Kid from Jurassic Park Grows Up to Be Awesome Adult

Attention holiday shoppers! If you're looking for a present for the TV fan or history buff in your life, run, don't walk to your nearest Best Buy to pick up HBO's The Pacific.
We cherished every minute of The Pacific when it originally aired this spring, but we had a special affection for those stories that involved Joseph Mazzello as Eugene "Sledgehammer" Sledge, a gentle Southern kid who miraculously emerged whole from the crucible of war. We just caught up with Mazzello, whom you might remember from his key role as the little boy in Jurassic Park, and chatted about his experiences on the shoot, the meaning of the series as a whole, and whether or not Steven Spielberg handed him the part on a silver platter:
What have you been doing these years since Jurassic Park?Joseph Mazzello: I was in jail. No, just kidding. [Laughs.]
Hey, it's happened to many young actors.Yeah, I know, I know—that's why it's not that farfetched. But, no, listen, I went to school. I went to USC. I went to film school. I wanted to learn about the other side of the camera a little bit. My parents always instilled in me this feeling of wanting to be a normal person. I never moved out to L.A. as a kid and got into that scene and that whole thing that happens to kid actors that's the reason they go off the deep end. I lived in upstate New York, I went to a regular school, I played kickball—all of the normal things in life were just as important to me as my career. When I got to high school I started turning some things down because I was more interested in regular high school things, as silly as that sounds. And then I wanted to take the SATs, get in [to college] and do the dorm thing and the football games. [But once I got USC] I realized acting is still my number-one thing and still the thing I want to do with my whole life and so I'm trying to do that again.
You were in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park when you were 10 and then you took years off and re-emerged in a project produced by Steven Spielberg. Had he been wanting to work with you again? Where did he fit into this process?Spielberg is, of course, the decision maker at the end of the day, but as much as I wish that were true and he just called me up at home, and said 'Hey, I have this part for you,' he, much like you, didn't think I was acting anymore. He knew I was going to USC because I had seen him a couple years earlier, but he actually told me that on the day that I showed up for my fourth audition for this thing that he looked at his paper and saw my name and that was the first time he even knew I was auditioning for this.
Awww…When I got in the room, yes, he gave me a hug, and it was great to see him, but then I knew it was down to business. Steven Spielberg cares too much about his projects to do any actor a favor when $200 million is on the line. He's way too smart for that. I knew he was going to give me a fair shot, I knew that he had known me from the past and had hired me before, so I probably had a leg up there, but then again, I also started thinking 'If he doesn't hire me then does that mean I'm no good anymore?' or 'Does he think I stink now?' All those thoughts went through my head. Luckily, hey, he liked what I did. I actually had to come back in one more time though because Tom Hanks couldn't make that audition and finally, after the fifth audition, I got the part.

Read the full interview here: