How Brad Bird Almost Helming 'Star Wars' Resulted In Colin Trevorrow Directing 'Jurassic World'

Many people have wondered how Colin Trevorrow ended up directing Jurassic World. I loved his indie dramedy Safety Not Guaranteed when I saw it at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival (you can read my Sundance review here) but even I didn't expect that film to launch his career as the director of a mega sequel/reboot the size of Jurassic World.

So how did that happen? The answer might surprise you — Colin Trevorrow got the job after a chain reaction that began with director Brad Bird turning down Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Read the whole Jurassic World Star Wars connection story after the jump.

 The Jurassic World Star Wars Connection

Let's rewind to October 2012: Disney shocked the world by not only purchasing Lucasfilm but announcing that they would be making a new trilogy of Star Wars movies. The first rumors to hit the interwebs had Iron Giant/Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol director Brad Bird as the top choice for Episode VII in the Skywalker saga.

Brad Bird

Why Brad Bird Didn't Direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Before we get to the new information, lets take a look back at what Brad Bird has said about being asked to direct Star Wars Episode 7 right as Tomorrowland was about to begin production:

I've known Kathy [Kennedy] for a while and I know George [Lucas]. And they did come to me. But the problem was, the schedule they had in mind made it impossible to do...unless I dropped Tomorrowland. And I was just really deeply into this film at that point. It's easy to say, "Just put it on hold." But you're moving now; you don't know if you're going to be able to move later. Maybe it's true of filmmakers like Cameron or Spielberg, but I have to act on momentum. We had reached a critical mass where it would've thrown the furniture around from the train stopping. I really want to see this movie. I love the Star Wars films, and I can't wait to see what J.J. does, but it meant I'd have to shut down one dream to participate in another. I feel like [with Tomorrowland] we're making something that's really special and unique.

And there is another Quote from Bird on the subject:

For a moment there I thought it would work out to do this and go right into it, and it wouldn't work. There was no way to make that schedule and give this film the attention it deserved.  I know it's going to be terrific and everything, but I'm really happy to do this film. It's rare to do a film of size that's original.

Colin Trevorrow

How Producer Frank Marshall and Steven Spielberg Found Colin Trevorrow

But how does this relate to Colin Trevorrow directing Jurassic World? For that I give you an excerpt from our long on set interview with Colin and producer Frank Marshall, who is married to Star Wars: The Force Awakens producer Kathleen Kennedy.

After all the years you're trying to get [another Jurassic Park] made, what did Colin have to really bring it to the table?

Frank Marshall: Well, it's basic storytelling. You know, he's–when we looked at his movie–actually, I have to go back because it's all Brad Bird's fault.

It connects to Star Wars?

Frank Marshall: Yeah. So, it's all a family thing, which is when they [Disney and Lucasfilm] were looking for directors [for Star Wars 7], we were also looking for directors [for Jurassic World]. And Kathy [Kennedy] and I were talking one night and there was this kind of wild idea that Brad [Bird] had about how he could possibly do Star Wars and Tomorrowland at the same time. And he says "there is this guy that reminds me of me."

Colin Trevorrow: Oh, Brad.

George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams in a Star Wars meeting

Frank Marshall: And that he could depend on [Colin] to sort of prep everything and then he would step in and direct and of course, that's the kind of pie in the sky. I'm sure Kathy would have a little trouble going to Bob Iger with that.

Yes, you read that right, Brad Bird's initial pitch was that he would finish Tomorrowland while Colin Trevorrow would act as his stand-in during production prep on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As Frank Marshall says, the idea is a bit far fetched but it seems like it was considered for a quick minute as Kennedy really wanted Bird to direct and they didn't believe JJ Abrams would be available. But how does that lead to Colin Trevorrow directing Jurassic World? Lets continue with another excerpt from our interview:

Frank Marshall: But, I said, well, okay, well, who is this guy? So, we screened the movie [Safety Not Guaranteed] and I kind of saw what Brad was thinking. And so, I don't know whether I called your manager to get your number or what happened.

Colin Trevorrow: I remember–yeah, I think you called him and then you called me. I remember sitting at my house. "Frank Marshall's on the phone."

Frank Marshall: And, we had this great conversation. I went to Steven [Spielberg] and I said, you know, I think there's somebody I'd like to bring out to meet. We had met a couple of people. I met a lot of people, but getting through me to the next step was–there weren't many. And [Colin] came out and we're here today, you know? It was just–it was the easiest thing I've done in a long time because it was so organic because we all wanted to make the same movie.

The Pitch: A Return to the Wonder and Danger of Early Amblin

Frank Marshall: He's a wonderful storyteller. And that's what the movie's about. It's about storytelling. It's not about action and dinosaurs. It's about "who are the characters?" And he had done such a wonderful job in the other movie that it really was sort of like we had a mini-Amblin going.

Colin Trevorrow: Yeah. We were all talking about the things that we identify as being specifically Amblin and you probably wouldn't guess some of–like, one of them is, like, kids say s*** sometimes. Like, there's–children are in peril.

Frank Marshall: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Colin Trevorrow: Something you don't really get to do anymore. And it's just awesome that we get to–whether the kids say s*** or not, we get to put children in peril in this movie and it's just seeing children in horrifying and terror situations is so deeply satisfying.

Frank Marshall: Well, people say to me, how did you make Gremlins? How did you ever get away with making Gremlins? And I go I don't know. We just did it. Gremlins has one of the best excuses for not involving the police when something goes down.

What was their reason?

Frank Marshall: Well, it was actually–because they just don't believe them. And then there's the call back. ... And when he calls the sheriff, oh, yeah, just like, you know, those–.

Right. That was great.

Frank Marshall: All the little green monsters that multiply when you put water on them.

Safety Not Guaranteed

Clever. I feel like Safety has that — has some real moments of wonder – especially in the ending. When I saw it at Sundance, the crowd got up on their feet and clapped. I'm sure that's what Steven must've seen in [Safety Not Guarenteed]. What I feel was missing from the last two Jurassic Park films is that wonder and that, like, kind of — I mean, it had the terror, but it didn't have...

Colin Trevorrow: Right. Well, there was a disadvantage that they had and they couldn't — unless those characters thought they were going someplace that was going to be safe and wondrous, you don't — you have to manufacture that moment. And in both of those, it's like you're going to an island; you're probably going to die. And that's exactly what happens.

No, that's my favorite thing about this.

Frank Marshall: Well, and that was the pitch that really got us because the story we were on the track of was not this story. And it was Colin's pitch of we need to go back to what we did in the first movie. And enter the park in wonderment and joy and happiness and deliver what they're originally dreaming and then it can go up and everybody dies. It makes it all the more horrible when things do.

Colin Trevorrow: Yeah. Well, that was another thing that was important to us is that we didn't. I feel like my whole career will be a struggle against being derivative just because I grew up on a very specific set of movies. And my instincts all come from there. So it's constantly an effort to invent, invent, invent. And to not have a movie that felt like a retread, even from a narrative standpoint. We didn't want the park to break down from an infrastructure standpoint. We had to find another way. And every single thing, finding another way to make this little detail happen so on a whole, it lives as its own piece. And to me, it feels — I think when you see this movie, it makes Jurassic Park – I don't want say it feels like a prequel because it's an incredible movie and this movie can't be better than that movie. It's just literally impossible because you can't ever see that for the first time again. But, it feels like that movie is telling you the history of how this massive thing was made possible. It's very cool to watch it. And when we get to see this movie, you'll be able to watch Jurassic Park in the context of this movie. I think it's a great companion piece to that movie.