'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' Director J.A. Bayona On Bringing Suspense Back To The Franchise [Set Visit Interview]

In June 2017, I traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to visit the set of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. This week we have been running a ton of coverage from this visit. Yesterday, it began with our interview with producers Frank Marshall and Pat Crowley. Today, we bring you our sitdown discussion with director J.A. Bayona.

Thanks for having us out.  This is really cool. And Thanks for chatting with us while you're on your lunch break. A lot of your movies have young people in horrific situations.  Does this movie follow that trend?

Bayona: Yeah.  Very young people in [a] problem again.

What do you have against the youth of the world?

Bayona: Well, I mean, all the movies I've done, I end up very close to the POV of the kids.  I don't know.  It's a natural thing.  It's not planned.  I mean, the three movies I did so far, you can tell that they're about childhood and dealing with growing up.  This is very different.  But of course you have a kid in the film, because there's always been kids in the Jurassic movies, you know?  And the movie pays tribute and keeps the legacy of the movies that we've seen so far and we love.

Can we talk a little bit about the where you're starting off in this one?  'Cause I heard, Frank told us a little bit about the setup for the story and I think it's really interesting 'cause it gives you a completely different sense of urgency than we've seen.

Bayona: And what did Frank tell you?

Well, we know about the extinction level event, the volcano thing.  And the sense of the characters returning to try to save the dinosaurs.  So we at least know that beginning.

Bayona: Yeah.  Well, it was the first time Colin pitched me the story, I was very intrigued, very surprised, because it's true that it keeps the legacy of the films we've seen so far.  But there's a twist.  It's not humans trying to save humans from dinosaurs.  It's humans trying to save dinosaurs from the island.  And I thought that was very interesting.  And there's a twist in the [second] half of the film.  And the film becomes something very different from the first section of the movie.  And I thought that was very interesting too.  I was very interested, very intrigued, and I really enjoyed the pitch.  And I think the development that we did so far...I'm very happy with it.

How do you bring your stamp...? Colin already had the story obviously when you came aboard.  How do you put your stamp on that?

Bayona: Well, I think one of the things I always enjoy the most in designing the films are the set pieces.  And Jurassic movies, they are perfect for designing set pieces.  When I think about the old Jurassic movies, I think about the T. Rex scene in the first one.  Or the scene with the truck hanging off the cliff in the second one.  So the first thing I had was, okay, we're gonna try to design the best set pieces possible.  And I really enjoy that.  I really enjoy designing shot by shot.  For me, every camera position matters.  Every movement of the camera.  Every shot is a step in escalating the tension.  It's very Hitchcockian.  When you see the T. Rex scene in the first one, the gyrosphere scene in Jurassic World, they feel very designed shot by shot in a very Hitchcockian way and for me, movies are about that.

Yeah, I was gonna say, the two you described were suspense things.

Bayona: Yeah, it's true.  There's going to be like a very big scene, an action scene in the movie, in the middle.  But then the whole film plays more [with] the idea of suspense.  And I really like that.  I think somehow the first Jurassic was like that.  You had the big T. Rex scene in the middle and then it plays with the suspense of the kitchen scene in the with the Raptors.  And we tried to follow the same pattern.

Yeah.  It's like a nice combination.  There's that sweet spot between awe, suspense and like humor.

Bayona: Exactly, yeah.  And I think that they'll be a lot of humor in this one.  It's going to be a lot of fun too.  It's gonna be suspenseful.  It's gonna be probably a little more scary.  But it's gonna be a lot of fun too.

It's good to be a little scared. Well, speaking of that, maybe is that why you kind of choose to bring back the animatronic element a little bit because there's something scarier about seeing something that's real.

Bayona: Yeah.  We love animatronics.  Colin and I, we talk about how can we [can] bring back more animatronics in the game.  And there was a space for that in the story.  I came with the experience of doing A Monster Calls, where we designed a huge animatronic and at the end, you can, you need to use CGI more than what you will want, because the audience is so used to CGI that they are kind of reluctant to animatronics.  But at the same time, when you have something real, you appreciate that.  There's a reality that you don't have with CGI.  So there's plenty of animatronics in this one.  But the story, somehow, was easy, [it made] things easier for us to use animatronics.

Who's building them for you?  What company?

Bayona: Neal Scanlan, who's been working on the Star Wars movies.  It's been great to work with him.  Yeah, it's great.  You know, it was kind of like surprising the first time we had an animatronic on the set.  Because I was with Bryce and Chris and they were so shocked, so happy to have [an] animatronic.  And I told Colin, and he's done a movie so far, but then I thought about it and of course there was no almost animatronics in that movie.  They have this–

They just had that one.

