Interview: Producer Frank Marshall Talks 'Jurassic World,' 'Indiana Jones 5,' And 'Back To The Future'

The week before Jurassic World hit theaters, I was able to get mega-producer Frank Marshall on the phone to talk not only about the new Jurassic Park sequel/reboot, but about a variety of other topics as well.

During the conversation we discussed the idea of weaponized dinosaurs, how he came to produce this movie (which has something to do with Star Wars), the cynical online fanboy reaction throughout the development, the Amblin feel of the movie, how the project evolved from earlier drafts, why the previous screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver are still credited on the film after Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connelly did a page one rewrite, the battle of practical vs. cg effects, planning for further sequels, Spielberg's idea for trained raptors, how Jimmy Buffet ended up in the movie, if Universal Studios will be making a Jurassic World ride for their parks.

I ask him about some of the projects he has on his plate, which include new Bourne movies, a big-screen adaptation of Assassin's Creed, and Indiana Jones 5. I also ask about the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future, a film for which Marshall acted as producer and second unit director. (I got some details on that latter gig.) All this and more is in my Frank Marshall interview, which you can read after the jump.

Frank Marshall Interview

Peter Sciretta: Hey, Frank. How's it going?

Frank Marshall: Good, thanks, how are you?

I'm doing good. I assume you're on set.

No, I'm on my way to the studio. I go back up to Vancouver on Wednesday.

Well, before I get to Jurassic World, I wanted to ask you a couple quick questions about what's going on with your other projects.

Go for it.

Frank MArshall and Matt Damon on the set of Bourne

 There's a new Jason Bourne movie with Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass. How does Jeremy Renner's character fit into that?

They're still two different projects, two different films.

Assassins Creed

And the Assassin's Creed movie, is that happening?

Yeah, that's happening in September.

Chris Pratt as Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones 5. Is Harrison Ford going to be involved or is Chris Pratt taking over?

No, there've been no discussions on that so...

So that's just like Internet rumors?

Yeah. I mean, we've had no discussions on Indy 5 to date.

Okay, let's get to Jurassic World.

Jurassic World Poster raptors header

And the movie's been in development in different incarnations since around 2001. It seems like one returning factor throughout all versions is the idea of using dinosaurs as weapons. Was that Steven's idea?

You know, beyond what you've seen on the screen, I haven't been involved in the project till a couple years ago. So I don't know the incarnations of it. I do know that they were the basic idea of the theme park is open and they were gonna use they trained raptors, which were Steven's ideas.

George Lucas JJ Abrams Kathleen Kennedy Star Wars

That makes sense. I forgot that you came on board the project because Kathleen was going to Star Wars, is that what happened?

When Kathy took the job at Lucasfilm she passed [Jurassic World] on to me. Obviously because I have worked with Steven and it's kind of an Amblin project. It made sense that I just step in and take over the producer chores. So that was a couple years ago.

How do the two of you go home and not talk about all these movies you're both doing?

(laughs) Well we have two teenage daughters who take up a lot of our attention.

Jurassic Park gate

Throughout the process of making this movie, the fan reaction has been very cynical, which is weird. And you guys have been very good at responding to them. Why do you think fans were so cynical about another Jurassic Park movie?

I think that it's about trying to manage the expectations. I think they assumed that we were going to move on from number three and where do you go from there? So, you know, when you really look at what the movie is to me it's more of a sequel to Jurassic Park.

It definitely feels like more a sequel to that first film.

Yeah, so I think that what we wanted to do is not make a cynical movie. To make a movie that hearkens back to everything that everybody loved about the first movie. And I think because we had Colin who so appreciated and was so immersed in that first movie, that gave me obviously the confidence that he would deliver something that everybody would respond to and not look at cynically.

Ty Simpkins Jurassic World

The movie feels like an Amblin movie, with the kids and the divorce; it feels like a Spielberg movie. Was he ever considering directing this?

No, I think Steven's always wanted to be the producer of this movie. I don't think he considered directing it. You know, and I have to say that the original script that I came on the movie with was certainly was different, a different approach to the story. And what Colin and Derek did was they brought basic Steven ideas and then turned them into the story they wanted to tell which was much more an Amblin kind of story.

What was different about the original draft that you read?

Well, the original started in China. It was much more about the dinosaurs that were found in China and then developed and passed around the globe into something that became the Indominous Rex. We didn't enter Jurassic World through the eyes of a child like Colin wanted to do.

That's definitely a great "in," I think, to the final film.

I feel like that's what everybody wanted to do is to have that moment like we all had back when we first saw Jurassic Park and the wonderment of the park. And that's kind of a wish fulfillment of all the fans and certainly Colin and Derek, they come from that fan base.

Jurassic World concept art

I talked to you on set, but we didn't get to see any practical dinosaurs. Can you talk a little bit about the performance capture process and how that went?

Sure. I mean, you know, one of the great things I think that Colin was able to do was he designed the movie in a way that the dinosaurs feel like they're organic to each scene and to the shots. Like when we shot them, they were there. And certainly that's all part of the technology and Colin's filmmaking abilities. In that he made it feel very real. And the technology is so advanced from the first three movies that it's all part of the process. It's one of the tools in the toolbox now.

Jurassic World performance capture

Some fans cling to practical FX and puppets, but much of this movie feels as real via CG as the parts of this movie that feature puppets. What is the struggle creatively as a producer with deciding to go with computer animation over puppets or practical dinosaurs?

