Twenty-five years after “Jurassic Park,” life’s finally found a way to address one of the movie’s most head-scratching moments.
Let’s set the scene: Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are struggling to hold a door closed, as pursuing raptors paw at the other side. Ellie desperately tries to wrangle a gun lying nearby on the floor, but it’s just out of her reach. Acting fast, child hacker Lex (Ariana Richards) tries to activate the door locks on the Unix system. Her brother Tim … just stands there.
Well, at one point Tim does jump up and down. But, for the most part, he just stands behind his sister while Alan and Ellie struggle. Over the years, the odd moment has inspired some frustrated parodies. But none answered the question: Why, Tim? Why?
“Mistakes were made, OK? Mistakes were made” Joe Mazzello, the actor who played Tim, recently told me.
“It was a high-pressure situation,” he noted. “Maybe Dr. Grant didn’t want an 8-year-old boy handling a gun. That’s one theory, but all I have to say is… I wasn’t a complete bozo in the movie. Tim at least understood, ’Hey, don’t shine the light in the T-Rex’s face.′ So I’ll give myself credit for that one.”
“Maybe the gun thing was a mistake,” he added, “but all’s well that ends well.”
And it has ended up pretty well for Mazzello. Since his “Jurassic Park” days, the actor has appeared in high-profile projects like “The Social Network” and “The Pacific.” In his latest role, he’s a dead ringer for Queen bassist John Deacon in the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
In our interview, the actor explained how he got the part in the recently released, Rami Malek-led movie and why his spot-on John Deacon look even had him confused. And he continued to humor my “Jurassic Park” questions, including another age-old conundrum: Why didn’t Tim just climb through the electric fence?
So you look exactly like Queen bassist John Deacon. How did you end up playing him?
It was a pretty unusual process. I was in London when it was announced that Rami Malek was going to play Freddie, and I’ve known Rami for years, so I thought that was really cool. I was with my manager and he was like, “Hey, I actually know one of the producers. Let’s go and see them because they’re in London.” He sort of did a soft pitch of me at a bar and was like, “Hey, you should put Joe in your movie.” They were like, “Oh, do you play guitar?” And I was like, “Not as good as Queen,” and they were like, “OK, hmm.” I was like, well this is never happening, so I basically forgot about it. I appreciate my overzealous manager, but it’s not happening.
Then it was probably about three weeks. I got a text from my manager again saying, “Hey, guess what? They’re interested in you for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ You look a lot like John Deacon the bassist.” I did a little Google search of John Deacon and then immediately called my mother and said, “Mom, where were you in 1983? You have some explaining to do.” This guy could def be my dad.
Wow, that’s crazy. So can we confirm John Deacon is not your dad?
I haven’t taken a DNA test but yeah, no. It is weird though, isn’t it? At one point, if I just squint my eyes a little bit, kind of bring my lip out, I sort of know how to hold my face to look like him and move like him, and before you know it it’s really uncanny.
[Queen drummer Roger Taylor] saw a photo of me in the makeup trailer one day, and he was like, “Oh, I’ve never seen that photo of John.” And it’s like, “No, that’s actually Joe.”
What was it like during the Mike Myers cameo? In the movie he’s playing a producer who’s discouraging “Bohemian Rhapsody,” saying no one will ever want to play it in a car, which is clearly giving a nod to how he rocks out to it in “Wayne’s World.”
I am a lifelong fan of Mike Myers. I think I fit the Mike Myers fan profile pretty good, and so it was a very cool thing… just to watch him work. He came on set in character, in costume. I didn’t know it was him at first, which was very funny. And then I went, “Oh crap. That’s actually Mike Myers.”
No way. How long did it take to recognize him?
It only took like maybe 30 seconds, but still, it was long enough to be like, “Oh wait a minute. Oh my God. Mike Myers is in the room.” What was really cool about it is even though he was only on set for three days, he could’ve been like… he comes in, does a cameo, he tells some jokes, he gets out of there. But he cared so deeply about making it great and getting the speeches right, and if he flubbed the lines, he’d go, “No, let’s do it again.” He just wanted it to be so perfect. It was just cool to see that even in a small featured cameo role, he took his job so seriously and cared so deeply about the work.
