Exclusive: J.A. Bayona on ‘Fallen Kingdom’ and Why the Blu-ray Doesn’t Have Any Deleted Scenes
With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom now available on Blu-ray, I recently got on the phone with director J.A. Bayona for an extended wide-ranging interview about the making of the film. Unlike our interview at the junket where we had just a few minutes to talk, this time I had almost an hour with him and we went into extreme detail about the making of the sequel. Since the interview was so long and covered so many subjects, I decided to break it up into two parts. If you’re curious how Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was made, you’re going to learn a lot reading this interview.
Bayona talks about his reaction when he heard how the film was going to end, how he prepared for the job, what advice Steven Spielberg gave him, if the beginning was always going to open with a James Bond-esque prologue, Easter eggs, creating the Indoraptor, why the Blu-ray doesn’t contain any deleted scenes, what he hoped the film was going to make at the worldwide box office, what he learned making The Impossible and A Monster Calls which helped on Fallen Kingdom, if Jeff Goldblum ever had a bigger role, and more. In addition, he talked about some of the conceived scenes that were never shot like a dilophosaurus scene on the ship and a Indoraptor scene that would have featured two of them with one killing the other.
Check out what J.A. Bayona had to say below and look for part two in a few days.
Collider: When you signed on to do the film, did you immediately re-watch all the Jurassic films?
J.A. BAYONA: I mean, when you work in a Jurassic movie or a big franchise, you try to be faithful to the legacy of movies that were done before, so I re-watched, again, all the films. I remembered them very well, but I re-watched them again, and I read the books from Michael Crichton again, also. I saw some Indiana Jones movies again. One of the things that I love about the Indiana Jones movies, and you can see a little bit of that in Jurassic, is in the visual storytelling from Steven Spielberg is some influence from silent movies. It’s how he’s able to introduce humor visually, and how he makes the characters more sympathetic by introducing humor and make them heroes with faults so you can empathize with them. So I re-watch, again, Indiana Jones, and I re-watch some silent movies from Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin that I love, and trying to put myself into that world of the comedy, of the visual comedy that you can see in silent movies. But basically what I did was I re-watch the Jurassic movies, and I read, again, Michael Crichton’s books.
When you’re watching these movies as a director taking on a Jurassic movie, do you take notes about the shots, or is it just sort of mentally taking a picture?
BAYONA: No. I took notes reading the novels, but not watching the movies.
You got to work with Steven Spielberg while making this film. Can you share some cool advice he gave you during pre-production, production, or post-production?
BAYONA: Very early on discussing the animatics, he suggested not to frame the dinosaurs, not to fill the frame with dinosaurs, not to frame them completely inside the frame, so then you give the impression that they’re bigger.
Oh, that’s good advice. How was it in terms of the collaboration process in the editing room? Is he the type of person, as a producer, that’s very hands-on, or he sort of wants to see the cut you have, and then he gives notes on it?
BAYONA: Yeah, he saw the final cut and gave us some notes. It’s very, very similar to work I did with Guillermo del Toro in The Orphanage. I think it’s great when you have another director as the producer, because he knows what you’re going through. He knows what is the experience of directing a movie, so they don’t want to interfere in that, and I really appreciate how Guillermo del Toro or Steven Spielberg were never invasive. I mean, they always trust, they always support my work, and in terms of the cut, he saw the director’s cut, gave us some suggestions. We worked some of his ideas, and then he saw the movie again.
Congratulations on making $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office. That is a hell of an achievement. When you made this film, what was that dream number? Did you dream, “please just let it cross a billion dollars, I just want it to cross a billion?” What’s that number that you were thinking about?
BAYONA: Well, I mean, when you’re doing a film, you never think about the…that the film is going to be released in theaters. In my case, I care about the story, and I try to do my best, so I don’t have time to think about that, but as soon as you get close to the release, then you start to worry about that. Then you get conscious that the movie’s going to be shown, and people are going to talk about it, and there’s always a discussion where someone decides to bet on how much money it’s going to do.
BAYONA: I’m very bad always in doing that. I mean, it’s not that I’m bad, I just don’t want to do it, because I’m superstitious, but my number, the number that I was fine [with], that was pretty high, it was 1.2.
So you beat your number?
BAYONA: Yes. I’m glad that I beat my number.
I say congratulations. Breaking a billion dollars at the box office, that’s a huge achievement.