Bayona: Yeah, and it was funny to see the actors that were in the first one reacting so excited.

I was gonna say it seems like you're worked very closely with Colin.  I'm wondering Spielberg, when we were on the set of first Jurassic World movie, Colin told us about the story of how Spielberg had this whole suggestion with the water scene of the seats going down below the water. I love hearing these stories how Spielberg will plus something.  Do you have any stories of like where he threw out a suggestion that like changed the movie?

Bayona: I mean, not...we don't have any scene, a specific scene, but it's true that Steven has been always very encouraging.  And the sort of person that empowers a director.  He makes him feel good and he makes him feel prepared.  I wanted to meet him as much as possible.  I tried to watch all the pre-vis that we did together.  And it was fascinating to show him the stuff and hearing his ideas.  Hearing back his ideas.  And so there was lots of details here and there.  I don't remember any–

Little flourishes.

Bayona: Yeah.  I don't remember any specific scene, but I think that there is not any specific scene, but there was a lot of details here and there.  He was very, very encouraging all the time and very supportive of our ideas.

So he was pretty hands on I would assume during the development.

Bayona: Mm-hmm.

And but I assume that now it's just your show.  I know Colin's been on set a lot, but it seems like they put a lot of trust in you.  So is that like stressful for you?  Or is it like, I mean, I don't wanna make it sound like that you're not, you don't feel supported, but like it must be... This is a hundreds of millions of dollars movie, right?

Bayona: Yeah.  Well no, I mean...I always admire Steven and my movies, a lot of people used to talk about them [being] very Spielbergian, you know?  So I feel so comfortable–

Very Ambliny, yeah.

Bayona: –being in this territory that I don't have any problem in that sense, you know. But the truth is that I've been lucky of being able to sit down with all the previous guys and design the scenes together shot by shot and Steven has been always very supportive.  He love all the stuff that we did and I consider that there was not any pressure.  Completely the opposite.  It was completely the opposite.

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When you have somebody like Chris Pratt as your lead, he brings so much like natural chemistry and like a, not so much improv, but like a sense of spontaneity.  Have you had freedom to be able to be play a little bit loose and so you're not a slave to the pre-vis?

Bayona: A lot, a lot, a lot.  Yes.  And I always try to give him as much space as possible, because this is the way he works.  The other day I was referring to him as a Jazz musician, because he's very organic.  And he does every take totally different from one before.  And he does it the way he feels it.  He's always very truthful to himself.  And every take is different.  And every take there's something new that you love.  You know, it's going to be difficult in the editing room to decide what are the best moments, because he's great in all the takes.  And I'm all the time trying to give the actors a lot of freedom, even though these movies are very designed before they shoot.  I always try to keep them alive and keep them organic on the set.  So I always show the pre-vis to the actors.  We talk about it.  And a lot of times we change them.  On the set.

You have Jeff Goldblum coming back and reprising his role.  What can you tell us about him and working with him?

Bayona: I think it's great to find links between the new Jurassic World movies and the old Jurassic Park movies.  So there's details all over the film that are referring not just to the first Jurassic World, but also the first Jurassic Park movies, you know.  And having Malcolm was a great idea that Colin had.  And I think somehow he sets up the tone, the theme and the atmosphere of this film.

Okay.  That's cool.  I mean, it's embracing kind of what the trend that audiences like now.  And I think TV had a big part of that.  They like the long form storytelling aspect.  Marvel has been taking advantage of that.  But like people like Game of Thrones and they love watching a story develop.  So it's the trick is being able to do, to pull that off and give them that feeling of living in a world and seeing a world that they're familiar with without just making it a whole bunch of like hey, remember when you liked this moment?  And I think they did a pretty good job in the last Jurassic with that.

Bayona: Yeah.  And I think that Colin keeps doing it in this film.  I think he's created the story one step forward.  At the same time, paying respect to the original Jurassic World and the original Jurassic Park movies.  But bringing the story, the story continues in this one.  And we keep going in the next.  Following a story that is longer than the film we're gonna see.

We are back at Isla Nublar.  But it seems like you're gonna leave that like 25 percent, like it's only in the movie for like 25 percent, Frank said.  So what, where from there?  Where does the story go?

Bayona: I don't know if I can talk about that.  This is one of the big surprises and I think that's one of the things that I really appreciate when Colin told me the story the first time.  That we go to the island, but then we go to somewhere else.