He’s passionate about Queen. A lot of people are, which may have been part of the reason there was so much controversy when the trailers came out and there were claims that the film was straightwashing Mercury’s sexuality. As an actor, how did you feel about that? And how did you feel about how the movie handled it?
It was funny when that first trailer came out, because I just feel like nothing could be further from the truth about the movie that we made… I think a lot of people who felt that way felt different once they saw the film. I certainly do.
I don’t think there was any sort of straightwashing at all. I think it’s a very truthful telling of Freddie Mercury’s life. It would be untruthful if we didn’t talk about the Mary Austin part of his life. He was engaged to a woman. She is the only person who knows where his ashes are, so this is someone who is deeply, deeply important to his life. She still runs his estate and lives in his home, so that all had to be dealt with. We had to tell that portion of his life, and then you see him go down a really bad path. You see some bad gay relationships and some very good gay relationships. Literally, our story ends with him introducing his boyfriend to his family and them being accepting of him.
[Freddie’s boyfriend Jim Hutton] says in the movie, “Come back when you realize you love yourself,” and that had to be Freddie’s journey. He had to accept who he was and come to terms with it and embrace it. So you really see the entire journey of Freddie Mercury and his personal life. I actually felt like we handled it really well, and just because you don’t get explicit or graphic about certain things, that’s not the same thing as not dealing with it head-on.
Michael Jackson is a part of your character’s story, since Jackson apparently convinced Queen to release the John Deacon song “Another One Bites The Dust” as a single. There’s also obviously a lot of David Bowie in Queen’s story. Were there ever scripts where they were included as characters? What were other Queen moments that maybe didn’t make the final movie?
There was an early draft with Sid Vicious in it. Apparently he and Freddie got into a little bit of a fight, but that was a draft before I was even attached. There was never a version of it, though, with David Bowie or Michael Jackson that I’m aware of. The script’s been kicked around for 10 years. It’s possible, but not that we filmed.
You’ve also been in “The Social Network.” Have you ever met your real-life counterpart in that movie, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz.
I never met Dustin. I think initially the Facebook guys were not too keen on the movie coming out. I think they came around to it pretty quickly though, because it was a pretty fun movie and successful. I don’t think it was necessarily damning toward anyone. I think it’s a fairly fair depiction of who these guys are. But it would be really great, if he owns 6 percent of the company, if he wanted to finance a movie I was in or a movie I want to direct. That would be really great.
How do you feel about Facebook and social media now?
I remember being on Facebook… and I had no clue what it was going to become. My girlfriend at the time wanted me to sign on, so my profile was just like, teasing her. Basically making fun of her. Before I knew it I suddenly started getting thousands of friend requests, and I was like, “What is going on?” And it turned out some blog was like, “Hey, the kid from ‘Jurassic Park’ is on Facebook, and here’s a link to his profile.” I suddenly realized, “Whoa, you put something on the internet, and it’s forever.” And these pictures and my life are something that I have to recognize has to be guarded a little bit tighter.
Speaking of “Jurassic Park,” one other question I have is: Why didn’t Tim just climb through the electric fence?
Man, do you know what’s funny? I love heights. I’m like the exact opposite, so when we did that scene and we’re supposed to be climbing, I climbed up faster than anyone and got to the top and suddenly everyone had a freakout. Steven Spielberg ran out from video village and was like, “No, no, no, no, no! Joey, Joey, come down slowly. Slowly drop down. Everyone was terrified that I was going to get hurt, and I was up there like it was a jungle gym, having the time of my life.
Yeah, I think that maybe when they made the fence they didn’t realize how small I was. That probably, yeah, I could’ve fit through, but I think in the closeups you actually see a different fence. You actually see that it was a little bit smaller. In this day and age, with blu-ray and high definition, yeah, you maybe see some flaws. But let’s suspend disbelief and not try to get too far in the weeds.
Have you seen the new “Jurassic World” movies?
I actually haven’t seen the most recent one. I have to be honest. But I am loving that they are so successful and that a younger generation is really getting into “Jurassic Park,” because I think it’s such a great franchise. And so I have nothing but love for those movies. Yeah, you never know. [It’d be] a fun thing maybe if Tim Murphy reappeared, but that is not up to me. So I guess we’ll see what happens.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and flow.