BAYONA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I really loved your work on The Impossible and A Monster Calls. What did you learn making these previous films that maybe helped you make Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, especially with VFX?
BAYONA: When you work with a company like ILM, they’re not the best because they have more money, or they better machines, or better computers. It’s because they have the experience. So every time you work in a story, every time you work on a film, you learn a lot about how to use the craft of a film, how to use the technology and the computers, so of course it was a great experience to shoot The Impossible, but it was more the work that we did in A Monster Calls, and the combination of animatronics and CGI that we used in that film that was a great help. I was very aware of how difficult is the interaction between CGI and actors, especially when the actors touch the element, the CGI element, so very early on in the process of making Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, I went to David Vickery, who’s the visual effects supervisor, and I ask him that every time that the actors were touching the dinosaurs, we had to have something real on set.
I remember that they used, for example, some velociraptors as a reference in the previous movie so the actors were able to touch like gray sculptures of velociraptors, and one of the first things that I asked visual effects is to paint those gray statues with a real texture, so you can somehow get the reflections of light, not in the gray skin, but the color skin, so I mean, I was kind of like very into that. This is a movie that talks about the relation that man has with dinosaurs, so the interaction with the CGI had to be perfect.
Jeff Goldblum plays a key role at the very beginning of the film and the very end. Was there ever any debate on having him have a bigger role, and did you guys ever debate having any of the other cast members from the original Jurassic Park as part of this film?
BAYONA: No, not really. It was the first scene that I read from the script. Colin [Trevorrow] sent me like the first 10 pages, and I really liked that scene. I think that it makes a nice connection with the work of Michael Crichton. I think that Michael Crichton would be proud of that scene. I think it’s a step forward in the world that he was creating in Jurassic World, and how somehow the world of cloning dinosaurs is now affecting us in a very straightforward way.
The ending of this film opens the door to a completely new chapter in the Jurassic World, Jurassic Park franchise. What was your reaction when you first heard that that’s the way the film was going to end? Because it’s a hell of a change.
BAYONA: Great. I thought it was great. Normally when you work on a story, you try to fix the world, and you try to find an ending that somehow completes the story, but in this case, it was an open door to a world that we’d never seen before, and that was very exciting.
You obviously collaborated working on the script. I’m curious, from when you signed on the project to what people see on screen, how much changed along the way?
BAYONA: Yeah. Colin, he’s the architect. Colin is the architect of the franchise, so the story was designed by Colin, and I was able to somehow, as much as I could, try to improve his ideas or push them forward in the best way possible. But the story is from Colin. So Claire is now in a dinosaur protection group, and there’s a volcano on the island, and there’s a mission, and then we move to the mansion, and at the end there’s this world that we’ve never seen before, like the dinosaurs spreading all over the world, and that was very specific in Colin’s script. What I did is, scene by scene, try to make it as effective as possible.
For example, the movie’s about greed, and one of the things that I suggested then, and Colin and Steven really like that idea, is instead of having a sale, because they were selling the dinosaurs, we are having an auction, and the auction is like the best way possible to show the greed in those characters. Because all the people are together in the same room betting for the animals. So, that was the kind of ideas I was giving him, I was giving Colin.
For example, the prologue was a lot shorter, but because we have … it’s a pretty long section from the prologue to the eruption of the volcano, and I thought that we had to somehow have like a bigger action moment at the beginning that promises the action that you’re going to see later on. So, I suggest to do this kind of like James Bond prologue, and when I say James Bond, it’s because I remember very well in the trailers of James Bond, there was always this idea of playing underwater, in the land, and on the air, so I thought this is like a James Bond movie. We are involved in these three different places, and why don’t we do like a very big action scene, because there’s a long section until we get action again in the movie, and he was okay with that.
I love the opening of the movie because it does just throw you right into the madness. Was it always that scene, them trying to get DNA off the island? Was there ever a different version of that beginning James Bond-esque prologue?
BAYONA: No, no. That was always the intention. We thought about some alternatives, trying to put together the idea of the volcano and what’s going on there, but it never worked, so we just stay faithful to the idea that was on the page.
Every movie has its own challenges. What was the thing in this movie that you thought would be a piece of cake that ended up being a huge pain in the ass, if anything?
BAYONA: Pain in the ass. No, I mean, it was a pretty challenging story, because it’s two movies in the same story, so that’s always tricky and you try to make it work as best as possible, you know, as good as possible.
