It’s been 25 years since Jurassic Park roared into theaters.
The premise of Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Jurassic Park (based on Michael Crichton’s hit book) was a simple one: what would happen if we could bring dinosaurs back to life? But the results turned out to be a thrilling mix of wonder and horror as audiences watch three scientists -- Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) -- take a private tour of an island-based amusement park filled with various dinosaurs as the power and security system slowly start to fail. Soon, the scientists, park creator John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), his two grandkids -- Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex (Ariana Richards) -- and various park employees are stranded on the island as they fend off 65 million years of animal instinct.
When the film debuted in theaters in 1993, audiences were treated to groundbreaking special effects, a memorable score from John Williams, and Spielberg reinvigorating his horror-reflexes from Jaws. For all of the terror Jurassic Park has instilled in people over the years, the movie is also now remembered for how much sentiment is on display. There’s so much joy watching Grant, Sattler and Malcolm first see a brachiosaurus. By the end, it’s impossible not to feel crestfallen as Hammond is forced to reexamine his life’s pursuit.
As the film turns 25, ET looks back on the conversations it had with the cast and crew about making the modern classic.
1. Spielberg said Attenborough was the only actor who could portray Hammond.
Spielberg and Attenborough were actually friends for many years before working on Jurassic Park. Spielberg even offered the Oscar-winning actor a few roles, but it wasn’t until the 1993 blockbuster that Attenborough, who hadn’t acted since 1979’s The Human Factor, finally agreed to come out of retirement to portray the film’s billionaire amber-enthusiast and park founder.
“Any actor gives in to flattery, you know,” Attenborough said. “He came and said he could only see me playing John Hammond.”
2. The cast spoke with real paleontologists and choastechians to prepare for their roles.
To prepare for their roles, the cast spoke with real people who dig up dinosaur bones and study chaos for a living. “I certainly am no expert and had the good fortune of being around, you know, a few amazing, amazing people,” Dern said of the scientists she spoke to. “And hearing them speak really sort of inspired passion in me about the discovery of it.”
Before uttering his famous warning, “Life finds a way,” Goldblum spoke to a couple of chaos mathematicians. “They sent me a bunch of tapes,” Goldblum recalled, “and it's fascinating stuff and very gutsy, non-academic kind of worldly.”
3. Richards landed her role after scaring Kate Capshaw.
Since the part of Lex required a lot of screaming, for both horror and comic relief purposes, it shouldn’t be a surprise that being videotaped screaming was part of Richards’ audition process. What did come as a shock to the 13 year-old actress was the story Spielberg related to her afterward.
“He brought the video home to watch at night and his wife was asleep on the couch right next to the television,” Richards recalled. “He has the sound turned down pretty low and he's going through the people that were screaming on that tape. And it comes to me and I start screaming and his wife absolutely leaps off the couch and she runs into her kids’ rooms to see if they're OK. She was mad at him. She thought her kids were screaming.”
4. Spielberg made sure Dern picked out comfortable boots.
During costume fittings, Dern thought about what hiking boots Dr. Sattler would wear, until Spielberg intervened. After initially choosing a pair, Dern said the director suggested she separate method acting and footwear. He told her, “Those don't look very comfortable. You really need good, you know, hiking boots, but that you can also run in.” (Ahh, a much different experience than what Bryce Dallas Howard had on Jurassic World, when her character famously wore high heels throughout the film, even running from the T-Rex.)
5. The cast and crew became very close as a hurricane swept through production.
In September of 1992, Hawaii was devastated by Hurricane Iniki. With six deaths and almost 1,500 homes destroyed, it’s still one the biggest hurricane disasters in U.S. history. With only one day left in production, the cast and crew took shelter in a hotel ballroom as Iniki landed on Kauai.
‘It was scary,” said Dern. The afternoon before it hit, she asked Neill how bad he thought the storm would be. Neill replied, “‘Oh, I'm certain it will be an absolute disaster.’" As they were stuck in the hurricane’s direct path, Dern realized he wasn’t joking.
“The island was devastated,” Goldblum confirmed. “We were very lucky.”
Huddled together as they weathered out the storm, the cast and crew bonded. Goldblum said, “When you go through something like that, and that was only three weeks into the movie, it builds a community [that I think] in the end made us feel a lot closer with each other.”
6. Kathleen Kennedy jogged five miles in hurricane debris to find a pilot for the cast and crew.
Before her current role as president of Lucasfilm, Kennedy was a movie producer and longtime collaborator with Spielberg, going all the way back to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Kennedy was with the cast and crew when Iniki hit.
“Kathy Kennedy, our producer, was amazing,” said Dern, who later praised Kennedy in 2017 for her comments on the #MeToo movement. After discovering that it would be impossible to drive on the debris-filled roads, Kennedy ended up jogging to the airport in search of a pilot that could fly her cast and crew off the land.
According to Goldblum, she “made first contact with the rescue people and got us off. [they] managed to get us off pretty quickly and put less of a strain on the resources of the island.”
