Posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2015 by Peter Sciretta
On July 21st 2014, I was lucky to visit the New Orleans set of Jurassic World. (You can read a list of over 50 things I learned on the Jurassic World set here.) While on set, we got the chance to have an extensive sit-down interview with Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, which was conducted during the crew lunch break on a recreation of the famous visitors center from Jurassic Park. (A location which, in the film’s story, is now abandoned.) Producer Frank Marshall joined us late in the conversation.
Our conversation spanned a variety of topics, including the use of performance capture to create the dinosaurs in the new film, the idea of Weird Al having a song in the new film, bringing an independent style to the shoot, and the evolution of the Jurassic Park 4 script over the last ten years. We went into the reasons for the infamous production delay, input from Steven Spielberg, and what to expect from the new dino species.
There were fun details, too, like how a conversation with his son about Star Wars resulted in major change to the script, allegories to Black Fish and Sea World, the dinosaur stand-ins on set, and how Brad Bird not directing Star Wars resulted in Steven Spielberg finding Colin.
As I said before, the interview is extensive and so you’ll want to carve out some time to read this. Trust me, its good.
Colin Trevorrow Jurassic World Interview
Question: I think the most important question we need to start off with is this: has Weird Al been contacted, and should we expect him or a song of his in the movie?
Colin Trevorrow: –Man, what an amazing resurgence. So awesome. No, I think that’s–yeah, we probably should get in touch. I have a hard time–I take it all so seriously, I have to remember not to sometimes. Not to be too serious, at least.
Question: Right. You were telling us before about how the dinosaurs are created in this film using performance capture. That’s the first in Jurassic Park history, right?
Colin Trevorrow: Absolutely.
Question: Can you talk about why you made that choice?
Colin Trevorrow: It’s something that ILM has been developing for a while and I went up there in September last year and I was able to sit on a stage and just move somebody around a space and just understand the fundamentals of how it worked. And there were a lot of questions as to whether that process could work for the larger animals. We knew it would work for the raptors because they’re at least somewhat human in height. But, when you get down to a 20 foot high, 50 foot long animal, is that going to translate? And then they tended to hone it and it really does. I’m not sure why, but the physics work and it’s pretty thrilling to watch. I think living things can recognize the movement of other living things and all the best animators in the world can’t quite capture that something.
Question: Jake was saying that he wasn’t surprised that you were doing this jumping from Safety [Not Guaranteed] to a movie of this level and that essentially you’re shooting it like you would an Indie movie anyway. Is that sort of how you felt going in, like not intimidated at all by this?
Colin Trevorrow: No. I feel more comfortable doing this than being an actual person in real life. So, yeah, we’re not shooting it like an Indie movie all the time. I mean, it’s very carefully planned. And, it’s a different style of filmmaking. I think even on Safety, it was frustrating for me because I didn’t really get to film-make in a traditional sense. It was more like pointing the video cameras and say the words. The sun is going down.
Press: That is filmmaking.
Colin Trevorrow: That is filmmaking. That’s true. It’s a different kind. Yeah. And I loved it. And we’re–even today–today was a more improvisation looser kind of day than we would normally have, but that’s really the challenge is to keep things feeling spontaneous in a movie like this. I think it’s one of the first things to go in a movie of this size is spontaneity. But, also the style of this film is so different from Safety in that every shot is designed and it’s not really a B camera that works that well that often except for situations like that we really try to tell the story, you know, with imagery in the way that Steven is brilliant at. And so, it’s not just point and shoot is my point.
Question: So, what was the origins of you coming on? Did you go in and pitch or–you pitch your take on it? Or did they call you in after seeing the movie? Or–.