Talk about Easter eggs in the movie now that everyone’s seen it. Are there any Easter eggs that people have still not discovered, and what is your favorite Easter egg or two that’s in the movie?
BAYONA: There’s not many. We did a couple of jokes in post-production. We put some E.T. toys in Maisie’s bedroom, so if you watch that scene again, you will find a couple of shots where you would see like this E.T. In the Blue and Indoraptor fight you will see it, and there are some references to the Indiana Jones movies, as I said, but there are not many.
A number of people on Twitter, when I mentioned I was going to talk to you, one of the things I kept getting from fans was they all want to know about deleted scenes. I guess there aren’t any deleted scenes on the Blu-ray. Was there ever any intention of putting deleted scenes on the Blu-ray?
BAYONA: Not really. I mean, there’s nothing…Colin and I talk about it and we decided that there was nothing really meaningful. I mean, I like that scene with pteranodons in Las Vegas, and instead of putting that scene in the Blu-ray, we put it in the movie at the end of the credits, so I thought that was fine, and so we put it there. But, I don’t remember anything very special that people hasn’t seen it.
So basically the stuff that you cut out is more like the fat in the scenes, not anything specific? Or am I wrong?
BAYONA: No, it’s the fact that, I mean, we sat down together and said, “What are we going to put in the deleted scenes?” And there was nothing really meaningful there. At the end, I mean, it was going to be like a very poor selection of scenes, so we decided not to include them.
In a previous interview, according to someone on Twitter, you mentioned you previously had a scene with a couple of dilophosaurus. Did I just butcher that?
BAYONA: Yeah, that was in the script, but it was never shot.
If you don’t mind talking about it, what was that scene going to be if it had been included?
BAYONA: It was Claire and Owen walking around the Arcadia, the ship, trying to locate the T. Rex cage, and they open one cage and there’s a dilophosaurus there. But I mean, that was a pretty long section of the movie, the Arcadia. We thought that we didn’t need that scene because it was making that section even longer, so we decided even not to shoot it.
Sure. Obviously, you got to put in a whole bunch of—
BAYONA: We have 21 new dinosaurs in the movie or something like that. There was a moment…it was a very big number, and we didn’t need that scene. At the same time, we had to go lower with the post-production numbers, so I decided not to shoot it.
I was going to say that anyone who’s watching this movie, if you don’t think you’ve got enough dinosaurs, you’re crazy.
BAYONA: Exactly. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Can you still remember all the names of the dinosaurs that you used, or is it sort of like overwhelming, the terminology?
BAYONA: No, I think I remember them, yes. We’ve been working for so long with them, I think I can remember them.
From what I understand, you played sound effects from the previous Jurassic World, Jurassic Park movies on set to elicit a response from people. Did anyone ever say to you, “Okay, you gotta stop this.” Or did any of those reactions that you got on set end up in the movie?
BAYONA: No, there was a moment, because I had all the time my computer connected to the speakers, and there was a couple of moments that the roars sound on set by accident, and everyone freaked out, and I had to say sorry to the actors. But it was fun. I really love to work with actors and try things on set and try to feed them as much as possible, and sometimes things like the roars or sound, different sounds, the use of music on set, it can help the actors, so I do it all the time.
Right, and how many times did you purposely hit that roar just to get someone to laugh?
BAYONA: Purposely, plenty of times, plenty of times. Every time we had dinosaurs on set, for the actors it was a great help to hear the dinosaurs, to see the dinosaurs. Every time you give the actors real things, it’s helpful for them. They were very surprised about the amount of real things that they had in this film. I mean, we used very, very little green screen in this film, and I was surprised, too. I thought we were going to use a lot more. But I really like the approach that the guys at ILM and David Vickery, he was reluctant to use green screen. I remember shooting the volcano eruption, how happy the visual effects guys were, because we had amazing backgrounds that normally are done with CGI, and we had them for real.
Well, that’s one of the reasons why this film looks so good is because it’s not just a CGI fest.
BAYONA: Aye, totally.
But I am curious, how did you decide when you wanted to use an animatronic dinosaur, and how you wanted to just use CGI?
