Welcome to 'Jurassic Park': An oral history

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Everything went smoothly until the last day of shooting. Spielberg awoke in his hotel room at 4 a.m. and noticed the staff bringing in all of the pool chairs. In a few hours ­Hurricane Iniki — the most ­powerful storm 
 on record to hit Hawaii — would strike.

SPIELBERG I turned on the TV. There was an animation of the Hawaiian island chain. The island we were on, Kauai, was outlined in red and there was a big arrow pointing to it, and then there was the icon of a cyclonic hurricane moving directly towards us. It was like a movie.

NEILL We were all huddled into the ballroom of this hotel, which was completely trashed in the course of the hurricane. What kept morale up was that the only thing to read in the whole ballroom, the only thing anyone thought to bring in with them, was a Victoria’s Secret catalog. So that, in our darkest moments, cheered us up.

GOLDBLUM The lights went out, and I remember Steven Spielberg took a flashlight and held it above his head and shined it down on himself and said, “Love story,” and then put it under his chin and said, “Horror story.” “Love story. Horror story.”

RICHARDS Steven helped to combat boredom with both Joey and me. He took it upon himself to tell us ghost stories, and I think the ghost stories scared me more than the hurricane.

SPIELBERG Kathy Kennedy jogged to the airport. She found some guy about to leave on a small private single engine aircraft. She hitchhiked her way to Honolulu and she was trying to find a plane that could get our crew and cast back to Los Angeles. 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. It’s once again something else that seems to only happen in the movies. And when things like that happen in the movies, the audience rejects that!

Once the storm passed, the cast and crew were airlifted out of Hawaii and returned to L.A. to shoot the remainder of the film, including the film’s most iconic action sequence: the T. rex’s attack on Dr. Grant and the kids in their Ford Explorer. ­Spielberg had storyboarded extensively and even enlisted Tippett to ­create a mini stop-motion animation of the pivotal moment. 
But as Goldblum’s Malcolm implies in the film, not everything can be predicted.

SPIELBERG I was listening to Earth, Wind & Fire [in my car] and had it cranked up really loud. I suddenly saw my ­rearview mirror vibrating every time the horns section came in. I thought, “What if when the T. rex approaches, the mirror starts vibrating?” That is in the picture. But then I thought, “What if it was a glass of water and these concentric circles?” So I gave it to Michael Lantieri, the guy in charge of physical effects, and he came up with how to ­actually achieve those ripples by using guitar strings [placed under the dashboard].

JOHN ROSENGRANT Stan Winston Studio puppeteer The T. rex was 36 feet long and 18 feet tall. We’re talking about a hydraulically powered creature that felt like a bus going by you when it would move. We found out not long before we were going to shoot that it was going to be raining [in the scene]. So it went from this beautifully tuned machine that worked fantastically to… suddenly the foam-rubber skin started absorbing water, and now all of the calculations were off and it started to shudder. We went out and bought tons of towels and started putting big blowers, dryers, on it to dry it out.

KENNEDY The T. rex went into the heebie-jeebies sometimes. Scared the crap out of us. We’d be, like, eating lunch, and all of a sudden a T. rex would come alive. At first we didn’t know what was happening, and then we realized it was the rain. You’d hear people start screaming.

MAZZELLO We were in that car, and I think the T. rex was only supposed to go down so far, and the Plexiglas was the only thing between the dinosaur and us. It came down too far one time, and it chipped the Plexiglas and broke a tooth. And if you pause on it, you can actually see in the movie that there’s a shot during that scene where the T. rex was missing a tooth.

MARTIN FERRERO Donald Gennaro I remember Steven telling me when we first met that he was planning on having my character get eaten by the T. rex while he was sitting on the commode, and I was always worrying about how it was going to play until we shot it. And then I was more worried about it! I would be sitting there on the toilet on this enormous set while this big thing came down on top of me.

RYDSTROM The T. rex is doing this dog-like thing which kills its victim by shaking. That’s how it kills the lawyer. For that, we recorded my dog, a little Jack Russell Terrier. One of the keys to sound design is you can slow down sounds and make them sound big so a Jack Russell Terrier playing with a rope toy played a half-speed or so makes a wonderful T. rex.

