Jurassic Park's Famous Kitchen Scene Was Even More Dangerous Than It Looked

It's difficult to pick out the most iconic scene from "Jurassic Park." Steven Spielberg delivered plenty of awe-inspiring moments of beauty and wonder, but it's the moments of terror demonstrating how scary dinosaurs could be that stand out the most. The famous sequence with the velociraptors in the kitchen, in particular, may have been the root of a fair share of childhood nightmares for just how tense and suffocating it feels. According to actor Joseph Mazzello, shooting the scene presented its own set of real-life dangers, too.

In "Jurassic Park," Mazzello, who played John Hammond's grandson Tim Murphy, is on the run with Ariana Richards (Tim's sister Lex) after they see a velociraptor stalking around the park's visitor center. The following scene when the velociraptors track the kids into the kitchen is so memorable because it presents a danger than contrasts with the T-Rex attack earlier in the film. These are intelligent dinosaurs who strategically stalk their prey, giving them an almost evil presence that makes them arguably spookier than the giant force of nature that's the T-Rex. 

Spielberg's direction is nothing short of a horror movie, placing the camera in between the monsters and their potential victims' hiding spaces to show how close the two are to each other. The sound of the raptors communicating with each other also adds another layer of suspense as the Murphy siblings stifle their own noises. Of course, all of this would be for naught if the raptors themselves didn't look so real. For that, we can thank special effects artist Stan Winston and his crew, who utilized actors in suits to create a more organic feel to the dinosaurs' movements. It was an effective way to control the predator, but any production, especially one with such complex practical effects, is subject to its fair share of physical mishaps.

A painful birthday present

Winston and his team used a wide variety of methods such as puppeteering, animatronics, and, of course, men in suits to bring the velociraptors to life and lend them an unsettling sense of intelligence in the famous kitchen scene. In true monster movie fashion, the suits weren't exactly comfortable. The actor was bent down inside at a ninety-degree angle the entire time, holding the dinosaur's head up with a rod, while operators controlled the eyes and arms with remotes. The added challenge for the effects artists and camera crew to hide their presence created a delicate balancing act.

All of these moving parts made the kitchen scene especially challenging to shoot, and Mazzello happened to be a casualty in the complicated maneuvering of the raptors. The actor told Screen Rant:

"The raptor came and was chasing me, and they lost control of it and its claw hit me in the head. I was down for the count; I didn't get knocked out, but I fell to the ground. And that's when Steven and the whole crew sang "Happy Birthday" to me, which was a pretty great moment. That was a small not-fun moment within a great day even still, so I would do any one of those days again in a heartbeat."

Mazzello mentioned that Spielberg would take him to rides at the Universal Studios theme park in between takes on the Universal backlot, and has nothing but glowing praise for the director and his time shooting "Jurassic Park." The accident may have hurt, but the set wasn't a rampant violation of safety standards, and it was nothing compared to the egregious mistakes by John Hammond in his creation of Jurassic Park.