|Famous For: Jurassic Park and The River Wild||Currently Known For: The Pacific, The Social Network and Undrafted|
Currently Known For The Pacific, The Social Network and Undrafted
“People are always like, ‘Oh Jurassic Park is on…’ or ‘Oh, The River Wild is on.’ I actually haven’t seen any of my movies in a long time. Being more self-aware now, and being an adult, I’m a little bit embarrassed to watch them.” Although he might be embarrassed to watch his early work now that he’s 34 years old, Joseph Mazzello certainly has nothing be ashamed of after getting his start in show business in 1990 when he joined Harrison Ford in Presumed Innocent. Going on to star in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, Mazzello didn’t let stardom stand in the way of his education and took a few years away from acting to attend the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Earning his degree in 2005 and returning to Hollywood with credits in The Pacific and The Social Network, let’s check in with Mazzello and learn more about his early career and where he hopes the future will take him!
Born and raised in the Big Apple, Joseph Francis Mazzello III came into the world on September 21, 1983 in Rhinebeck, New York. He spent most of his childhood in Hyde Park where his interest in performing was natural considering his parents owned a local dance and performing arts school where he spent much of his free time playing and working behind the scenes. Learning the ropes early on, Mazzello even snagged a couple of television commercials and made his debut in the 1990 television film, Unspeakable Acts, before he was cast in a small role opposite Harrison Ford in Presumed Innocent. Only seven years old at the time, Mazzello gave an outstanding performance and, by 1992, saw his hard work pay off when he earned a Young Artist Award nomination for playing Bobby in Radio Flyer and a Best Young Actor Award nomination for playing Willy Robbins in Desperate Choices: To Save My Child. And to think… he wasn’t yet 10 years old!
With his talent turning heads in Hollywood, it wasn’t long before Mazzello caught the attention of the legendary Steven Spielberg, whom he first met on the set of Radio Flyer. Although Spielberg first cast him in the starring role of his 1991 film Hook, Spielberg realized that Mazzello was too young for the role but refused to let him slip through his fingers and, instead, cast him as the computer savvy, dinosaur-loving Tim Murphy in Jurassic Park in 1993. Even with Jurassic Park becoming a huge blockbuster and earning over $900 million at box offices worldwide, the experience itself was huge for the 10-year-old Mazzello who credits Spielberg with inspiring him to direct.
“There was a hurricane and Steven Spielberg decided instead of being safe, going underground and making sure he was alive, he was going to film the hurricane,” Mazzello recalled. “So, he went outside and got some shots of the hurricane approaching. That moment was when I knew not only did I want to be an actor, but I probably wanted to be a director, too, which set me on a course to go to college to learn about that, because that kind of dedication is just remarkable.”
Inspired by Spielberg’s dedication, Mazzello won a Young Artist Award for Jurassic Park and made a cameo in The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997 before stepping away from acting to pursue his interests in working behind the scenes. “When I was in high school, my acting career took a backseat for me,” Mazzello said. “I didn’t even have an agent for three years. I just took some time away from it. Again, it’s a credit to my parents, who raised me to feel like all these other things were just as important.” Instead of walking the red carpet, Mazzello took the SATs and went to the prom before enrolling at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts with a recommendation letter from Spielberg himself!
Although he enjoyed his studies, Mazzello knew he still had a passion for acting and snagged bit parts in Raising Helen, The Hollow, CSI and Without a Trace before making his directorial debut in 2007 with the short-film, Matters of Life and Death. Faced with reinventing himself and transitioning from child actor to adult, Mazzello wowed audiences and critics alike in 2010 when he starred in The Social Network. Months later, he worked with Spielberg again and starred in The Pacific after a grueling audition process that lasted seven months until he auditioned for Spielberg himself. “It has changed my life again because I’ve transitioned from being a child actor to being an adult actor,” he said, “and it’s opened up a whole new world for me.”
With a new realm of opportunities in front of him, Mazzello has taken advantage of every offer that’s come his way over the last few years with appearances in G.I. Joe: Retaliation and in popular television series like Justified, Person of Interest and Elementary. In 2016, he even returned to the director’s chair to write, co-produce and star in the sports-comedy drama Undrafted, which was inspired by his brother’s journey into profession baseball. As for what’s next, the 34-year-old will star as John Deacon in Bohemian Rhapsody, which is set to release in 2018, but remains humble even after so much success. In fact, he gives all the credit to his parents for keeping him grounded.
“I think all of it has to do with parenting and keeping your kid grounded, keeping them in the real world and don’t let them get caught up in it,” he says of his successful transition from child actor to adult actor and director. “I always lived in upstate New York in a small town and I never moved out to LA and did the ‘pilot season’ thing. I never immersed myself in it. I would do the job, then I would go back home and live a regular life. I would be playing in the leaves and kickball with my friends, and I just had a very normal life. so, I felt like I got to live two lives. I got to go out and do these amazing things, go to these exotic locations and have all this fun, and then go home and also be a normal kid. I think that balance is what made me always love it.” Still passionate about acting and directing today, we can’t wait to see what’s next for the former Jurassic Park star!