With the first sequel having received something of a mixed reaction, can Jurassic Park III restore the reputation of the dinosaur franchise? We meet the cast and crew…

Tea Leoni tries to outrun a dinosaur in JP III

Read Alan Jones's review of Jurassic Park III here

Text by Kevin Dickson

Selected from Starburst #276

In a tangle of tropical plants, a Velociraptor stands perfectly still. High in a tree above it sits the wrecked fuselage of a plane. The Raptor listens intently, cocking its head to the side. Its fingers curl and uncurl in anticipation, a vein pulses at its neck. Turning towards you, it suddenly rears up…

If it wasn’t for the black cables running down between this creature’s legs, you wouldn’t guess that this Raptor wasn’t real. Welcome to the soundstage of Jurassic Park III, where the impossible stands in front of you on its hind legs.

This third instalment, for which Steven Spielberg has given up the director’s chair for Joe Johnston (Jumanji, The Rocketeer, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids), sees a new bunch of unfortunate humans doing everything in their power to avoid becoming lunch for the reptile kings. One familiar face does join the blood-splattered throng, for we reacquaint ourselves with Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill), one of the survivors of the original slaughter on Isla Nublar. Grant is still working as a paleontologist, when one day he receives some unexpected visitors… Enter estranged husband and wife Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H Macy and Tea Leoni). The couple beg Grant to host a flight over ‘Site Two’ on Isla Sorna, where the dinosaurs roam free.

Guess who's comng to dinner?Only when the Kirbys give the pilots an instruction to land does Grant realize he has been tricked. Before he can register much of a complaint, the plane has crashed and they have come face to face with the Spinosaur: the biggest, meanest dinosaur yet. By this point, the movie’s only been going for about 10 minutes.

“It moves pretty quick!” laughs director Johnston. “I think that the audience for this film wants to sit there for 90 minutes and then go out and tell their friends. Nobody wants to sit through three hours of this. It’s not offensively fast, not one of those movies where you want to shout ‘Slow down!’ It moves at the right speed, I think.”

“When I saw the first film, I was so taken aback by how brilliant it was to see these dinosaurs come to life,” laughs Tea Leoni, “I remember going, ‘Oh my god, that’s what they were like!’ And I remember thinking, ‘I wish I could have been Laura Dern, dammit! Why didn’t I get that role?’ “Anyway,” she continues. “At the initial phone call, I wondered, ‘Okay, Jurassic Park III? Loser! Why weren’t you in the first two?’ There’s this instant reaction where you think that it’s just going to be ‘the third one’.

"The turning point for me was, when I heard Joe Johnston was directing, Sam Neill was returning, and Bill Macy and Alessandro (Nivola) were on board. I realized that this wasn’t just a ‘filling-in’ production, they were trying to make the best one. We got an opportunity to do something great here. To use all that new technology from the last 10 years.”

Many Jurassic Park fans were alarmed by the news that Spielberg had chosen to direct A.I. rather than helm the third JP film. “Steven said, several times, ‘I want you to go make your own movie’,” explains Johnston. “‘I don’t want you to make what you think I want you to make, just do the best you can.’ he said. And that’s what I tried to do. We went through several different draft scripts. There are three Jurassic Park IIIs in the trash can. And one of them we storyboarded completely and were ready to shoot, and then decided it wasn’t as good as it could be, and we threw it out and started over. We didn’t want to compromise...”

Starburst #276Get the full six-page interview in this issue. Read on in Starburst #276.

Images ©Universal
Feature © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction