Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s brother Dan – a fire-spinner known to many as “Burning Dan” — passed away a year or so ago, with the cause never determined. It was a mystery at the time, and Joseph hasn’t spoken of it, so it’s kind of passed out of the cultural consciousness and we really haven’t thought much about it. But now the Dark Knight Rises star is speaking out, briefly and in reaction to something that GQ said in their cover story on him.
Joseph, or “Joe” as he likes to be called, took exception to GQ‘s writer Amy Wallace referencing the rumors that Dan’s death was drug-related. However, despite the fact that he was obviously upset, his Tumblr post on the topic is firm but fair, avoiding lashing out and keeping a sense of perspective for the interview as a whole:
First of all, I’d like to thank both of the Jims and everyone else at GQ for putting me on the cover of their magazine this month. That kind of exposure is a huge help to all the work I love to do, and I’m deeply appreciative.
I’m writing this because I have a problem with what their article says about my brother. I’ll be honest, it really made me feel terrible. Here’s a quote:
‘…the elder Gordon-Levitt died of an alleged drug overdose in 2010. “It was an accident” is all Joe will say about that.’
Using the word “alleged” technically allows the writer to say whatever she wants. The “allegations” to which she must be referring were made by a handful of gossip websites. They are factually incorrect according to the coroner’s office and the police department. I don’t like publicly speaking about my brother’s death, but I’m making an exception to correct this irresponsible claim.
By the way, while I asked the writer not to dwell on how he died, I did say quite a bit about how he lived, and how much he means to me. Dan was a brightly positive, genuinely caring, and brilliantly inspiring person, and I liked the idea of such a wide readership learning about him. My parents and I are disappointed with what the article chose to focus on regarding this sensitive subject.
On the one hand, I can feel for the GQ writer. Often you have to go with “alleged” in order to report what people think happened in lieu of any explanation. I’ve used it plenty of times, mostly when discussing unsavory rumors about celebrities, and am inclined to see its use as trying to avoid slander. However, I don’t regularly get access to stars like Joe. If Amy Wallace could at least broach the topic and get the actor to say something terse, then I would have expected her to float along a question like, “When I mention your brother, how is the best way to describe the circumstances of his death?” Though likely that would have been a mood-killer when Joe was doing backflips and sneaking her into his high school.
And yeah, it’s not as sexy to quote him on all of the good in Dan’s life and what it meant to him when his brother was alive. But the fact that Joe could bring up these issues without resorting to name-calling or public embarrassment gives us another perspective on what goes into creating a celebrity profile, and makes me respect him more.
Photo: Joseph Gordon-Levitt