When it was first released in 1993, Jurassic Park wowed audiences and redefined what an epic summer blockbuster could be, with awesome visual effects that made movie goers believe that dinosaurs could roam the Earth again. With Jurassic World, those original dreams for a theme park, where visitors from all over the world could experience the thrill and awe of witnessing actual dinosaurs, have now been fully realized. But after years of walking alongside the Earth’s most magnificent living prehistoric marvels, park goers are demanding bigger and scarier with more teeth, which can’t possibly turn out well for anyone involved.
At the press day for Jurassic World, co-stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins, along with director Colin Trevorrow, talked about finding the story they wanted to tell, keeping the passion going throughout production, why there’s such a huge fascination when it comes to dinosaurs, deciding how to approach the visual effects, designing the theme park, the awesome final dinosaur battle, emotional moments on set, and that the final product is the director’s pure vision. From the interview, we’ve compiled a list of 20 things you should know about what went into making Jurassic World.
Steven Spielberg, who directed the first two Jurassic films himself, personally selected Colin Trevorrow to direct this fourth film in the franchise. When asked what that was like, Trevorrow said, “In my first meeting with him, and many afterward, my mission became, how do we push forward and do something new, and something that has its own identity and that I can be held responsible for. I want to be the only one who can be blamed, if this is a failure. What we settled on was that we could make a movie about what was happening, at the moment, which was that we had a giant corporation that needed a movie on a release date, and that was going to happen, one way or another. So, we made a movie about how we tend to repeat our mistakes, whether they’re a good idea or not, if there’s money on the table.”
- Because he’d only made the indie Safety Not Guaranteed, prior to taking on such a big blockbuster film, Trevorrow said it was important to keep the passion going on set, and he did so by hiring actors who had something to prove. “When you’re on a larger film, it’s a different scenario. It’s almost a greater danger because it can make you a little soft and a little complacent. It very naturally takes your hunger away from you. [All of the actors] had things to prove, and I am a real proponent of populating a movie with people who have something to prove. Vincent D’Onofrio hasn’t been on film in a really long time. He has been on a television show. These two kids (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) were looking to be recognized as real actors. Bryce Dallas Howard hasn’t been in a movie in four years. She had two children and is back playing the lead of a movie. And Chris Pratt, who even in Guardians of the Galaxy was seen as a goofball, is playing a relatively straight character. I think that is what kept the hunger going, throughout the whole process.”
When asked why she thinks dinosaur movies strike such a chord with audiences, Bryce Dallas Howard said, “I can only really speak for myself, and what I’ve noticed in my kids and the people in my life, but because dinosaurs were real, and yet they seem so fantastical, is why they held such a huge fascination for me, as a child. They’re so different from human beings. It’s difficult to imagine that they were real, and that they ruled the Earth for way longer than we’ve been around. And also, there’s the idea that there were these creatures that existed 65 million years ago and beyond, and that we can study them. There’s evidence of the fact that they existed, and yet they’re sort of a mystery. And so, to get to see them come to life and co-exist with human beings, it’s wish fulfillment, in a way, and a cautionary tale.”
- To make sure that he understood how his character would handle the dinosaurs, Chris Pratt did quite a bit of research and hung out with some animal trainers. “There was one guy, named Randy Miller, who has a company called Predators in Action, which is a company that trains bears, tigers and lions, and things like that, to do simulated animal attacks in movies. He’s got all kinds of amazing animals. I went to his ranch, hung out with him and spent the day seeing him interact with these animals, and that was a big part of creating the character and having the posture that I adopted.”
Pratt’s experience out in the wild, on hunting trips where he has stared down wild animals that could have killed him, helped inform the way his character handled the raptors in the film. Trevorrow wanted things to be as real as possible, so they had to create an organic relationship between man and beast that would strike an emotional chord in audiences. It’s tough to establish a relationship between man and dinosaur when the dinosaur is a CG character.
- Pratt wanted to make sure that his ex-military character, Owen, was different from any character he’s played before, and director Colin Trevorrow kept him on point with that. He said, “A huge part of that was Colin’s vision. If I started being goofy, or acting like a dip-shit, or going to my normal comedic bag of tricks, [he’d let me know]. This is a guy who’s been through something. The likelihood is that, in the years that he’s been working for the park, this isn’t his first set of raptors. These animals died on his watch. We’ve come a long way and a lot of these animals have paid the sacrifice for the work that he’s doing for this company. That’s pretty serious. There’s not a lot of room for goofing around, when you play that guy.”
There was such secrecy around this film that to read the script, Ty Simpkins had to go to a private room at Universal, where it was chained to a table. Nick Robinson said he got the script about a month prior to filming, and a production assistant went to his house to sit there while he read it. They only had their own scenes and didn’t get the entire script until a couple weeks before the shoot started, so that they could do a read-through with the director.