Colin Trevorrow: –I didn’t. No. Yeah. Steven saw the film and Frank gave me a call. And asked me to come out. We talked for about two hours and then they flew me to L.A. a couple days later and Steven and I talked for a couple of hours and then he gave me Jurassic Park because it was a very strange week. You know, I don’t know exactly why he made that choice. Part of me feels like he wanted a child in the way that, like, Willy Wonka did–Who, like–you know, wouldn’t screw up the chocolate factory. But, you know–and as far as,I didn’t pitch anything because I didn’t know what the movie was about and I was hired before I’d even seen the script. They were still working on a draft and then I saw it and it was a very tough moment in my life because I realize I didn’t understand how to direct that screenplay and tell that story. And so, I had to go back to them and say, look, I’ll go home to Vermont but, it’s either that or Derek and I build a new movie called Jurassic Park IV and that’s what it was called at the time. And so, we just started doing it, essentially. We just got in a hotel and we started writing and I was designing the sequences by day at work while writing the thing based on, you know, this new outline that had come to us very quickly. I was saying to you guys before,I think all of us could write a Jurassic Park movie if called upon to do so. And so, it was suggested, I was activated and it all came very easily to me. I wrote–like, the outline for the movie, I wrote essentially, the Tuesday morning, I woke up at 4 a.m. and knowing I was going to go into work and tell Frank what I had tell him. Wrote a whole outline but there were two ideas from the earlier drafts that were very interesting. I was telling you earlier that the park existed and the idea that there was, even though the nature of it was different, that there was a dinosaur that had to be stopped that was killing everything in its path. And it kind of–essentially the idea that there was a human who had a relationship with the raptors that echoes relationships we have with animals today.
But, I felt like it really needed to be pulled way, way, way back. But, I read a lot of your websites and I know that it’s a draft doesn’t work or isn’t ultimately used, it’s suggested that those people did a bad job or–and it’s really not that. It’s that, developing a Jurassic Park movie took 14 years and it’s really hard. And the benefit of drafts like what John Sayles did and what Rick and Amanda did, they put the orange cones around all the potholes. And so, you get to look straight down the road. And there’s an advantage. And hopefully, people will respect the drafts that I’ve written that have been thrown out for the future. It happens to all of us.
Question: What happened when–like, you guys were going to go into production and then that got delayed. So, what exactly was the holdup there?
Colin Trevorrow: The holdup was really all about making sure we could accomplish what we wanted to accomplish. And I was hired in March. We wrote the first draft in a couple of weeks and we were developing it and working on it with Steven and getting it at a place for a June start, which is no way to make a movie. And it was all really about making it for a release date. And we just reached this point where all the things you’ve seen here, we wouldn’t have been able to build in the time we had. It was all going to be in the computer. I wasn’t going to be able to build the park that we constructed and I just reached this point that we realize in order to execute that particular vision, we could’ve made a movie.
But luckily, Steven is one of the few people in this industry who can call the studio and say, you know what? We’re going to take a little more time and get this right. And it was the day I think giving me the movie wasn’t the gift, giving me the extra year was the gift. So, we spent three months over the summer honing what we had and dialing it in and really just making it something that could be called Jurassic Park without being embarrassed for itself, be ashamed to look in the mirror. And I’m–I mean, I’m happy we did.
Question: You mentioned that Steven sort of maybe viewed you as the child he was handing it off to. I mean, there is that changeover happening now with George Lucas passing along Star Wars. He’s passed along Jurassic Park. The old guard is changing. Is it an exciting way to come into the established franchises? Or do you also think that creating new tentpoles instead of bringing back ones that you grew up with?
Colin Trevorrow: It’s so funny. I read certain articles about how all of the new filmmakers are immediately being given massive tent poles and there’s a lot of original movies that we have now lost as a result of this. I don’t want to call it a fad because I think it’s a good thing. I think the movies are better as a result. But, it’s very important to me to be able to tell original stories and I’m hoping that I can at least go back and forth. Because look, I love big movies. I love the kind of movies I watched when I was a kid. But, I also love telling great stories. And I think that it was actually the first thing I said to Steven when we sat down and he was suggesting this. However flattered I was, I acknowledged — I was, like, look, man, let’s just acknowledge, this is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. Let’s put it on the table right now. That said, he had the privilege of making a series of original movies that allowed him to build a voice and identity as a filmmaker over a long period of time. And by doing this, I am essentially being robbed of that in exchange for the best thing that ever happened to anyone. So, you weigh that. And in the end, I felt like I had a responsibility to do it mostly, you know, for Steven. In thanks for everything he’s done for all of us and how much his movies meant to me and to my childhood, but also if one is asked to do this, it’s almost insulting to everyone else to say no. We would all love this privilege to be able to recreate a film that meant so much to us.
