Justin Chatwin talks to Tim Nasson
New York City – Every summer delivers to the multiplex near you a new and promising “Rising Star.” Hmmm. Let’s back up a few years. 2000! The seventeen year old star (at the time) of “Almost Famous,” Patrick Fugit. Who? OK. Let’s try 2002 and 2004! He had two chances with “Spider-Man” but James Franco hasn’t created so much as a ripple in Hollywood otherwise. Nick Stahl. Can you get any hotter, at least in the white trash sense of the word? Stahl had two chances in the early 00s. First with “In the Bedroom,” opposite three Academy Award nominees for that movie- Sissy Spacek, Marisa Tomei and Tom Wilkinson – and opposite Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator 3.” 2004! Luke Mably. The Prince from “The Prince & Me.” Gorgeous, breathtakingly beautiful. But both he and his movie came and went without so much as a whimper.
Will Justin Chatwin go the route of other Spielberg kid actors such as Henry Thomas (E.T.), Charlie Korsmo (“Hook”), Desreta Jackson (“The Color Purple” as young Celie) and Joseph Mazello (“Jurassic Park”), or will be become the next Christian Bale or Drew Barrymore?
Well, I had the chance to sit down and chat with Justin a couple of days before the theatrical release of “War of the Worlds” and, it’s hard to tell what his destiny is.
Chatwin walks into a suite at The Essex House, all six feet of him, (not the five foot, ten inches he has been reported to stand), tanned and looking like any college age boy you’d bump into on campus in Boston or California; two weeks worth of facial hair – yes, a full brown beard – wristbands, bracelets, a button-up shirt, rolled up to his elbows, unbuttoned to a point which reveals some hip neckwear, (a very thick rope necklace), jeans, and sneakers – and a New York Yankees baseball cap, over his full head of wavy, dark brown hair.
Justin is not used to such a rigorous morning and afternoon, it seems. He has to answer questions from an inquisitive press, over and over again. When he sits with me, he plays with his black leather wristband, at one point taking it off, laying it on the table in front of him, and then picking it up and putting it back on a few minutes later. He is leaning back on his chair, its two front legs, up in the air. He seems not rude, not nervous, just out of his element.
“Why are you wearing a Yankees hat today, when in the movie you wear a Red Sox hat? You need to pick a team,” I say to him, lightening things up, letting him know I am from Boston. (Chatwin’s character, Robbie Ferrier, goes on a journey from New Jersey to Boston in search of his mother in “War of the Worlds.”)
“Dude,” he says, sheepishly. “I wore the Red Sox hat in the movie. That is forever on screen. Actually can you picture me walking around NYC with a Red Sox cap on?” He has a point. The city’s baseball fans, especially Yankee fans, are vicious and rabid.
Chatwin, who was born in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada on October 31, 1982 pretty much only acted on his birthday each year, dressing up in costume on Halloween, trick-or-treating with friends, until 2001. It was that year that he got his first taste of ‘acting.’ “I never had the intention of acting, let alone moving to Hollywood, or ever being in a big budget movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring as Tom Cruise’s son,” he beams.
“I was dared by a friend to go on an audition for a TV show in Canada,” he explains, about his foray into acting. “I took the dare, not knowing what I was getting into. I was called back and hired for a show and during the past four years have been on dozens of TV shows in Canada, popular ones, but none anyone in the United States has ever seen or heard of. I still can’t believe Steven Spielberg picked me for his movie.” Amazingly, or not – this is Hollywood – Chatwin plays the fifteen year old son of Tom Cruise. “It wasn’t too hard playing seven years younger than I am but it was a little weird. I mean, seven years ago, when I was fifteen, seems like such a long time ago to me.
Whether being cast in one of 2005’s most expensive films and most successful films will help or hurt or do nothing for his career remains to be seen. But, Chatwin’s next film, “The Chumscrubber,” is finished shooting and will be released in August. He is lucky in one sense that “War of the Worlds” was the first of the films to be released since it will give him huge, international exposure. “The Chumscrubber” is an indi – low-budget film, albeit with an all-star cast including Glenn Close, Ralph Fiennes, Alison Janney, Jamie Bell and Carrie Ann Moss.
“‘The Chumscubber’ couldn’t be more different than ‘War of the Worlds,'” laughs Chatwin. “It’s an ensemble, whereas ‘War’ is pretty much just three, maybe four main characters. And it cost about 1/1000th of what ‘War’ did, too.”
While Chatwin plays a rebel son in “War of the Worlds,” he plays a criminal high school student in “The Chumscrubber.”
“He is the leader of the trio of drug dealers hot on the trail of one’s missing stash, who will stop at nothing to take his former boss’s place. He’s the son of a bully who has become a bully himself, and is merciless towards his enemies and not very nice to his friends. He’s single-minded and stupid, the worst kind of kid. But he’s got perfect eyesight and can identify the model and manufacturer of any plane that happens to fly by. It’s a gift,” reveals Chatwin, of his upcoming role. “It’s not a family film. It’s rated R.”