- In order to sound scared, Simpkins and Robinson had to scream at the top of their lungs, and even lost their voices a few times, so they had to learn how to silently mouth the screams.
- Robinson and Simpkins learned a lot about dinosaurs, as a result of making this film. They learned that the Pterodactyl did not actually exist, and the raptor was only knee height and feathery, and it attacked with its feet.
Robinson remembers watching the original film growing up. On a family vacation, it rained on a reunion, so they watched the film together, and it transported both the adults and kids to another world. Simpkins remembers watching it, for the first time, with his dad. Howard got to see it on opening weekend with her parents, when she was 12 years old, and she thought it was something so beyond what she thought could be possible in movies.
- There’s an emotional moment in the film, when Owen and Claire come across an injured Brontosaurus, and that scene was done with an animatronic dinosaur to give the actors something to really be able to interact with. And Howard said that was also a particularly emotional day on set. “It was an unbelievable experience. You can go to exhibits and see animatronic dinosaurs, but that’s nothing like this. It was really real. And that was a particularly emotional day because (author) Michael Crichton passed away right when his wife was eight months pregnant, and when we shot this movie, his son was six years old, and that was the day that he visited the set. He went and saw this dinosaur, and he turned to his mom before we started and said, ‘Mom, it’s a real dinosaur!’ I just burst into tears because this is his father’s legacy, and this is what his father has given to all children, and here his son was, in the presence of what he thought was a real dinosaur. It was just incredibly moving to me.”
In regards to the visual effects, Trevorrow decided to incorporate some animatronics because there were moments where they needed to have a true emotional connection between the humans and the dinosaurs, and having something real and tactile helped them get those emotions across. They also decided to use motion capture for the first time in the Jurassic Park franchise.
- There were different types of dinosaurs – the tennis balls, the dancers and the muscley guys. The muscley guys were the mini-Triceratops, and the dancers were the raptor guys. There were also people with strings that would pull trees, to make it look like the dinosaurs were about to come out of the trees. And the crew would randomly play the Jurassic Park theme song to help get the actors in the mood.
- Trevorrow wanted to make it clear that the dinosaurs in the movie are theme park creations. If the genetic code were pure, many of them would look quite different.
In creating the hybrid dinosaur, the idea of inserting various genes into the genome and creating new kinds of animals is completely real. As long as the attributes of the dinosaur are linked to real animals on the planet, then it is something that could be completely plausible.
- To create the design and operations of the theme park, they went to Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando, as well as Disney in Orlando, to look at how they operate, behind-the-scenes. They focused on the control room, which led to the decision to make the control room practical. Although real-life theme park control rooms have much more simple set-ups, they wanted to modernize it. When you see the video wall in the film, all of that was really playing live, as they shot it.
- Both Simpkins and Robinson would definitely attend a real-life dinosaur park, and Simpkins would like to work there. Robinson thinks that tickets would probably be really expensive.
- Trevorrow likes working with actors good at improv, so that characters can be expanded on. Some of the smaller roles were developed much more fully, once the actors got on set and gave their own input. He said, “I feel like everyone gets their moment of comic relief, in this movie, and everyone has their moment of drama and tension and fear. I tend to be really attracted toward improvisational actors, who are writers in their own heads. Having those kinds of minds on set, even though the script was very carefully designed and very tightly written when we went to shoot it, always left a little bit of room for us to find something.”
Shooting the final dinosaur battle was not as much fun as it was to watch the final result, since so much of it wasn’t actually there. Pratt said, “You have a lot of small pieces. By the time we were filming that sequence, we were actually re-filming it. With a movie like this, [a director] essentially directs and creates an animated version first. It’s essentially a moving storyboard. So, depending on what the set-up was or the day was, sometimes you’re doing really cool stuff and interacting with the other actors, sometimes you’re having this really intense interaction with what will be the raptors, and sometimes you’re just a prop, moving left to right, running up and stopping, firing a gun and doing a dive roll.”
- Very rare for a big summer blockbuster from an unproven director is the fact that the final product is really the pure vision Trevorrow had for the film. Expanding on just how unusual that is, he said, “During the actual physical production [Spielberg] was watching the dailies and would occasionally send me a note or an idea, but he didn’t come to the set. I also didn’t have a studio over my shoulder, giving me notes. This movie, for better or worse, is one of the most pure visions of a filmmaker without studio involvement that you’ll see, at this level. Steven had final cut, and ultimately he gave that final cut to me. It is definitely not a corporate product. There was a lot of freedom granted to making something that is a very personal and original vision.”
Jurassic World opens in theaters on June 12th.