Jon Favreau
Jon Favreau at the 'Cowboys and Aliens' premiere. Photo by Reuters
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Jon Favreau, director of the big summer tentpole film, “Cowboys and Aliens,” grew up in the Forest Hills section of New York, the son of a Jewish mother and an Italian/French Canadian father.

He got his first break with a starring role in “Rudy,” the 1993 film about the little Notre Dame football player who could. He achieved prominence, however, as writer and star of the 1996 indie favorite, “Swingers.” Other roles followed, but like everyone in Hollywood, what he really wanted to do was direct.

Were you raised Jewish?

I was definitely brought up around Jewish culture. My grandparents kept kosher and I went to Hebrew school. Then when I was 13, a year or so after my mother passed away, I was bar mitzvahed. I had an aliyah, but I never actually read from the Torah.

You’ve pretty much done it all: acting, writing and directing. Which do you prefer?

I enjoy the directing most. I’ll still do cameos for people. And I’ll definitely perform when I’m promoting a film. It’s definitely an asset to be an actor when you’re doing publicity. But the idea of doing someone else’s movie and working on three or four projects a year doesn’t appeal to me.

Were you intimidated working with Spielberg and Howard, two of the most successful directors in Hollywood? Did you need to resist the impulse to wear a WWSD (What Would Steven Do) bracelet?

Yes, of course it was [intimidating]. I definitely considered their sensibilities as we were developing the project. But I was also collaborating with the actors on the set. They had a tremendous amount of input, as my cast always does. Then in post-production Steve and Ron had input, but they weren’t very demanding.

Read more on the Forward.