Arts it Entertainment
Big Screen/Small Screen
Big Shoes To Fill
Director Jonathan Mostow takes over a popular film franchise.
Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
ith the relentlessness of a
Terminator pursuing its
victim, the fan hounded
Jonathan Mostow at a
convention. "You aren't the original
director of the Terminator movies," he
said. "Are you going to ruin [the fran-
It's a question observers have posed,
albeit more politely, since Mostow
stepped into the oversized shoes vacat-
ed by franchise creator James
Cameron two years ago.
While Cameron's 1984 Terminator
and 1991 sequel redefined the sci-
fi/action hybrid, Mostow has just two
previous feature film credits — one a
submarine thriller, U-571, prompted
by growing up "in the shadow of the
Holocaust," he said.
So even Mostow hesitated when the
call came to direct Terminator 3: Rise
of the Machines after Cameron passed,
following years of legal wrangling over
the rights to his films.
"I thought, 'I'm going to follow in
the footsteps of arguably one of the
most famous directors of our time,'
which was daunting," Mostow said.
"So I thought about it for a few
When he did say yes, his approach
was simple. "I had to put my trepida-
tions aside," he said. "I know people
will compare my movie to Cameron's,
but I can't control any of that. I'm a
fan of his films, so I just focused on
creating a movie that I, as a fan, want-
ed to see."
If Mostow initially seemed an unex-
pected choice for T3, he has a history
of thwarting expectations. Growing up
in a Conservative Jewish family of sci-
entists and classical musicians (his
father was a Yale math professor), the
idea was that he would become an
academic or a cellist.
Instead, he discovered his dad's
windup 8 mm camera and made his
first film around age 12. The day he
turned 16, he secured an usher's job at
his small-town Connecticut movie
At Harvard's highbrow visual studies
program, Mostow's senior thesis — a
horror film with an exploding eyeball
— "was not particularly well-
received," he said.
Not long thereafter, he saw The
Terminator and was riveted by "the
epic stakes juxtaposed against inti-
mate, human drama. But had anyone
told me I'd eventually direct a
Terminator film, I would have fallen
out of my chair," he said.
Instead, Mostow waged a
Terminator-worthy struggle to make it
in Hollywood, sometimes living at the
poverty line or working as "SAT coach
to children of the stars" between tele-
His feature-film big break was
1997's Breakdown, a stranded-in-the-
desert story he decided to write one
day while unemployed and watching
Oprah in his underwear. The film
became a surprise hit and furthered his
TV movie reputation as a director of
taut but realistic thrillers.
U-571, about a plot to swipe
Germany's Enigma encryption device,
was inspired by a childhood in which
Hitler "was still a lingering horror,"
His father had taught trigonometry
to artillery officers who used the math
to blitz Nazis; an uncle had been shot
down and killed over North Africa.
Although Mostow engaged in
painstaking research to re-create World
War II sub life, English newspapers
indignantly pointed out that the Brits,
not the Yanks, stole the Enigma in 1941.
More questionable press followed
after Mostow signed on to Terminator
3; even star Arnold Schwarzenneger
told Entertainment Weekly he initially
Mostow, meanwhile, had his own
concerns. Since T3 was one of an
unprecedented 23 sequels slated for
2003, including Matrix Reloaded and
X-Men 2, he worried it was just anoth-
er studio attempt to cash in on a per-
ceived "sure thing."
"I didn't even read the script for a
while because I was skeptical," he said.
He changed his mind when producers
agreed to let him help rework the
"I've always liked them
because they're so colorful.
At home, he doesn't have
an aquarium, "but we're
trying to set up a terrari-
um," says Alexander.
The fish kid's on
terra firma right
to do what he
does best in
whales and dolphins.
"I'd like to be a marine
biologist, something I've always want-
ed to do," says Alexander — even
before he found Nemo.
Alexander Gould, 9, voices "Nemo" in
"Finding Nemo." Other Jewish voices in
the film belong to Albert Brooks as
Nemo's father, 'Marlin," and Brad
Garrett as the voice of "Bloat."
Its boy meets fish as Alexander Gould voices the title
character in "Finding Nemo."
The Jewish Exponent
lexander Gould is as good as
gil as the voice of Nemo in
Disney/Pixar's tidal wave of
a summer splash, Finding
Nemo. The film took in more than
$200 million in its first three weeks at
the box office.
Just how did they find this pre-bar
mitzvah kid with the kind voice and
veteran's cool who portrays a clownfish
stuck in a dentist's aquarium as his
father (voice of Albert Brooks) searches
the high seas for his A-plus progeny?
"The director said I have a good atti-
tude, that I don't act like an actor, but
like a normal everyday kid," he says.
It's not every day that a 9-year-old
kid gets a chance to star in a summer
action movie, and it's been a sea
change in his young life, says
Alexander, nevertheless a veteran of a
variety of TV shows and other movies.
The little fish blowing
them all away is a celebrity
of sorts among his
friends. Yet some
change: "I don't
eat fish," says
sees it their
way, he says of his
seaworthy friends. Alexander is
involved in an organization that moni-
tors and protects coral-reef life.
"They're cool," he says of clownfish.
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