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[Sandia Lab News]

Vol. 53, No. 5 March 9, 2001
[Sandia National Laboratories]

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185-0165    ||   Livermore, California 94550-0969
Tonopah, Nevada; Nevada Test Site; Amarillo, Texas

Meet the parents: Sandia retiree Matt Roach talks about famous son's career as a movie director
Jay Roach has directed 'Meet the Parents,' 'Austin Powers' pictures, 'Mystery, Alaska'

By Bill Murphy

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Being the son of a famous father -- that's tough.

Consider, for example, that actress Catherine Zeta-Jones has been quoted as saying that her biggest concern as a new mom is how baby Dylan will bear up under the burden of being actor Michael Douglas's son.

[Matt Roach]

Sandia retiree Matt Roach, father of Hollywood director Jay ("Austin Powers") Roach. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Most of us don't face that particular psychological challenge. But retired Sandian Matt Roach and his wife Peggy do have to deal with sort of mirror image of it: They're the parents of a famous son. Far from being psyche-threatening, though, Matt says he and Peggy couldn't be prouder of son Jay's achievements

"Jay" as in Jay Roach, director of the Austin Powers movies and the recent Robert DeNiro-Ben Stiller hit, Meet the Parents , which, if Hollywood gave comedies their due at Oscar time, might be up for best-picture consideration. "Jay" as in husband of rock singer Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles.

Yes, Jay's a Sandia brat, born at the old Doctors Hospital in 1957, a 1975 graduate of Eldorado High School who grew up with a dad in his home who couldn't even talk about his weapons-related work. Indeed, Matt's Sandia job required some overseas travel: that makes him -- you got it -- Matt Roach, International Man of Mystery.

Which leads to another interesting twist on the father-son thing: Matt, who couldn't talk about his own job, just loves talking about Jay's work.

As Matt recalls it, the signs were there early on that Jay was slated for directorial distinction. "He wrote the third grade play for his class," Matt says. "That's when Peggy and I began to ask ourselves 'Wow, what have we got here?' "

Jay was a good student at Eldorado, but not, Matt notes, the valedictorian. "He got a B once, in typing." He was involved in everything: student senate, football, extracurricular stuff. An impressive enough set of high school credentials that he earned a scholarship to Stanford. "Jay's always been an overachiever," Matt says.

At Stanford, Jay did well, majoring in communications and economics. There was even a peripheral Sandia connection. He managed a Stanford-operated teleconferencing center, and one of its clients was Sandia-Livermore.

After Stanford came grad work at the USC film school, where Jay did some highly honored student films. That work helped him get his foot in the door of the movie industry. Over the years between the mid-80s and the mid-90s, he earned writing, producing, and cinematography credits on a number of projects. And he married Susanna Hoffs in 1993. That was obviously a great personal life-changing experience for Jay -- he and Susanna have two kids -- but it turned out to be a terrific career move, too.

[Jay Roach and Susanna Hoffs]

Movie director Jay Roach, son of Sandia retiree Matt Roach, and his wife, singer Susanna Hoffs. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Susanna Hoffs happened to be a close friend of Mike Myers' wife, Robin Ruzan. Myers, with his wildly inventive comic creations, was by the early 1990s a major star, coming off big box office hits in the Wayne's World pictures. With their wives being so close, Myers and Jay began to see a lot of each other, and they hit it off, too. At some point (Matt Roach recalls) Myers began to kick around some ideas for what became his greatest comic invention -- Austin Powers. Jay was present at the creation and tossed an idea or two of his own into the mix. When Myers felt he had enough of an Austin Powers concept to start looking for studio backing, he had just one condition: that he be able to choose the director for the project.

But "Sure, Mike, baby, sure," turned into "Jay who?"

"No question about it," Matt says, "Mike went to bat for Jay."

After a week or two on the first Austin Powers set, all that "Jay who?" stuff was forgotten. Jay proved to the studio guys' satisfaction that he knew what he was doing, and they stopped looking over his shoulder, Matt says.

The movie, of course, was a big hit, and the sequel even bigger. Since those breakthrough movies, Jay's career has been on the fast track. While the Russell Crowe-Burt Reynolds picture Mystery, Alaska didn't catch on, the critics liked it, and of course, Meet the Parents has been a terrific success.

Matt says there have been some neat perks to being the father of a famous son. He and wife Peggy spent time on the Austin Powers sets and got to meet Mike Myers, Liz Hurley, and Heather Graham. (Both Hurley and Graham are "very sweet" ladies, Matt says, and both even prettier in person than they are on film.) They've been to a number of movie premiers and have just generally enjoyed themselves.

And finally, good news for Austin Powers and Meet the Parents fans. Matt says there will be an Austin Powers 3 and a Meet the Parents 2: Meet the Fockers. "I'm sure they're going to happen; it's just a question of when," he says.

As Austin Powers would say: "Yeah, Baby, yeah."

Last modified: March 26, 2000

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