In another interview with Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly that Kennedy found a familiar face once she arrived at the airport. “She bumped into this guy she kind of recognized and she walked over to the guy and said, ‘Don’t I know you?’ and he said, ‘Hi Kathy.’ It was the young man that flew the biplane in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He was the pilot that was in our movie and he just happened to be a pilot of a four-engine 707, a cargo plane and he was between flights. So Kathy arranged with him to send a large plane to the island the next day to take the cast and crew out.”
Along with coordinating efforts to send supplies for relief efforts, the Jurassic Park crew also helped clear roads and power the hotel with their production generators. Kennedy told Islands Magazine the following year, “If you’re going to be stranded with anyone, be stranded with a movie crew.”
7. Because of the hurricane audiences were also left without Samuel L. Jackson’s death scene.
Jackson -- whose character rebooted the park’s security system famously leaves to turn the power back on, only to disappear until his detached arm falls onto Satler during a raptor attack -- revealed earlier this year that he was set to return to Hawaii to film his onscreen demise, but “there was a hurricane that destroyed all the sets,” he told the A.V. Club, “so I didn’t get to go to Hawaii.”
8. Relevant scientific discoveries were being made during production.
At the same time Jurassic Park was being filmed in September 1992, the American Association for the Advancement of Science literary journal published an article by scientists who had extracted DNA sequences from fossilized amber that were over 25 million years old.
Another real-life discovery that mirrored Jurassic Park had to do with the size of the raptors.
“Most of the information we had had here at the studio was that velociraptors ranged from four to five feet tall,” Stan Winston said. The late make-up artist guru designed the predators with his team to be five to seven feet tall to make them appear more menacing. But they were closer to reality than paleontology had known yet.
“After we had finished our velociraptor, after he had been created and he was ready to live in this movie, there was a dig in Utah which uncovered a velociraptor which was known as the ‘super slasher,’ which, in fact, was a little bit bigger than the raptor we had designed for the movie. So, in fact, we created it, then they discovered it.”
9. Goldblum’s fake leg injury inspired an epic prank on Hawaii vacationers.
Stars, they’re just like us, by which, I mean children. Case in point: this prank the three lead actors played on unsuspecting tourists.
Neill: “There was times we couldn't actually get changed on the location, so we'd have to come back to the hotel all trashed up and covered in mud and blood.”
Dern: “And Jeff had this sort of bloodied leg and this very open looking wound straight down the side of his leg with his pants ripped open, so you can see it.”
One day, as the main three actors walked through their hotel lobby, Neill decided to have some fun.
Dern: “And Sam was sort of helping him hobble through the kind of corridor of the lobby or something. And this huge swarm of tourists, a Japanese tour group or something, came through and just at that moment, Sam kicked him right in his bleeding sore.”
Neill: “We'd start arguing as we got close. Eventually, as we got right beside the tourists, I'd start yelling at Jeff and kicking him firmly in the splint. Jeff would scream and hobble off.”
Dern: “And these people were like so horrified. I'm like, ‘Sam stop that! Stop that! You've hurt him already!’”
Neill: “It was just one of those stupid things that happens when you're on location.”
10. On his sets, Spielberg is “a general.”
The cast was constantly in awe of their director, who became known for being both efficient and improvisational. “He's a general of the movie, first of all. The whole thing works like a brilliant kind of operation,” said Goldblum. “And he has a creative will that is palpable.”
Goldblum added, “On the set he's going, ‘Okay. We did this. (snaps fingers) I know! Let's get this and this and now let's do that!’ And you can't help but be caught up in that.”
11. The “one big pile of sh*t” was also gross in real life.
The famous scene of Sattler digging through the “dinosaur droppings,” leading Malcolm to utter that quotable line was pretty gross in reality. “We do it for real in the movies,” said Dern, who said anticipation had building on set for the scene, with several crew members hanging around to witness. “With all of the terror aside, that was the most horrifying thing anybody could imagine.”
12. There were two different types of special effects used to create the dinosaurs.
To design these prehistoric creatures, Spielberg hired Winston in fall of 1990, two years before filming even began. Winston and his team’s work were portrayed in Jurassic Park by two special effects approaches. “There is number one: full-size, live action dinosaurs. And they exist. And they are real,” Winston said, describing the animatronic creatures the actors actually acted with.
“The other technology is created in a computer, and that was created by Dennis Muren and a brilliant team at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic),” Winston explained. “The combination of these two technologies when you see it on the screen, creates for you dinosaurs that live on screen and you're aware of no technology.”
This technology collaboration was also applied in the franchise’s upcoming installment, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
13. Spielberg insisted that the dinosaurs look like animals, not monsters.
“Steven had very specific requests. Number one: it was very important to Steven that these dinosaurs were legitimate. That they were animals. That we were not creating monsters,” said Winston. “We're not doing fantasy characters. We're recreating animal life.”
14. Everyone adored the triceratops.
“I must say, the triceratops particularly I really fell in love with. I think she's just beautiful,” said Dern, who acted alongside the famous sick dinosaur that Sattler and Grant examine early in their tour of the park. “And when it's a creature that's making sounds and breathing and sighing and tearing and, you know, it becomes so real.”