Well, I think that the bit of irony here is that the reasons that it flip-flopped is that C.G. is now so real that the practical animatronics... you have to be very careful where and when you shoot them because a lot of times they don't measure up to what we can do in C.G. Does that make sense? It is very fortunate in some of these scenes for the actors to be able to have something real to act with. It's very difficult when there's nothing there obviously. So you have to sort of pick and choose your scenes. We did have raptors in the cages as well that they were touching, so there were things for the actors to actually interact with. And that of course it's just understanding from a directing point of view what's going to be best for the scene.

Obviously the main concern is worrying about the story and getting this movie right. But it seems like you are trying to re-launch a franchise. This film does do a bit to set up future films. What kind of instruction did you and Steven have for Derek and Colin in terms of planting seeds for the future?

Well, they were pretty general in that we leave the door open to have further chapters in the story. What's funny is I'm on my way to have lunch with the studio and Colin to talk about this right now.

A lot of these new films end with those big cliffhangers, but Colin plants it two-thirds of the way through the movie. So by the end of the movie, you forget that those seeds were even planted. I think it was very cleverly orchestrated.

Right.

TyandColin-Hawaii

I also wanted to ask you about the original script. I was kind of surprised to see Jaffa and Silver listed in the  end credits as I heard Colin and Derek had completely rewritten the script.

Well that's a Writer's Guild decision. As you know, it's up to the WGA to determine credit, and I have no idea how that arbitration works.  Through the years that Steven and Kathy were developing the story, there were several scripts written before Jaffa/Silver came onto the scene.  Here are the ideas that the different writers, including Colin and Derek, were given and then wrote their drafts.  Obviously, there was a lot of crossover, but I wanted you to see the basic ideas that came from the producers (Steven, Kathy and Frank) that formed the story. The five principal ideas we producers gave to each writer or writing team that joined us in developing Jurassic World were the following:

  • There is a fully functional Jurassic Park, operational for years, serving many thousands of people every day.
  • A new ferocious dinosaur breaks loose, threatening those in the park.
  • A male lead with a military background is responsible for training Raptors. These animals will be used to hunt and kill the escaped dinosaur.
  • There are children as major characters.
  • The children take a trip on a new kind of theme park ride and find themselves in the path of the escaped dinosaur.

velociraptor

Whose idea was it to involve the trained raptors? 

That was Steven's idea.

In November 2005, Spielberg said there would be a scene with characters on motorcycles outrunning the raptors. And it's just interesting that it's evolved into, they're running with the raptors now.

Right, And there are a lot of ideas in this movie which what I thought was clever with Derek and Colin where they were able to take Steven's original ideas and incorporate them into the story that they wanted to tell.

Jurassic World

You have an interesting relationship with Jimmy Buffett. His restaurant ends up in this movie and he has a cameo. How did that happen?

That was me.

Are you friends with Buffett?

Yeah, we're really close friends and there was an opportunity here to have a lot of, you know, we had to come up with the boardwalk and the Main Street of an international up and running theme park. And as I think you know, Jimmy has a Margaritaville in the Orlando Universal theme park. And so it kind of made sense since this is a Universal movie and there's already a restaurant. And we were looking at that corner building being some sort of restaurant or nightclub kind of situation. So it made perfect sense. And it was completely organic. Just like we have a Starbucks and a Ben and Jerry's there.

You expect to see his restaurant in a high traffic place, I've seen it in a lot of touristy areas.

It is also a tropical situation. And that's what Jimmy's known for and it really was a perfect fit.

Jurassic World Trailer Still 18

Have there been discussions to bring Jurassic World into the Universal Theme Parks?

Oh yes. The theme parks are very interested. We've had a lot of discussions with them for the new parks that are going up in Asia. As well as now this sort of reboot, like they're doing with Star Wars, whatever rides and concepts there are in the current parks.

Oh that's really cool. 'Cause I would love to ride that gyrosphere.

Yeah, by the way, that's the one they really like. They said to me, 'we wanna do that.'

back to the future eric stoltz

I just have one last question for you, Frank. There's a story that's now very public about Back to the Future and Eric Stoltz being replaced by Michael J. Fox after weeks of shooting. And you were very involved in that film. Is that something that would even be possible these days? And how did the conversation go back then?

Yeah, I doubt that it could happen today. Back then, the studios were their own different entities. So they made decisions therefore on their own. We had Sid Sheinberg who had a very close relationship with Steven at Amblin. And we presented the situation to him and we felt that we could pull it off and he trusted us. I'm not sure that today, in today's corporate world, that we would be able to pull that off because there's just too many people involved in making a decision. Back then it was very, very clean cut. And Sid had the foresight and the guts to make the call.

Well, it's my favorite film of all time. And it's the 30th Anniversary. Is there any plan for the 30th that you know about?

Well, you know, I think there are going to be a couple of celebrations. I know I've talked to Bob Gale and he's been involved in a lot of things that are going on. There is gonna be one of those what do they call it?

Oh, the Secret Cinema?

Yeah. I think there's gonna be one of those. And we're gonna have a re-release of the DVD come the fall of the three movies with new extras on them. But I gotta tell you, Peter, it's hard for me to believe it was 30 years ago.

It's hard for me to believe too.

Yeah. It seems like yesterday I was working with the dog, you know, trying to get him to bark.

back to the future Libyan chase

You were Second Unit Director on that as well, right?

Yeah. That, there's a lot of second unit, yeah.

What scenes did you do on that film?

The biggest one that I helped with was the terrorists attacking the parking lot in the Volkswagen van.

Very cool. Well I will let you go, Frank. I know you're a busy guy.

Thanks. Take care, Peter. Good to talk to you and I look forward to running into you on the road again.