Filming Jurassic Park III Left Its Cast With Their Fair Share Of Battle Scars

Movie fans will undoubtedly remember director Joe Johnston's most cherished efforts, like "The Rocketeer," "October Sky" (starring a baby-faced Jake Gyllenhaal), or the delightfully retro "Captain America: The First Avenger" (which, by the way, is still the best of the three "Captain America" movies; I said what I said!) But one particular movie from his filmography remains somewhat buried, releasing soon after "October Sky" but before the Viggo Mortensen-starring "Hidalgo." Not only that, but this movie maintains a certain redheaded stepchild energy within the larger franchise that it's a part of. That movie, naturally, is "Jurassic Park III." No sequel to Steven Spielberg's classic original 1993 film could ever hope to live up to such an impossibly high standard, of course, but Joe Johnston's threequel sought to embrace the B-movie charms of the admittedly absurd premise. For better or worse, that's the kind of schlocky approach that we can respect around these parts.

Much goofy pleasure can be wrung out of watching "Jurassic Park III," especially in retrospect given the, ah, interesting paths the franchise would eventually go down. However, the actual behind-the-scenes process of making the threequel turned out rather differently. Rushed into production with a script hastily rewritten on the fly and with no real reason to exist, the end result is ... well, just about what you'd expect from such less-than-ideal circumstances. But as much of a headache as it may have been for disappointed viewers and the hardworking creative team alike (let's be real, they did at least hit that knock-down, drag-out T-Rex/Spinosaurus fight out of the — pun intended — park), what about the cast? The various set pieces and narrow escapes from fearsome dinosaurs didn't come without a physical price to be paid, that's for sure. Take it straight from returning star Sam Neill, new additions William H. Macy and Téa Leoni, and Johnston himself.

'This film is more extreme'

Say what you want about the varying qualities of specific "Jurassic Park" sequels since the original, but one thing all (okay, most) those movies have in common happen to be their penchant for thrilling set pieces. Sometimes, however, the process of filming those action sequences, no matter how safely, inevitably leads to bumps and bruises among the cast members involved. But what's a few aches and pains when delivered in the spirit of cinematic verisimilitude! When it comes to a movie like "Jurassic Park III," it probably needed all the extra effort it could get — especially among the cast.

With Sam Neill's Dr. Alan Grant drawn right back into the action, this time on the "Site B" back-up island of Isla Sorna (as opposed to Isla Nublar, where the original park stood and which was, during "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," destroyed by an erupting volcano), the plot of "Jurassic Park III" revolves around Grant and his paleontologist friend/mentee Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola) guiding what they think is a sightseeing tour for fabulously wealthy couple Paul (Macy) and Amanda Kirby (Leoni). The reality of the situation is far more dire. The separated couple's young son Eric (Trevor Morgan) was lost on the dinosaur-infested island after a parasailing trip goes sideways, and they've sneakily recruited the one person who might be able to find him: Alan Grant. Never mind that pesky little miscommunication about exactly which island Grant had previously explored, of course. An attacking Spinosaurus promptly puts the issue of their deception on hold, trashing their private jet and stranding them with nothing else to do but survive and try to find the missing Kirby.

As Neill stated in the production notes for the film, however, his own ability to navigate such terrain over 20 weeks of shooting don't quite measure up to the accomplished paleontologist's skills:

"We have a story that moves like an express train driven by some very alarming dinosaurs. This film is more extreme, a full-on thing from the time you get to the island, which is almost immediately, to the time we get off — for those who do! Joe said this would probably be the most physical film I'd ever do. He was right."

Luckily, his experience on the film didn't stop him from reprising his role in the upcoming "Jurassic World: Dominion."

'We got banged up pretty badly'

While Alan Grant is at least used to the survivalist rigors of dodging dinos and running from raptors, such experience and knowledge doesn't quite translate to the poor Kirbys, a middle-class and clueless estranged couple with no real plan beyond vaguely searching for their son. Simply put, half the (guilty) pleasure of watching this movie comes from characters who clearly aren't cut out for this franchise in the first place.

Look no further than these comments from William H. Macy and Téa Leoni. According to Macy, filming the scene where the Spinosaurus swipes the fleeing jet from the sky and causes it to crash in the depths of the jungle proved particularly challenging. Almost as if it had a grudge against the hapless group of humans, the carnivore tracks down the fallen plane and proceeds to make the lives of its inhabitants as miserable as possible, tossing the plane around like a toy. As Macy puts it, "We got banged up pretty badly. When we shot in the fuselage of the airplane, it was like spending the day in a clothes dryer." 

Others, however, saw this as a sort of badge of honor. Leoni sports a gnarly assortment of facial bruises as the movie progresses which, as she puts it, were actually a blend of makeup and real-life bruises:

"I had bruises everywhere. As we went along, more of my makeup was to cover the real bruises than to create fake ones. But it was all worth it. Joe promised she would be heroic — that she had a little Rambo in her — and that was good enough for me."

By all accounts, that attitude was exactly what director Joe Johnston wanted to see. In his own words:

"Téa is an amazing athlete. There were some things I was ready to ask her stunt double to do, but she said, 'No, let me do this, it looks like fun.' She really did get bruised and cut and scraped, and never complained. I had heard great things about both Bill Macy and Téa, which turned out to be even truer than I had expected."

For every kid who ever fantasized about living in a "Jurassic Park" movie, these quotes likely remove some of the luster. Still, these cast members actually lived out those dreams. That's worth a bruise or two, right?