15. The T-Rex attack was filmed on location and on a soundstage.
The most iconic scene in Jurassic Park, and now cinema history, is the T-Rex escape and attack on the stranded visitors taking shelter in the vehicles just feet from where the predator emerges.
The scenes audiences see of the T-Rex paddock portrayed in the daytime during the guided tour were filmed in Hawaii. To shoot the nighttime attack, filming picked up on a soundstage at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California.
16. The dilophosaurus was slightly altered from reality.
While the dilophosaurus was a real Jurassic-era species, they were not known for spewing poison on corrupt computer hackers.
“I wanted a dinosaur that spit venom, but when he spit venom, he hooded like a cobra,” Spielberg recently told BBC Radio 1. This artistic license was inspired by a dinosaur described in the novel, which Spielberg was committed to putting on the big screen. “I wasn’t satisfied to let him hood. I needed the hood to shake. You know, kind of like flap like a flag.”
17. Three types of venom were made for the dilophosaurus attack.
“There were three different versions of the goo,” said Wayne Knight, who played park employee Dennis Nedry, who gets attacked by the dilophosaurus while trying to escape the island with dino DNA. “There's one for hitting the jeep with. There's one for hitting me in the shoulder. There's one for shooting my face. The one in my face was this dyed K-Y jelly that they shot out of a little air rifle.”
18. Goldblum said it was his idea to have an open shirt in that scene.
“It’s supposed to be Costa Rica, right? So things are hot and I’m sure I’m in some sort of fever. So all the logic is that we gotta get some of these wet clothes off immediately,” Goldblum told Yahoo!. “As I remember, I don’t think anybody fought me on that.”
19. Neill and Mazzello really did have an SUV hanging above them.
After attacking the two jeeps outside her paddock -- remember, all the park’s dinosaurs are female -- the T-Rex sends the one of the vehicles hurdling over the wall and lands in a tree. Grant goes to rescue Tim, only to have a SUV chase both of them.
“We’re coming down the tree and the car is falling behind us and threatening to crush us at any time and because of the shots Steven does, which are always very dynamic and he wants you to be right there underneath the peril, it meant actually being there,” Neill revealed. While the stunt had been crafted and staged down to the very last detail, Neill and Mazzello really did have an SUV hanging right above them. “There’s no tricks there. No tricks. We’re under that car.”
20. Mazzello got knocked unconscious while filming the kitchen scene.
“It was this huge machine on wheels,” Mazzello told People of the mechanical “raptors” used during the scene in which Tim and Lex are attacked by the predators. “I’m supposed to go left, it’s supposed to go right. One time I went left and I turned around and they had lost control of it and I was knocked down.”
This incident also happened to occur on the actor’s ninth birthday.
“[Director] Steven Spielberg said, ‘Okay, I think here’s the perfect time for us all to sing Happy Birthday,’ ” he continued. “The crew sang ‘Happy Birthday’ while I was lying on the ground.”
21. Laura Dern hated her costume by the end of the shoot.
“It's like pretty funny when you're picking out an outfit and you know you're gonna be in it for, whatever, 17 weeks,” said Dern. “We had a ritual burning at the end of the movie as I remember.”
At the beginning of the shoot, Dern had even inquired about keeping her wardrobe, but she did not feel the same way upon completion of the 4-month production. When she was offered the clothes, Dern responded: “‘Please, stay far away from me. I never want to see that outfit again.’”
22. Despite the film’s behind the scenes troubles, they actually finished ahead of schedule.
According to Dern, because of the film’s special effects, everyone had assumed the movie would go over schedule. “But we finished early and everything went really well. Very smoothly. And we had a blast.”
23. Spielberg supervised post-production effects while filming Schindler’s List in Europe.
While speaking in the press room at the 66th Academy Awards, where he won the Oscar for best director for Schindler’s List, Spielberg detailed the Jurassic Park post-production work he was able to supervise while on location in Europe for the Holocaust film. “This was just the CGI dinosaurs I had to approve when they came off the line. And we tried to schedule those on days that I wasn't miserable,” said Spielberg. “And, I mean, I was miserable for so many days on this picture.”
Later, speaking with ET, Spielberg discussed his surprise about the end result. “I wanted to do Schindler so bad that I actually almost rushed through Jurassic to get to Schindler's and I'm kind of amazed that Jurassic turned out halfway decent, because I really had most of my mind on Schindler's even when I was directing Jurassic.”
24. The cast was just as awestruck by the CGI as audiences were.
“I think everybody in the production thought for about a year that maybe it was not going to be possible to do it,” Crichton said at the premiere, by which time it became evident to him and the world that it was absolutely possible. “And I'm sure that nobody felt it would come out the way that it did. I mean, it's... You can't believe what you're seeing.”
“You're always wondering, ‘Is it really gonna work?’” said Dern of working with both the animatronic and yet-to-be-CGI-rendered dinosaurs. “And then you see them and they're everything you want them to be.”
25. Dern keeps a velociraptor figurine in her home.
This was not purchased at InGen’s liquidation auction. Spielberg gifted Dern the velociraptor model upon wrapping production, which she now keeps in her living room and sometimes refers to it as her “guard dog.”