Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has everything: a volcanic eruption, a house haunted by dinosaurs, the return of chaos man Dr. Ian Malcolm, a new prehistoric mutant hybrid, Chris Pratt cracking one-liners. Director J.A. Bayona, best known on this side of the Atlantic for The Orphanage and A Monster Calls, is new to the Jurassic universe and told Uproxx about the process of making the movie, from what it was like adding a sense of empathy to these classic monsters, to why he feels this story is still so relevant in today’s uncertain world.
What drew you to the script in the first place?
Colin Trevorrow told me that he thought about me because of The Orphanage. And that came as a surprise to me. And then he told me that the second half of the movie was going to be a haunted house story, and I was immediately in love with that. If I think about the first Jurassic Park, one of the things that I loved the most was the sense of suspense that Steven was able to create in that movie. And for me it was a way of having fun. I was coming from these pretty intense films, and it was a way of working in Hollywood, working with Steven Spielberg, and having the chance of creating memorable things like the ones I saw in the original movies.
Was there anything that you drew on from the first movie that you wanted to echo in this one?
From the very beginning when Colin told me about suspense, we were on the same page. Bringing back this sense of horror and fear that we all remember from the very first movie. We all love to be scared by dinosaurs and the intention was to create a story that had to be fun for the whole family but at the same time being back those same feelings that we had the first time we had a T. Rex in front of us.
The scene where the raptors learn how to open the doors, I’ll always remember that.
You have often stuck to fantasy and ghosts and horror in your work, so what was it like directing an action movie?
It was something new to me. I’ve never shot a fight, I’ve never shot an action scene. I did the tsunami in The Impossible — it’s not an action scene but there’s a lot of visual effects involved and very complex choreography. But it was the thing that I was attracted to by this project, to be able to shoot comedy and to shoot action and fights, stuff that I’ve never done.
What do you like about movies with monsters?
This is a story that tries to make us accept what we do not understand. There’s always a sense of empathy towards the dinosaurs. And then it’s not about dinosaurs anymore, it’s about us. The film takes the Jurassic universe out of the island and makes it a global situation. I thought that was a major step forward.
Even in the first movie there’s that final shot where they’re in the helicopter and they see the Pterodactyls flying beside them, and then nothing really happens with that.
And I feel like this movie is a continuation of, what if they’re really here?
With a twist. You don’t have birds anymore, you have Pteranodons. It’s a way of telling the audience, this is going to a different place. It’s the same thing with that shot with the mirror, and you don’t see a T. rex anymore, you see Owen [Chris Pratt].
I liked that callback.
As a director, you play with that, you play with the iconic shots that display the meaning of the story. There’s a moment where you see the dioramas and you see Claire [Bryce Dallas Howard] looking at those dioramas at the beginning of the film. And at the end of the story it’s Claire inside of the diorama, and a dinosaur outside looking at them.
I loved that Pachycephalosaurus, too, just running around and causing havoc.
It’s a bigger sequence, it’s a bigger movie, and so we have the chance to have the same dinosaurs that we had in Jurassic World and add new ones. And it’s kind of fun for us, it’s very exciting to see new dinosaurs. You put the camera on a Baryonyx or a Suchomimus, and everyone gets very excited.
I really liked the conservation aspect of this movie, I don’t think that’s something that’s really been touched on in the Jurassic series yet.
Well, it’s part of this idea of playing with empathy. I think the stories of Michael Crichton reflect on the relationship that man has towards nature. And these things are more relevant now than ever these days. So, it’s a very interesting tool, to use the world Michael Crichton created to reflect on the world we live in.
I also thought it was interesting that there was another mutant dinosaur hybrid in this movie.
They keep trying [laughs]. I think that one of the things that I really liked from the concept of the Indoraptor is that it’s a prototype that went wrong. So, he’s kind of like a rejected creature. We are able to play with this Frankenstein idea, the doctor and his monster, and how the monster is rejected. It’s a way of showing some empathy towards the monster of the movie.
I also loved how the Velociraptor Blue really got a spotlight in this movie. How did you do that, did you have tennis balls on sticks to stand in for the CGI, or some sort of mechanics?
Because we’re talking about the relationship between man and dinosaurs, for me it was very important to have the interaction of the actors with the animals. From the very beginning, I pushed for animatronics, in order to have the actors performing in front of something real, or having the camera very close to the dinosaurs and the actors touching the dinosaurs. I’m coming from the experience of shooting another film, A Monster Calls, that has a lot of visual effects and CGI effects and animatronics, and I learned a lesson there. I tried to make the interaction between actors and dinosaurs as realistic as possible.
I forgot sometimes that they weren’t real. You’ve got a really great cast for this movie, what was it like working with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard?
This is the first time I got into a story and the actors have already a relationship established because they’ve done a movie before. They know each other very well, they have a great relationship, they know their characters, and they’re very open to collaborating. We collaborated a lot in the rehearsals, and every time we shoot a scene I worked really closely with the actors. I was very open to improvisation because Chris is great at doing improvisations. It was really one of the best things in making this film.
Did Chris improvise anything that made it into the movie?
Yeah, definitely. He’s not just a fun guy, he’s also a brilliant guy. He was the one who had the idea of crossing the jaws of the T. Rex. There’s that scene where Claire and Owen are locked inside a truck with the T. Rex, and he was the guy who had the idea of jumping through the jaws of the T Rex. Or some of the lines in the final movie, like that moment where he says, “You’re the one who made me come.” It’s the kind of thing that’s created on the set and as a director, you feel like they’re gold.
Do you think that were close to being able to do this, to genetically engineer dinosaurs?
According to the research that I did for this movie, we are not close. But I’m sure that there will be a moment that we will be able to do it. It’s a very complex world. That’s why we bring back Ian Malcolm [Jeff Goldblum] for this film because being this story where we cross the red lines, we needed him back. It was like this reminder telling us what is the right thing to do and where are the red lines.
If everyone had just listened to Ian Malcolm, we wouldn’t be in this situation right now.
He’s a really great character. I think we all love the first Jurassic Park, and that movie was a game changer in terms of visual effects. But if we are still talking nowadays, twenty-five years after the release, it’s because of the heart and the emotion and the love that Steven put into the characters and the story. And, of course, getting some of these characters back into the story is something very special.