Now you talked earlier about building a scene shot by shot, like a suspenseful scene, like a set piece.  Can you go into like talk a little bit about what that scene is so people like who might read the interview and then see the movie later will understand which scene that you are talking about?

Bayona: Yeah.  Well, I think there's plenty of scenes.  It's not only one.  I think that the second half is gonna play a lot on suspense.  And suspense is all about not accumulation, but escalating the tension.  It's not just putting lots of stuff on the frame.  It's more escalating the element in order to get the pace and the tension that puts the audience at the edge of their seats.  This is the dream for me.  In terms of the storytelling.

So it could be personal stakes, it doesn't have to be like world ending, you know, 50 dinosaurs in a single shot kind of thing?

Bayona: No, it's not like that.  It's not like that.  It's quite the opposite.  I mean, you will have 15 dinosaurs in the same frame.  But more at the beginning of the film and then at the end it's more about the suspense and not seeing them.  That's more interesting, always.

You mentioned that this is the second part of a trilogy that's planned.  Can you talk about the balance of creating a complete story, but you're setting up a third act as well?

Bayona: Mm-hmm.  I don't know how much can I talk about the story, you know?

Okay.  I'm not looking for detail.  I'm just saying, how do you balance that? How do you tell a complete story in and of itself here but also know that you're also a kind of leading into another movie?

Bayona: Yeah.  I think it's like when you talk about television, it's a little bit like that.  I remember when I did Penny Dreadful, I did the first episode.  And I really didn't know where the series was heading to.  So it's storytelling, it's a very interesting experience because you play with the storytelling yet you really don't know where it's heading.  I think that Colin has designed more than only one, more than one film, you know.  And he's the guy who has all the answers.

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Has he shared that with you so you know you're not making a mistake by changing something? 

Bayona: No, but there were moments that Colin said, I would love if you can introduce this detail in that scene and that detail in that scene because I'm thinking this is going to pay off in the third film.  You know, the kind of details [when] you're collaborating and him, including a story that is bigger than the one you're doing.

Do you think that you'll come back for the third one?  Or do you think that Colin might come back?  Or did you guys talk at all about that or what's...? [This interview was conducted long before Trevorrow was announced to be coming park for part three]

Bayona: We talk a lot about a lot of things.

Yeah.  I mean, would you want to? I mean, you're not gonna sit here and go, man, I'm having a miserable experience and all that.  But would you be interested in like seeing a franchise through?

Bayona: Yeah.  I mean, I'm really enjoying the experience of doing a Jurassic movie.  I'm really enjoying it.  It would not be painful at all to come back, I can tell you.  So I really enjoy it.  I think it's a lot of fun.  I love to work with the actors.  With these actors.  It's great.  They're so creative and it's great to be on the set working with them.  And also this is the kind of story that I like.  This emotions and visual effects.  Great music.  I love it.

So what you're saying is that you might come back for the next one, but if you get Star Wars Episode X, then you'll just continue the grand tradition of going from a Jurassic movie to a Star Wars movie?

Bayona: Yeah.

Can you talk a little bit about B.D. Wong's character?  Because he seems to be the big thread that from the last one that kind of launches into this one. He's one of the big hanging threads.

Bayona: Yeah.  I mean, how can I talk about it without spoiling anything?  I think it's true that there's these things, that there is this character in the shadows that is playing an important role in the story.  And it's there.  I mean, we have B.D. in there.  And it's again, it's a connection with the old films.  It's not only a connection with the Jurassic World movie, but also with Jurassic Park.  And there's details, there's more details, not only characters, but there are things that are in contact not only with Jurassic World, but with Jurassic Park.

I was a little nervous that this franchise was gonna be militarized dinos in a war next...  I thought this movie was gonna be that and I'm so glad that you return to the island and the suspense take, can you talk a little bit about that?

Bayona: Yeah.  Colin and I... we were on the same page.  We wanted to make it feel like a very classic Jurassic film.  We go back to the island, at the same time, we go to new places.  You bring the story to places that people are not expecting.  And we are closing some chapters and we are opening some new chapters.  I mean, it's like you say, it's more like the narrative of a TV show, where you are closing some lines and opening new ones.  And I think that feels very exciting and I think that this is one of the big things that television is bringing to the movies.  There's a lot of bad things that television is bringing to the movies, but there are good things.  And one of those is that people more and more are prepared for the twist, more prepared for things that you will not buy in the '80s and now you buy them, you know? I mean, you can kill Han Solo right now in a Star Wars movie.  And I think this is...there's a little bit of responsibility in television to blame for that.

Yeah.  I mean, when you have shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones just kind of showing...

