”Colin Trevorrow, rhymes with tomorrow.” These words have stuck with me since I last spoke to Trevorrow back in 2018, which was, let’s say, probably not the most fun time in his career. And then on top of all that, most people, including me at the time, couldn’t even pronounce his name correctly. (Most people seem to pronounce it “Trevor-row,” which is wrong.) Trevorrow is decidedly more upbeat this time around as the third movie of this current trilogy of Jurassic World movies, Jurassic World: Dominion, is finally coming out this week. And not just that, but for the first time he’s got Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum all reprising their roles together for the first time since the original Jurassic Park.
And these aren’t just cameos. Laura Dern and Sam Neill are legitimate leads of this film (Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm becomes a lot more prevalent in the third act). And Treverrow wants to make this clear to audiences after what happened with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, when what was supposed to be a surprise cameo by Goldblum was used in the marketing, making it seem like he was a major character. But the problem is, how do you re-introduce these three characters in a realistic way since none of them at all know either Chris Pratt’s Owen or Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire?
So Jurassic World Dominion has two separate story plots that wind up eventually intersecting. Owen and Claire are still dealing with the fallout after Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, in which dinosaurs have now escaped into the wild. Meanwhile, Laura Dern’s Ellie Sattler is investigating very large locusts, which she thinks is being created by a company called Biogen, in an effort to destroy crops from competing seed companies. The more she learns, the more she finds out how dinosaurs have to do with all this, so she enlists two of her old pals for help, Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm.
Also, there was that time back in February of 2020 when Trevorrow’s unused script for Star Wars: Episode IX leaked onto the internet, which was titled Duel of the Fates. And the reaction at the time was really positive. Obviously the entire situation wasn’t what he would have wanted, but did he find some solace in the fact people seemed to like his script? As Trevorrow explains, it’s complicated. (What I learned the last time we spoke is Trevorrow is a pretty emotional fellow and wears his heart on his sleeve and there’s no way he didn’t notice the reaction.)
To this day, since the last time we spoke interview, whenever someone mispronounces your name, which is a lot, I say, “Trevorrow, rhymes with tomorrow.”
Oh, man. Thank you so much. You’re doing the Lord’s work for my parents’ name.
I’ve been reading a lot about the productions of the original movies. When Spielberg was asked if he wanted to direct a third one he said, “It would give me a tremendous headache.” Joe Johnston said it was a “living hell on a daily basis.” Now you’ve directed two of these. How are you doing?
How am I? I knew you were going to ask that.
Well, I worry about you.
I know, man.
You wear your heart on your sleeve and I don’t think people realize that about you.
I do. Well, I have no choice. I grew up in Oakland and we’re very earnest people in the Bay Area. At least, when I grew up. And we just say how we feel. I, actually, am doing very well. That’s not saying it was easy. It was insanely challenging. And yet filmmaking is a constant series of challenges every day, and you know that going in.
And then add in the pandemic…
What we had on this movie was this opportunity to know each other in a way that most large scale blockbusters would never allow something like that to happen. You’re always in separate trailers and people are going to their houses. We were together on set all the time because we really couldn’t leave that particular bubble. We were living together. We were eating meals together and playing Frisbee together on the weekends, and that is a way of making a film that I actually haven’t experienced since my first film, since Safety Not Guaranteed. We were in a motel, but not dissimilar. And so I think how beautiful an experience it was to make, but that doesn’t always translate into whether the movie’s good.
You know, whether anything you did works, but you still take those experiences with you, and this is the fourth film that I’ve directed that I had an incredible experience making, and so now it’s just about whether this thing we created feels good to everybody else.
I could tell how much thought you put into this premise. The quick answer to “dinosaurs are everywhere now” is we will all get eaten. But in reality there are a lot of animals out there who eat us and humans aren’t getting eaten a lot. Lions exist.
Yeah, the lion doesn’t run into the Starbucks.
Your version is people are selling them as exotic pets, there are being sold at wet markets for food, corporations are trying to make money off of them. These are all things that would probably actually happen happen.
Well, it feels odd to say that we wanted our dinosaur movie to be reality based, but we have a rule if the dinosaurs aren’t going to do anything that animals don’t do or wouldn’t do in the world that we live in. Just like Battle at Big Rock, the short that we did, when you go camping and a bear shows up and if it starts fighting with another creature, you’re going to get into danger. We have this tenuous balance that exists between us and every living thing on this planet and for a dinosaur movie that’s for kids and families — and obviously is fun and has adventure in it — to be able to look at that even, to be able to talk about our relationship with the natural world as it exists now in 2022, I think is an opportunity. As long as we don’t get instructive. We’re not lecturing anybody, but I think there’s room to talk about that.
So a big part of the plot is a Monsanto-type company using dinosaur DNA to make locusts that wipe out competing farms. Where did that come from?
So, I had this group that got together, mostly geneticists, different kinds of scientists, futurists, and we asked them, “here’s the situation.” Because we wanted the engine of the movie to be Ellie Sattler’s story and so what we put to them was, “What is something that is a global ecological crisis that would be caused by tampering with genetic power on one level or another, and that only a paleobotanist would notice first?” Which is very specific.
Yes. That is very specific.
Right? And so they came up with a lot of real world scenarios where even DARPA right now has Insect Allies. It’s a program that is using locusts to spread pesticides to crops, and there’s a lot of fears, “Well, what if they start eating everything?” They can get larger than you expected, and so we designed something on that side of the story from that conversation.
Speaking of Laura Dern, I just spoke to her, she has all these amazing stories. That had to be great having her around.