RICHARDS It was very wet. I remember drinking a tremendous amount of hot tea during the whole thing. I didn’t get sick, but there were all these wind machines and rain pouring down on us. A lot of mud, I remember that. The hair and makeup people were always plastering mud on us constantly to make sure we looked dirty enough.

NEILL I’ve still got a big scar on my left hand that I’m looking at right now from the flare. It dropped some burning ­phosphorous on me and got under my watch and took a chunk of my arm out.

One of the film’s most harrowing scenes involves Mazzello and Richards’ Tim and Lex being chased through the visitor center’s industrial kitchen by a pair of predatory velociraptors. Those raptors were actually portrayed using full-body suits with Winston’s puppeteers crouching inside.

ROSENGRANT We started analyzing how we were going to break down each creature. We got to looking at the raptor and I think we all kind of brainstormed that you could probably get a guy in that suit. We did a clay study of me bent over in the most uncomfortable position and sculpted the raptor around it and said, “Yeah, it will work.” So we went forward with that and I had been in little suit things here or there but I knew I was going to have to really get myself into super-duper shape. One of the main scenes was when it first comes in the door and reaches up and hoots— that’s me in the suit doing that. I feel bad that young boy, Joe, those things creeped him out. They were nasty looking.

MAZZELLO On my birthday, we were doing the kitchen scene, and I was supposed to run into the freezer. I was chased by the raptor and they had him on wheels. They were rolling after me, and I was supposed to go left, and it’s supposed to go right. The one time I go left, I turn around and it’s following me left, and the claw just hit me right in the head. I had a nice bump on my head after that. But it was a good birthday. Actually, the the hurricane happened on Ariana’s birthday, so either natural disasters or we were getting beaten up by dinosaurs, but there was always something going on on our birthdays on that shoot.

RICHARDS There’s that part where I’m supposed to run towards the freezer and save my brother from the raptor. We had done one take and Steven came over to me and was able to let me know, “Okay, Ariana, I want you to really let loose for this.” So I did. I really went berserk, just totally hysterical. And that was the shot he used.

THE PHENOMENON

Jurassic Park wrapped 12 days ahead of schedule. Kennedy and George Lucas oversaw postproduction while Spielberg was in Europe shooting Schindler’s List. The film opened on Friday, June 11, 1993, 
 and broke box office records its first weekend, with $47 million. It eventually went on to make more than $900 million worldwide.

 KOEPP I remember the day it opened, I was in New York and I walked to the Ziegfeld [Theatre] to see how it was doing. The guy comes out and announces to the big line, “Ladies and gentlemen, the 7 o’clock show 
of Jurassic Park is sold out.” And ­people go, “Oooh.” And he goes, “Also the 10 o’clock show is sold out.” And they went, “Ooooooh.” “And also Saturday night’s 
 7 and 10 o’clock shows are also sold out.” And I was like, “I’m not an expert, but I think this is very good.”

SPIELBERG My reaction was “Thank God.” 
 I don’t often preview the movies I direct. 
 I did not preview Jurassic Park. The first 
 time I saw it was at a theater with the 8 p.m. Friday audience. I sat in the back with my agent Mike Ovitz and my wife.

KENNEDY That was a period of time where it was so fun to release movies because it was like a rock concert. You’d get in a limo and get a couple bottles of champagne and drive around town and see the lines around the block and people going crazy and getting dressed up. And then you go into the theater, and people were so excited. We’ve lost a bit of that with movies opening in so many theaters.

MAZZELLO It was wild. I couldn’t leave the house. I would be walking down the street and I would get mobbed.

DERN [People were like,] “Oh my gosh, 
 you’re the girl who put your hand in the ­dinosaur poo!” That was my big entrée. 
 I have met kids who were afraid to shake my hand, as though I hadn’t washed.

NEILL I get stopped for different reasons on the street, but Jurassic Park would be the most universal of them. If I go to the Philippines or Rwanda or something, people just know me all around the world. And they’ll start roaring like dinosaurs.

KENNEDY In many ways it’s one of Steven’s really great movies. When you look at 
 what the technology spawned, it’s pretty ­remarkable what a game changer it was.

SPIELBERG I think people like Jurassic Park because it’s a helluva yarn.

Read more:
EW Review: ‘Jurassic Park 3-D’
‘Jurassic Park 4′ lands a release date

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