BAYONA: I think it’s important for the people to know how helpful are the animatronics, even though you don’t see them at the end in the film. I think the fact that the actor has something real in front of them that you can use in post-production, such a good reference of light, color, texture, sometimes you even have the chance of projecting the real texture of the animatronic into the CGI model. I learned a lot of that doing A Monster Calls, I was asking ILM all the time to use animatronics on set even though we knew that they were not going to be on the screen at the end.
I don’t know how much animatronic dinosaurs cost in terms of production, like Jurassic World, but I would imagine it’s not cheap, so how much debate is it with the producer saying, “We want to build all these animatronics” and then weighing the pros and cons of cost?
BAYONA: Yeah, it’s a question of how much are you going to use it on camera. It’s also how much time it’s going to take you, because shooting with animatronics is slow, and animatronics are limited, so they can give you very specific movements for very specific shots, but as long as you know what you need, you can find the right numbers at the end of the day in order to make the scene the best possible, to make the best of the scene.
Everyone who watches the movie loves Blue. When did you realize how much the audience was going to respond to Blue and was going to be rooting for Blue?
BAYONA: Well, this is something I push when I was working with Colin in the script something that I push, because there was a scene in the first draft of the film that they were playing a surgery on Blue, and I remember going to Steven and to Colin and said, “This is the heart of the story. I think this relation, Owen and Blue, works, the whole thing will work.” In that sense, there was a moment that…I was telling you before about how long was the trip in the Arcadia. There was a moment that we needed an action moment in that section, but we didn’t know what to do because we were very limited in terms of the space and the dinosaurs that we had on that location, and we didn’t have many possibilities. How can you do an action scene in a boat with dinosaurs tranquilized inside cages?
So I came up with this idea that Owen and Claire, they need to get blood from the T. Rex in order to give to Blue. That gives importance not only to Blue but also to Owen and Claire, what they’re doing for the dinosaurs. I remember that, from the very first moment, Steven loved the idea of getting blood from the T. Rex and put it in Blue, and also I remember that during the editing of the film, the editor had the idea of intercutting the video diaries from Owen with the surgery.
It’s very interesting, the video diaries, because we didn’t have video diaries on the original script. There was only one very brief moment, which is basically the first time you see the baby raptors interacting with Owen, but the rest of the video diaries, they didn’t exist, and we improvised them on set. So all the lines that Chris is saying in those scenes are improvised by Chris.
That’s actually great because it totally works. Your editor made a very smart call.
BAYONA: Yeah, and I think the idea the editor had of using those videos where Owen is talking about empathy and the kind of interaction that the velociraptors have with Owen, interacting that with Owen performing the surgery with Blue was very effective.
You got to create a dinosaur with the Indoraptor. How did you decide on the color, look, and the way it was going to act, and how much fun did you have creating a dinosaur?
BAYONA: I mean, I really tried to create something iconic. We had a limitation. I mean, for the first Jurassic World you have a dinosaur that was even bigger than the T. Rex, but in this case it was smaller…not just smaller than the Indominus Rex, but smaller than the T. Rex, so you need to play in a different way in order to make the dinosaur more scary. So from the very first moment, I sat down with Colin and we start to talk about creating like a background, like planting the seed of how dangerous was the Indoraptor. I really wanted the Indoraptor to be very iconic, so I decided to go totally black and have very white teeth. Because we were going to see the Indoraptor most of the time in the dark, I thought it would be very interesting, making the Indoraptor very dark so sometimes you don’t see him. What you see is basically the teeth and the dots in the eyes. Then I start to think about the claw, and keep the kind of tapping of the velociraptors in the Indoraptor, and use that also in a very iconic way the same way you see it in the first Jurassic Park.
I think, and I could be mistaken, there’s some concept art where there were two Indoraptors in the movie. Was there ever going to be two Indoraptors in the film?
BAYONA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was one of the ideas that we had trying to create a sense of mythology about the Indoraptor, like a background to making it more scary, but we decided that there was no space in this story for that in the end. There was going to be a very black one and a very white one, and the black was going to kill the white one, and it was kind of like this biblical idea. It will be like Cain and Abel, you know, but we decided not to go there because there was no space for that in the story.
Did you ever think about giving the Indoraptor feathers?
BAYONA: Never. Never. Never, for any of the dinosaurs. They don’t feel scary when you see them with feathers, so we never went there.
Is that the main reason? Because I agree with feathers it might not be as scary.
BAYONA: That was the main reason, yeah.
Look for part 2 of the interview soon.