It’s interesting actually how much her life mirrored Bryce Dallas Howard’s. Both of them grew up on movie sets. Bryce tells me stories of her sleeping on her dad’s shoulder in Japan while he’s dining with Kurosawa and Lucas.
I mean, these are the experiences they had while you and I were probably just playing with dinosaur toys.
In retrospect it’s strange it took this long to get her back as the lead in a Jurassic movie.
I can only speak to why it took so long for us to do it in the Jurassic World movie. It was that we felt like we had to earn it. We had to earn all three of them. If you imagine going to the theater to see a movie called Jurassic World, about a theme park, and it was those three legacy characters who happened to be invited to the theme park on the same day? And it all goes to sh*t? And we are introducing these new characters at the same time? I don’t know if I would’ve bought it. And yet for us to spend two movies building up Chris and Bryce’s characters and establishing that BD Wong is in the universe — all of these things that we’ve done to allow this movie to feel like hopefully a little bit more of an organic, natural progression of the story — and then to really find a reason why their expertise is needed in this new world, and we’re not just sending them along on the adventure so they can be there.
I feel like maybe at first people misjudged why people went to see these movies. It wasn’t just the dinosaurs, people really love Laura, Sam and Jeff in these movies and we haven’t had them all back in one movie until this one.
Yeah. I think it actually has taken all of this time for us to understand how valuable these characters were to both the franchises and to us. We care about them deeply. They’re very personal to us. I actually love that it didn’t happen until now because it’s special now.
We do have a bit of a specialness crisis going on when it comes to these stories that we love, and I think that the fact that we’ve been as reserved as we have, that we’ve held back, now that it’s finally happening, I think that’s what lets you feel the way that you felt.
People have asked me if it’s just a cameo or not and I’m like, “No, Laura Dern is a main character.” And I know that was important to you.
Well, it was, or it would feel like the promise of Ian Malcolm in the last movie, where I feel like people were disappointed that he was only a book end of the film. That probably was a result of marketing if anything else…
Right, because he was in the trailer but then he’s barely in the movie.
I think in modern marketing, we probably wouldn’t mention he’s in the movie at all. And that’s something that Marvel did really well and I think they taught everyone a lesson in value of that, I think. Not a knock against our marketing team. They’re geniuses and I love them…
To be fair, Marvel also leaks just enough to let people who are paying attention know that these other two Spider-Mans might show up.
They do know how the internet works. They’re very smart. Very smart. We did it differently because we actually did want to assure the audience that this was the story that they were going to get. And we did it very deliberately and I think it’s because I trust these actors so much to be the authority on their character to really tell us where it is they feel they would be in the world. And when you rely on your collaboration with these actors that much, it’s not going to make any sense to them that they’re just showing up to give someone directions to wherever they’re going.
The shaving cream canister from the first movie has a quick cameo in this movie with Campbell Scott as Dodgson. Originally The Lost World was supposed to be about the canister, then I believe your first one was going to try to do something with the canister. Why is retrieving that canister such a difficult plot point to crack?
I felt like it’s an idol. It’s not a plot point and so I felt like recognizing that, to this character, this represents something. It isn’t literally anything. When I saw it buried under the mud when I was a kid, I think we all were like, “Well, that’s coming back and we’re rooting for it.”
Right, “We’ll see that in the next one.”
It does, I think, maybe allow some members of the audience to remember who he even is. And if you’re a Jurassic Park fan, you remember, “We got Dodgson. We got Dodgson here.”
Speaking of knowing how the internet works. I believe you, as well, know how the internet works.
I know there is no way you’re ever going to tell me how your Star Wars IX treatment leaked on the internet. But I am curious because I know you paid attention to the reaction. People seemed really into it and that had to feel nice.
It was complicated.
It was complicated. But, honestly, I mean, since we’re talking now in 2022, I can say honestly I’m very grateful to Kathy for recognizing that she and I were never going to make a movie that we were both proud of together. And she’s been doing this for so long and she cares about me and I care about her and her family. And Frank and I are partners still. I’m a part of this group of incredible filmmakers, so it was a complicated moment, but now, having been able to do this and really feeling like this is what… I’m glad I did this. I’m deeply, deeply satisfied for having done this. I appreciate that she had the wisdom to see something that, honestly, I’m not sure I could’ve seen because I was so dialed in to the story I wanted to tell.
But you got a week of accolades when that leaked. People were like, “This would’ve been great.” I realize, overall, it wasn’t a good situation, but for that week it had to be nice to get some credit.
It was a lot. I’ll leave it with that.
Okay. I don’t want to end on Star Wars. Let’s end on Jurassic World.
Yeah, back to Jurassic World…
Tell me about the first scene you had Laura, Sam and Jeff in one scene together. That had to be emotional.
Well, we’d been living together for a while. It was a different kind of moment where it wasn’t a shock to see their three faces within my field of vision.
But they were all in a Jeep and there was this moment… It’s when the Jeep is tilting over, so all of them lean right, then lean to the left. And when they leaned to the left, Laura’s face came in to Jeff Goldblum’s coverage. And then between them you could see Sam Neill. And it just naturally happened because we were actually tilting the Jeep in the other direction and we didn’t really know what was going to happen with the frame when we did it, and suddenly there were these three faces. That moment was amazing because I realized we were actually doing the thing, and I sent a picture of it to Steven.
Laura Dern mentioned she sent that to him, too.
We probably all did. We were all very excited. But I got very emotional at that moment, and that his reaction to it was what made me realize that what we were doing was meaningful and was going to be meaningful to a lot of people who grew up on this.
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