Question: Do you think doing this kind of movie will open up more opportunities for you to more of the smaller movies that you want to do?
Colin Trevorrow: I suppose so. You know, I live in Vermont. I’m not really part of the system. I don’t go to the parties and I just feel like people are aware my services are available. And if they’re interested, they can call. But–.
Press: –What’s the number?
Colin Trevorrow: Yeah, it’s available.
Press: It’s in the phone book.
Colin Trevorrow: Yeah. And I think that I definitely respond to things on a gut level and I responded to the story that we built on a real gut level. I really think it’s a kind of movie we haven’t seen in a long time and it’s not just the kind of film that Jurassic Park was, but it’s a big romantic adventure. There’s a lot of Romancing the Stone in this movie, and a little Indiana Jones and it’s kind of all of things I love. It’s not just the one. And it even feels or all–like, there’s something about Star Wars that feels like you’re intercutting between completely different planets, completely different environments. And this movie has that, too. And the place you’re seeing today and then we’re intercutting with deep jungle and people jumping off of waterfalls and it really goes a lot of places.
Question: From Steven’s point of view, I’m just so interested, again, about, like, just the way–again, handing off–sort of the passing of the torch in a way. I mean, he did that with Jurassic Park III because Joe Johnston did that. But, I mean–.
Colin Trevorrow: –Joe was up here.
Press: Right. Exactly. He’s watching the new class and George Lucas, too, just watching these people who were kids when these movies come out. When you spoken to him about it, does he sort of have a–how does he feel about and could he ever see handing over E.T. to someone else? I mean, is this sort of that step of, like, you know–?
Colin Trevorrow: That I don’t know. I know this franchise means a lot to him. It’s very personal to him. Indiana Jones was a collaboration with George Lucas. It has different identity. And I know what he liked about Safety Not Guaranteed, which is that that movie posed a question throughout the film and he loved the answer on a very fundamental level. And I think that my instinct to be able to have something be funny and sad and thrillery and weird and in this case, horrifying, you know, Jurassic Park doesn’t have a genre. Like, what is Jurassic Park? It’s a sci-fi, terror, family adventure thriller? It’s hard to define and being able to bounce around from all these different tones and do something that hits all the notes, I would hope it’s that. I didn’t win a contest or anything. So, I hope it’s that.
Question: Was there any pressure to continue the story with some of the characters we know or anything like that? Or was it like, no, you just start all over, do what you want?
Colin Trevorrow: Certainly not from Steven. I think that was part of it is he really wanted to know, what did we see? What do we want to see? And I think the reason why he took so long is, you know, no one really knows the answer of how to do this. And I think that I looked at it and explained to you on your website (referring to my interview with Colin from during production) how I felt about it. But, it’s the difference between going back to your old elementary school and walking the halls and going back to your elementary school and seeing your teacher who is 20 years older. And I think the more sentimental feeling for me is when I’m alone, walking the halls, and having memories and it’s echoing. That was what I wanted to bring back.
Question: I expected maybe there’s a cameo–like, a human cameo of some kind. But, you mentioned earlier that there’s a dinosaur that we have seen in the previous films that we’re going to get to see. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Colin Trevorrow: The T-Rex that’s in the film is the T-Rex from the original Jurassic Park and she is 22 years older. But, she’s not limping around.
Question: Does she still have a taste for raptors?
Colin Trevorrow: We’ll see. We will see.
Question: Will audiences immediately recognize that it’s the same–?
Colin Trevorrow: –I hope so. Yeah. I mean, we took the original design and obviously, technology has changed. So, it’s going to move a little bit differently, but it’ll move differently because it’s older. And we’re giving her some scars and we’re tightening her skin. So, she has that feeling of, like, an older Burt Lancaster. And this movie is her Unforgiven.