Alex D. Linz:
Home Alone III Star Stirs Up the Jungle
Ten-year-old Alex D. Linz has been a professional performer for half his life. He has already known career disappointment: he didn't get to play Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, the role every boy in the world wanted. But that's just about the only thing that didn't go Linz's way in the past few years.
The voice of young Tarzan in Disney's summer feature has foiled crooks in Home Alone 3, stolen scenes from George Clooney in One Fine Day, and outspelled his peers in Shirley MacLaine's directing debut Bruno. In between these and other films, he's been playing football, collecting Pokemon figures, and attending school like his peers - most of whom are bummed that they couldn't be Anakin Skywalker, either, so he's in good company.
Linz was hired to play young Tarzan nearly three years ago; it takes that long to put a Disney animated film together. "I knew the story, and I had seen a bit of the 1940s movie," the young actor recalls. "A lot of people know the story of Tarzan - they're in a shipwreck, his parents get killed by a jaguar, he grows up with the apes, then the girl comes - kind of the basic story, and I knew it pretty well." Having watched some previous adaptations, Linz prefers Disney's version of the tale. "It just got better and better as it went along."
In the new animated film, Tarzan lives among wild animals and enjoys life in the jungle, swinging like a monkey through the treetops and crawling like a gorilla on all fours...but he also surfs on the branches and flips Xena-like past adversaries. When he meets humans for the first time and must defend the only family he knows, Tarzan must choose where he belongs. It's a typical Disney story along the lines of The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules - a young hero must find his place in the world, and even though he feels like a misfit, he realizes his unique value.
Linz plays Tarzan until the character is around the actor's own age; then Tony Goldwyn takes over the role. The younger performer never met Goldwyn, nor did he get to work with Glenn Close, Phil Collins, or any of the other big names attached to the project. "When you do a voice for an animated movie, you work in the studio alone," he explains. "First you do your voice, then they make a picture to match your voice."
Despite Tarzan's unusual backstory, however, Linz had no trouble relating to the character. "I'm really energetic and hyper, and I like climbing on everything, so I get where he's coming from." The actor was shown sketches of the character shortly after he got the role, then watched the animation evolve.
"Tarzan pretty much looked the same way from the beginning. I got to see a movie screening that wasn't completely done yet, there was still a little bit of black and white, but most of it was in color and it looks really cool." Linz also got a signed sketch of his character from the lead artist. "They tell you how they want you to say certain things, like what the situation's going to be. They try to make it as vivid of a picture in your mind as possible because that's the best way to be able to say it right."
Though the film features music by Phil Collins which has been getting a lot of advance attention, and although Linz loves to sing, he doesn't perform music in the movie - unlike Disney's Hercules and Mulan, Tarzan doesn't actually sing. That was fine with the actor, who had plenty to concentrate on as it was. "When you do a voice for a movie, you have to take all your acting ability and focus it on what you sound like. So I think it's easier than live action, but it's different."
A fan of Disney films and the animated show South Park as well as the original Star Wars trilogy and Blade Runner, of which he owns the director's cut, Linz also enjoys comedy like This Is Spinal Tap, Austin Powers, and Waiting for Guffman. When I spoke to him, several days before the opening of The Phantom Menace, he already had tickets for the new movie.
"My favorite science fiction film is Contact, my favorite action movie is The Matrix which is sort of science fiction - it's a cool story," he notes. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas top the list of directors with whom Linz would like to work. Yet his favorite director so far was Shirley MacLaine, in her directorial debut. "Bruno was the most serious role I had played. I think she has been the best director I've ever had. And also, because she's had out of body experiences and stuff, she's kind of my spiritual guide. When I have a problem, I go talk to her!"
Working with big names like Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates can be intimidating, "but normally they're all down to earth and it's fun." An actor since the age of five, the only child in his family "always liked to perform, in the mall sometimes I would just break out in song." His mother had a friend who was an agent, and the young performer was soon getting called for auditions. "Then you get hooked up, and you get commercials, and commercials lead to shows, and shows lead to movies, and movies lead to more movies."
After a TV debut in Danielle Steel's Vanished and a film debut as Pfeiffer's young son in the romantic comedy One Fine Day, Linz was honored with the ShoWest Young Star af Tomorrow Award, and he also received a Young Star of the Year Award for Home Alone III. His additional television credits include a recurring role on The Young and The Restless as well as a guest appearance on Lois & Clark.
In choosing parts, Linz reads the scripts with his parents; "I look for good writing, a cool story, a decent part, and a good director." Though he wants to keep acting for as long as he can, that's only the beginning of the young man's ambitions. "What I want to do is, I want to act, and when I go to college, I either want to go to UCLA or UCSB, I want to get serious...but first I want to play pro football for the Packers," he announces. "And I also want to get a Ph.D. in physics and philosophy."
In the meantime, his interests include football, skateboarding, video games, yo-yos, biking and kayaking. Linz attends regular school hours, which can make his schedule rather busy, and he tries to make time for charity work. "I was in a Home Alone thing for kids with AIDS at Planet Hollywood, at a screening I gave out stuff and signed autographs. When charity events come, I take them; I wish more of them would come. "
His favorite thing about being an actor? "Getting to meet people and being able to entertain people." Tarzan may make his voice as well known as his face.