Bayona: Exactly.

That's one of the things I love about TV now, because it...  It keeps you on your toes as a viewer, because nobody's safe and they'll kill a fan favorite or whatever.  Like I love that kind of shock.

Bayona: But at the same time we wanted to make it feel very classic.  One of the first things I asked, and I have the support of everyone, was that we are shooting in CinemaScope.  We are shooting in 2:40 and never has a Jurassic movie has been like that.  But I thought that–

Yeah, it was 1:85, right?

Bayona: Yeah.  But I thought that we wanted to make it bigger and we wanted to make it more epic.  We wanted to make it...  So I had the support of everyone.  And I can tell you it looks amazing.

What are you shooting on, Arri 65?

Bayona: Yeah.  And it looks amazing.  I think that the island looks beautiful.

With the widescreen format, did you look at any particular cinematic inspiration for that?  Because, I mean, Leone shot that wide and David Lean famously shot very wide, too.

Bayona: Yeah.  Exactly, you know.  I think one of the things I'm telling the camera operator is that we need to do a movie that cannot be seen on a plane.  So we are using all the format, from the extreme right to the extreme left.  So we are filling the frame in a beautiful way.  This guy, you have references like, I mean, Vilmos Zsigmond, the movies he did with Michael Cimino.  You saw the frame, when you see the frames of these movies and they look like paintings, you know.

Yeah.  There's fore, mid and back, there's always there's layers, yeah.

Bayona: Exactly.  And Steven, all the Indiana Jones movies and the frames, they look like paintings.  And I wanted to have that in a Jurassic movie.  So we created this big canvas.  And we played out making interesting compositions.

Talk a little bit about the tone.  We know that there's more suspense in this, but was there like a target for the tone throughout that you were going for?  Like more leaning more on action or more on suspense?

Bayona: I think when you do a movie like this, it's a movie for a big audience.  So it has a lot of things for everyone.  It has suspense, but it has action, it has a lot of fun, too.  And it's a little bit darker than the other, than the previous one.  But it's a lot of fun, too.  And it's quite challenging, because you have a lot of different tones and you need to blend them in a single story.

Michael Crichton always had some themes that reflected society and it seems like you guys are kind of dealing with animal cruelty and bureaucracy too.  Frank said that there's the decision from the world's governments are pretty much just to leave [the dinosaurs] alone.

Bayona: I think so, yes.  I think I really like that, from the story that Colin planned for this one, is that he talks about the moment we live in.  In a very obvious way when you see the film.  And I think that's very interesting.  It plays with the idea of how we use science, not blaming science, but the use of science.  And this has been part of the legacy of the films in the Jurassic [series].  And I think nowadays, it's a theme that is out there right now.

Can you talk about Justice and Daniella? When I was talking to Colin, he said they were the secret sauce of this movie.  What does he mean?

Bayona: You will see.  I mean, they're new characters and they're bringing a very specific personality to the film.  You will see, I think, they're very Colin's world.  I mean, it's been very interesting because he has...you can tell the sense of humor of Colin through these characters.  And I really enjoy working with them.  They're excellent.  And a lot of fun to be with on the set, you know.  I cannot tell you much about it.  But they're very interesting characters.

I know that Chris said on the press tour for the last movie that anybody our age that grew up with Jurassic Park was a big moment for people.  So when you have somebody like Goldblum coming back in the role and he's surrounded by people who grew up with this... Was there like, could you tell that people were geeking out about it or...?

Bayona: The truth is that I remember that the first day of shooting I used to shoot all the time with music on the set.  So the first, of course, the first music that on was the Jurassic Park theme from John Williams.  It was so much emotion in that moment on the set.  So there's a lot of that.  But the truth is that there's so much work to do that you're not really, at least I can tell you, you're not into that nostalgia.  You have your characters in front of you.  You have so much work to do every day that it's when you come back home and you say, oh my God, I've been doing a Jurassic Park movie.  It's the moment that you are aware of it.  But I haven't been that nostalgic in the set.

But it'll all hit you when you wrap and you're like in the editing room?

Bayona: Yeah.  And I think that's good.  Because it keeps you at a distance from the material.  You're doing something new.  I mean, it's something that you need to be aware that you are trying to move a step forward [with] the story.  So you don't wanna, you wanna pay tribute to the old movies, but you want to move forward at the same time.

Yeah.  You don't wanna be too wrapped up in them.  I mean, even Steven himself had kind of fallen prey to that with like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Bayona: Totally, yeah.

