After Colin Trevorrow’s breakthrough indie hit – 2012’s Safety Not Guaranteed — he was saddled with an almost impossible task… reinvigorate a franchise that is inherently not franchise friendly. Jurassic Park was never about a character that can keep coming back for more adventures, it’s about a place that people would have to keep willingly visiting – which became harder and harder to justify, as that place has a mortality rate that is very, very high.
Adding to the difficulty, in April, Avengers director Joss Whedon accused a clip from Jurassic World of being “’70s era sexist” – an accusation that Trevorrow agreed with, at least when viewing the clip out of context. Still, for a franchise that has remained dormant for 14 years, Trevorrow was already on the defensive two months before the film was released. (And, as Trevorrow pointed out, Whedon then himself came under fire after the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron.)
Trevorrow’s solution to the “why would anyone ever return to this island?” problem was basically to go “all in.” In Jurassic World, it’s not another dangerous excursion. Instead, the island from the first film (which isn’t the same island in the second and third movies, meaning those films are largely ignored during the events of Jurassic World) is now a prospering Disney World-type theme park – run by Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing — with its plethora of attractions, restaurants and even a Starbucks. But, to get people to come back, the island has to keep producing bigger and badder dinosaurs – which leads us to the new Indominus Rex. As you might expect, the Indominus Rex causes some problems, which leads Claire to seek help from a Velociraptor trainer named Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt.
Even though Trevorrow has already announced that he’s not returning for a sequel, when you speak to him, it’s obvious that he’s certainly not faking his enthusiasm for this movie – a movie that he calls his “director’s cut.” Ahead, Trevorrow explains why he decided not to return for another Jurassic adventure, and discusses the difficulty of being a filmmaker in 2015 in a world that’s become filled with a lot of vitriol.
Jurassic World feels like a direct sequel to Jurassic Park, in that its directly referenced and the other two movies are not.
Yeah, I mean, that’s a little bit of how it was intended, but not with disrespect for the others. It’s just that those movies took place on a different island and they weren’t about a theme park and this is. So, absolutely, it’s a sequel to the first movie.
With just the first movie, the park wasn’t open yet so it might not be something people want to avoid in the future. Once the T. rex shows up in San Diego in The Lost World, there might be second thoughts about wanting to be around one of those.
And you can be reassured with today’s modern technology and security, everything is going to be fine – however wrong you would be.
Jurassic World reminded me a little bit of Terminator 2: Judgment Day in that the thing we rooted against in the first movie has now been updated and we find ourselves now rooting for the old model.
Right. It wasn’t intended, but that’s not a bad comparison. That’s a great sequel.
There are a lot of references to the first movie. Jake Johnson’s character wears a Jurassic Park t-shirt. Where did you get that, was it just around?
It’s the baseball t-shirt from the gift shop in the first movie, you actually see it in Jurassic Park. Our idea is that a certain number of these had been smuggled off the island by some employee and you can buy them. It costs more in the world of this movie and people know that it’s a great tragedy in a very self-reflective hipster way.
It looked very worn, so I wondered if that’s an actual t-shirt from 1993.
No, no, we made it that way.
It was fun to see that original logo again, even tattered.
Yeah, we used it a couple places and seeing the logo old and worn out and lived in was something that allowed this new park to have the same dynamic that the Indominus Rex has to the T. rex. One is old and scarred and one is new and shiny and that was something we tried to balance through the whole movie.
When you were working on the script, did you ever consider a way to have Ian Malcolm in the movie?
We actually wrote the script from scratch and we did sneak an Ian Malcolm reference in early in the film when they’re riding on a rail and Zara [Katie McGrath] is reading his used book and you see his photo on the back – and that book also exists in the control room and Lowery [Johnson] is reading it as well.
Was there ever a thought of having Jeff Goldblum cameo? I know that in this story that might be a bit much.
