east coast so I grew up being around them all the time. I didn’t really think specifically about that culture. I think it was very cool that we got a chance to explore the culture by finding out about them in preparation for the film. That was really interesting.


Besides the physical aspect of learning to ride, what about the technical side? How long did it take before you could stay where the camera was and not drift out of frame?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Yeah, that was pretty fascinating.  They would mount a camera on the back of a motorcycle and then control the camera from the remote control, either in the van they were driving in or they would have the camera mounted on a crane on the top of a big SUV or they would take little digital cameras and stick them to the bottom of the bike. They did a lot of really cool creative stuff.

Dania Ramirez: That’s one of the things that makes it authentic and realistic really. Even if you went off camera, you could always sort of catch up to the camera again and continue the scene. It was more about us knowing that we had a certain amount of blocks in which we had to deliver our lines. Sometimes you caught a certain line on camera and sometimes you went off but you always sort of found your way back. That’s what makes it feel so authentic and real.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Yeah, but once you get used to doing dialogue while riding, it actually is a huge boost and help to making the scenes feel real and grounded when you have a really engaged physical activity like that.


What was your learning curve as far as hitting marks on a moving vehicle, and saying lines when you might be out of breath?

Dania Ramirez: This was different than hitting a mark. I think a lot of it changed all the time because you’re always riding. You’re delivering your lines while you’re riding the bike. You just always have to be conscious of where the camera was and try to choose where you were at for those particular lines.


Joseph, it’s been exciting to interview you over the years from indie movies to bigger and bigger movies. When did you gain confidence as an actor?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Well, I don't think there’s any one moment. It’s a gradual thing and that fluctuates. Sometimes I feel real confident and sometimes not so. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, always really loved it.


Certainly when I see you do HitRecordJoe shows live, you can really work a crowd.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Oh yeah? Cool, man, thanks.


Both of you came from television, but Joseph you did a “Quantum Leap” and a “Family Ties” episode. What were those experiences as a young actor?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I had a great time, man. I learned a lot. The episode of “Quantum Leap” that I was in was the first time that Scott Bakula got to direct one, so that was really cool, getting to work with him directing me. I don't know, maybe that even eventually led to now I’ve directed something and acted in it at the same time. I hadn’t put that together yet but it’s been a while since I thought of “Quantum Leap” but I had a great time doing it. I’ve always just loved working. That’s always been what motivated me to do this is I just really enjoy the process of doing it.


One Dark Knight Rises question for you, in any other sequel we would assume it’s set up for another one. If this is supposed to be the last one, was there any talk of having you available for something else?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: It’s not really for me to say.

Dania Ramirez: I certainly am looking forward to it, maybe, hopefully.


Would it be a tough call if Christopher Nolan doesn’t direct another one?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: You know, I choose my projects based on if there’s a great script and if there’s a filmmaker that I’m inspired to work with. That’s how I choose all my projects.


At Comic-Con I actually broke that you weren’t doing Little Shop of Horrors. It was widely reported before. Was Warner Brothers solid on you or something?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: No, that’s just the internet repeating rumors.


And there was no G.I. Joe 2 for you?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Nope.


What about shooting Lincoln?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: That was a very cool thing. I’m very grateful to have done that. I haven’t seen any of it yet but I’m quite positive it’s going to be an outstanding movie.


Would you be up for the further adventures of Wilee and Vanessa?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: [Laughs]

Dania Ramirez: [Laughs] I don't think they’re going to be bike messengers much longer.


I thought Wilee’s going to do it forever.

Dania Ramirez: You never know. I’m up for working with Joe again any other time.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Absolutely.

Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz