When friends discover that Javan Tahir’s father played the role of bad guy Raza in the recently released big-screen version of Marvel Comic’s “Iron Man,” the first thing they want to know is whether or not his dad acts like that at home.
In reality, Faran Tahir, 45, is more likely to play the role of volunteer crossing guard at Carmel Creek School where Javan is a fourth-grade student.
“Iron Man” is one of several film credits accrued by Tahir who began acting more than 20 years ago, but for son Javan, who played the role of “Gulmira Kid,” it was his celluloid debut.
“It’s not actually as much special effects as I thought,” said Javan, who appears to be taking stardom in stride.
He admitted that some kids are “a little nicer” to him since discovering he and his father were in the movie, but life is pretty much the same.
Tahir and his wife Marie were reluctant to let Javan audition for the film but decided to let him try out for the part on his own merit. Director Jon Favreau learned about the family connection after Javan had been cast.
Mastering his one line, “Bubba,” was easy. To prepare for his role as a young villager attacked by soldiers, Javan said he followed this advice: “Just try and stay focused and let what’s on your mind show in your face.”
Tahir, who did not play any scenes with his son, said making “Iron Man,” Marvel’s first independent movie, was a team effort with cast mates Robert Downey, Jr., Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow and director Favreau.
“From the get-go, the experience was great,” he said. “It had a really great team. Everybody had something to prove. It was a genre that wasn’t their
comfort level. There was a very organic, open way of working.”
Tahir played Raza, a soldier of fortune who kidnaps playboy arms tycoon Tony Stark, as a non-denominational antagonist. To embody that, Raza speaks five different languages.
“It’s not about a region,” Tahir said, “It’s about all of it.”
Although he was born in Los Angeles, Tahir has been typecast because of his ethnicity. He sometimes accepts stereotypical roles because it’s a chance to buck expectations.
“It’s my job as an actor, on TV, in movies or on stage, to keep on changing that definition a little bit,” he said.
Javan’s venture into moviemaking follows in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and grandmother, and great-grandfather and great-grandmother, all of who were involved in theater in their native Pakistan.
Tahir and his siblings grew up watching their parents act. They amused themselves on the back stage or playing in the costume shop.
When Tahir entered college at Berkeley, he found himself drawn to acting despite majoring in economics. His parents were confounded by his persistence in taking to the stage.
“My parents said, ‘Why would you want to do this? It’s such a crazy business,’” Tahir said.
Finally he convinced his parents who encouraged him to prepare for both the possibility of success and failure.
“There can be success, but that’s not guaranteed. There’s also failure, which is guaranteed,” Tahir quoted his father as saying.
After completing his undergraduate studies at Berkeley, Tahir obtained a master’s from Harvard. While in Boston, he starred in productions put on by Harvard’s American Repertory Theater as well as New York shows.
Since then his career has spanned stage, television and film. Tahir’s credits include recurring roles on “24,” “West Wing,” “JAG” and “Part of Five.” He played in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” and will make appearances in two movies next year, including “Ashes” and “Star Trek.”
He said working in the various genres is akin to an artist who paints in different mediums.
“I think there are stories that are told and should be told on stage,” Tahir said. “But there are other stories that are told on the screen. They need that expanse.”
Flexing between genres has also been hugely beneficial in that it allows Tahir to spend time with his family. When not working, he said he is just another househusband: making sandwiches for lunches or scheduling his kids’ play dates.
Tahir and his family, which includes daughter Lena, 13, moved to Carmel Valley about 10 years ago.
“We wanted to be close to family,” said Tahir, whose wife grew up in San Diego. “We thought it would be good for the kids to have a bigger sense of family.
“It keeps me a little more grounded. I can get my work done and when I’m done, I’m in an environment I like. The novelty of living in that kind of environment (Hollywood) has worn off. I think that’s one of the reasons we live in San Diego; it’s a physical buffer from all that.”
Tahir admits that he is somewhat desensitized to the glamour of Hollywood because he grew up in the industry. He sees himself as just a regular dad with a way cool job.
That perspective, along with acting talent, is a family perspective passed on from father to son and apparent in Javan’s other bit of advice for wanna-be actors: “Don’t let it go to your head or you might become a brat.”