Yeah, I wanted it to feel real and I wanted everything to have a logic to it that would support everything else. To me, the only thing that made sense would be that the father of the genetics of the first film [B.D. Wong’s Dr. Henry Wu] would still be there making his dinosaurs. But, everybody else, it felt like a bit of a movie confection in order to put them in there.
But you did sneak in Mr. DNA.
Yeah, that’s me, you know! That’s my cameo! I’m the voice. That’s my brief cameo in the film. I get two lines.
That’s a great cameo to give yourself.
Yeah, I wouldn’t be on camera. And it actually happened by mistake – I did it once in a booth, we were at a sound mix studio and I just through it in there and we decided to keep it.
I clapped when I saw him.
See, we do have returning characters from the first film, they just aren’t human. We have him and we have the T. rex and I consider the T. rex to be the hero of the first movie. We do bring him back.
So that’s the same T. rex from the first movie?
Yeah, you’ll see that the scars that the raptors gave her at the end of the first movie are still on her now.
At the Jurassic World premiere, you announced that you weren’t going to direct another Jurassic World movie, which was an interesting time to make that announcement. Why announce that so early?
Unfortunately, I’m just a very honest person [laughs]. I intended to just do one for quite a long time and part of it is just that I had such an incredible experience on this and it’s so special to me. I poured so much of myself into this movie; it’s a very personal dinosaur movie. And, yet, I do genuinely believe, as somebody who is partially responsible for making sure this carries on, I think this is one of those franchises — like Mission: Impossible and like what they’re currently doing with Star Wars — that is going to really benefit from new voices and new points of view. So, that’s me doing what I think is necessary to make sure it carries on and stays fresh. People right now might be very confused as to why I’m making this decision, but down the line, looking at the way that franchises have been working, I’m pretty confident this is the right answer for this one. We need to keep it new and keep it changing and constantly let it evolve.
Jurassic World is your second movie and is very different from Safety Not Guaranteed. I did wonder if it’s a situation where this is just such a hard movie to make that you’re tired and couldn’t think about doing another right now.
No, man, I’m actually not tired! I had an incredible experience and I was given so much creative freedom on this movie – this is my director’s cut that’s being released all around the world. And that is a great privilege as a filmmaker, to have that kind of freedom. And, you know, making movies is tiring, but this one went very smooth. We finished ahead of schedule and under budget and we didn’t have to do any reshoots. It all just went very well.
I read your response to the Joss Whedon’s tweet that accused a clip of Jurassic World of being sexist, which you agreed it kind of was seen out of context. Then, as you mentioned, Whedon was put under a lot of scrutiny after Avengers: Age of Ultron came out. How hard is it to be a filmmaker in 2015 when you know this kind of response is possible for any scene you might shoot? Was it tiring to defend your movie before it came out based on one out of context clip?
You know, it’s part of the job now. I think everyone who gets into this particular line of filmmaking is going to be aware that that goes with the territory. And I think that a lot of it comes from a place of deep love for these films. People care about these movies and they consider them to be their own. There’s a sense of ownership that exists with all of these things that we loved when we were young and that we love now. And I understand where that passion comes from. And, sometimes, it can get very negative and it can turn into something that is vitriolic and I don’t think very healthy. And I would hope that that would change, but I doubt that it will. And, in the end – and this has nothing to do with Joss; this is just the bigger picture: I get where the source of these passions are, and that’s just something that anyone who is going to make these kind of movies is going to have to contend with.
Can that hurt storytelling? Can being worried that someone might get mad about a particular story beat hurt creativity?
Yeah, maybe. But, I also trust that, in the end, people are going to live with the film that we’re making and that’s what will stand the test of time. I, personally, I’m not going to change my storytelling for any reasons other than to make it a better story. And, you know these kind of films are difficult and are a challenge to make and they are a challenge to share with the entire world. And, yet, I don’t think we should stop doing them because they give a lot of people a lot of happiness.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.