Jurassic Park's Legacy Made Laura Dern Nervous For Her Character's Return

Colin Trevorrow's film "Jurassic World Dominion," the sixth in the "Jurassic Park" series, opens on Friday, providing two hefty fistfuls of nostalgia. Perhaps most notably, the "Jurassic Park" characters of Alan Grant, Ian Malcolm, and Ellie Sattler (Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, and Laura Dern) will reunite on screen together and do a great deal of investigation (the film's plot entails breaking into a corporate biology laboratory). The characters will also team up with the central characters seen in "Jurassic World" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." 

29 years after the release of "Jurassic Park," the film, its details, and its characters have all been meticulously memorized, cataloged, and adored by generations of fans. Minor elements from "Jurassic Park" have now become just as important as its major elements; a Barbasol can has just as much pop culture recognition as a roaring Tyrannosaurus rex. With Spielberg's film so enthusiastically embraced, filmmakers have now found themselves in the awkward position of having to more carefully handle even the smallest details in order to assure fans' connection to them is not mishandled or violated; call it the "Star Wars" effect. 

This was something Dern was especially aware of. In 1993, she merely played Ellie Sattler to the best of her ample abilities. 29 years later — after appearances in "Jurassic Park III," and the TV series "Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous" — Dr. Sattler now has a great deal of cultural clout, and Dern was nervous about returning to the role after it had been so aggressively embellished by memory.

Protecting Ellie

Dern expressed her concerns in a recent interview with Metro UK. She talked about how reuniting with Neill and Goldblum was all smiles and giggles, and that it was a fun nostalgia trip for her. But she also said she was nervous about how her character might now be perceived. Fans were, it might seem, looking a lot more closely than they once did: 

"I was only nervous because — and I say this with all humility — the movie took on a life of its own. And I've spent 25 years listening to people talk about how that movie influenced them, or young women and men who go into STEM and are talking about how Ellie Sattler was such an influence on them."

As such, Dern couldn't simply "reprise" the character as if nothing had changed, or repeat similar catchphrases. She really needed to consider what Ellie would be like 29 years after the events of "Jurassic Park." In the timeline of the films, "Jurassic World Dominion" takes place after dinosaurs have been let loose on the mainland, and have infiltrated most aspects of human civilization. The messages about humanity's relationship to the natural world have always lain underneath the "Jurassic Park" movies. 

"So I felt protective that that character be grounded in truth in terms of what she would be doing today, and the fact that, as someone who like all of us cares so deeply about climate change, science, and learning how we can save our home, that she would be steeped in that conversation felt perfect, appropriate for a franchise that has built on environmental messaging."


Dern needn't necessarily worry, as Ellie Sattler is a devoted environmentalist, and her mission in "Dominion" is to expose a possible corporate plot to release genetically modified organisms into the world to the detriment of humanity, but to the profit of the corporation. This isn't couched in metaphor, but a very direct conversation. Dern acknowledges this: 

"It's not like we're trying to embed something into it to talk about. The whole movie is about corporate greed and a previous extinction."

While only having made a few appearances, Ellie is a versatile character. She is determined, good-natured, and — in the words of Ian Malcolm — tenacious. As the world itself becomes overwhelmed with prehistoric life suddenly thrust back into the ecosystem, Ellie is of course sharply aware of the consequences. Updating the series with an ever-expanding border to the Park itself is a logical way to grow the series, and Ellie seems adaptable enough to adjust to that expansion — and be worried about the impact it might have on the Earth. 

"Jurassic World Dominion" opens in theaters on June 10, 2022.