You talked about the filming in scope, and all these movies, or I think the last two, were in IMAX.  So I assume this is going to be in IMAX.  Are you gonna expand or is that like you want it to just be that scope?

Bayona: I think there's been some conversation about it.  The idea would be to keep the aspect ratio.  I mean, this is what they've been doing with the Star Wars movies.  I think when you design a film, when you design a shot, it's kind of like going against the film if you change the aspect ratio.

And it takes you out, I just watched the new Transformers and every other shot's going from like that to this.

Bayona: Yeah.  No, no, no.  I mean, I am very, very specific with a shot in the set.  This is probably, I mean, apart from the work with the actors, I am very specific in where the camera should be and how the camera should move.  For me, this is as important as performance or even a line in the dialogue.  So for me, breaking that it would be like going against the film.

And you also mentioned playing the music on set, is that in between setups or and how does that...?

Bayona: No.  Sometimes we play while we shooting.

While you're shooting.  Oh like an action scene if people are like running and stuff.

Bayona: Yeah, an action scene or you just play sounds.  With just–

Are you playing dinosaur sounds?

Bayona: I'm joking all the time with Justice because I'm playing sounds to scare him during the takes.  So it's been a lot of fun to work with him in that setting.

Well, at least you're only doing sounds.  Some like the old school directors like John Huston would actually shoot guns in the air.  To scare people.

Bayona: Oh wow.

Not even blanks.  Like he would have his gun there for the Westerns.

Bayona: I remember a shot once with a gun in my hand during The Orphanage.  Because I had to scare the actors.  And we were shooting not in a soundstage, but in a place that was full of birds.  And so they had these guns to scare the birds.  And I said, give me one of these guns.  So I was in the video village with a gun in my hand.  There are some reverses in the behind the scenes.  Yeah, no, I'm not using that.

So you're saying you use guns to scare children in your early career.

Bayona: No, it was for the lead actress.

Okay, good.

Bayona: It was for the lead actress.

That won't look as bad.

Bayona: It was for the lead actress.  No, but I like music.  It helps a lot in creating the tense, the mood.  Sometimes the tension, sometimes you play a light music so make the actors feel good in the set.  And the lines come with a freshness that maybe you would not get in a different way.

Is that something that you used on previous films and brought into this?

Bayona: All the time.  Every time, yes.  I love it.

That's awesome.

Bayona: I love it.  And the actors normally they love it.

Normally?

Bayona: Yeah.  Normally they love it.  I mean, I haven't found any actor yet...  No, they love it.  They love it.  I'm thinking, is there any actor who asked me not to play music?  No.

The only time I've actually really seen that a lot was Peter Jackson did that on his King Kong a lot with Naomi Watts.  But it was like always very romanticy music and to kind of set like the romanticized '30s time period and stuff like that.

Bayona: For example, we did a very interesting...I remember one take with Bryce was very interesting, because I was playing, there was no dialogue in that scene.  It was all about the way she was looking at a determined thing, you know.  And it was very fun, because I played three pieces.  Every piece very different from the other one.  So one was like one was a romantic music.  The other one was a scary.  And she played three different performances in every take.  And it was very interesting.  These are the kind of things I do enjoy bringing to the story, you know, especially in these movies [because] they're so big.  They're so pre-designed that you want to get to the set and break that.

Yeah, you wanna have a little emotional truth.

Bayona: Exactly, yeah.  And Bryce, she's very organic.  So I told her, listen, I'm gonna play three musics and the performance is going to be according to the music I'm playing.  And she was okay, great.  We did three takes and the three were different.  The three were good.  And that gives you options in the editing.

Do you plan these mixes ahead of time or are you just on set with an iPod or whatever?

Bayona: I'm with my iPod all the time.  And I'm connected to the Internet, so it's all about like remembering a piece in that moment and looking for it and playing it.

Yeah.  Is there any thing, I mean, none of this will make it into the movie, but is there anything that you remember like any of the kinds of music?  Was it score, is it–?

Bayona: Yeah.  Many scores, yes.  Yeah, in this one there's been a lot of Giacchino of course because he's gonna do the score. And, of course, John Williams.

Yeah.  Any Jerry Goldsmith sneak in?

Bayona: Jerry Goldsmith, I have been playing a lot with Total Recall. And Basic Instinct.  We play a lot of this too.

Oh that's a good one.

Bayona: It's a lot of fun, yes.

Awesome, well thank you so much again for taking the time for when you could have been relaxing for a little bit.  And talking to us nerds.

Bayona: See you soon.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to it, to watching you work.

Bayona: Oh, thank you so much.