Pop Culture | Movies | 90s
10 Things You Didn't Know About Jurassic Park
If there was one obsession that united all kids who grew up in the '90s, it was dinosaurs. While animated movies like We're Back and The Land Before Time series helped spark our interest, it was Jurassic Park that cemented our love of dinosaurs, and our dreams of becoming paleontologists. While you might know all about dinosaurs, chances are you've never heard these behind-the-scenes facts about the making of Jurassic Park.
1) Everyone knew the movie was going to be huge
The bidding war for the right to adapt the novel Jurassic Park started before Michael Crichton was even done writing it. Steven Spielberg got a heads up about the upcoming book because Crichton was working on it while they were in talks over the screenplay that would eventually become ER.
But Spielberg and Universal weren't the only ones interested in getting the rights to make Jurassic Park. Other contenders included Tim Burton (with Warner Bros) and Gremlins director Joe Dante (with 20th Century Fox). Despite the competition, Spielberg was pretty much guaranteed to get the job, seeing as Crichton was open about the fact he was his first choice to direct it.
2) Laura Dern had a lot of competition for her role
There were a lot of big name actresses who could have played Dr. Ellie Sattler, the role ultimately played by Laura Dern. Juliette Binoche (The English Patient), Robin Wright (The Princess Bride), Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman), Linda Hamilton (Terminator), Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City), Sandra Bullock (Miss Congeniality), Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love), and Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski) were all either offered the role or had tested for it at some point.
While Julianne Moore missed out on the starring role in the first Jurassic Park, she would get cast as paleontologist Sarah Harding - the girlfriend of Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm - in the 1997 sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
3) Ian Malcolm and Dr Ellie Sattler ended up together in real life
After meeting on set, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern dated for two years, and at one point were actually engaged.
The couple split up in 1997. Goldblum would later marry Canadian gymnast Emilie Livingston in 2014, with whom he has two children. Laura Dern, meanwhile, was married to Ben Harper (yeah, that Ben Harper) until 2013.
4) There's not nearly as many dinosaurs in it as you remember
Considering it's a movie about a park full of dinosaurs, the dinosaurs themselves don't have very much screen time. Out of the 127 minute run of the film, only about 15 minutes feature any of the dinosaurs on screen.
And of those 15 minutes, only about 6 minutes are of dinosaurs created using CGI, the rest of the effects were all made using animatronics and other physical props. Considering that over 20 years later the film not only doesn't look dated, but actually really good is a testament to how careful they were in creating the dinosaurs. It's hard not to get goosebumps watching the scene where they first reveal the dinosaurs.
5) One of the most famous dinosaurs was supposed to be very different
Hands down one of the most memorable scenes in the movie is when Nedry gets what's coming to him thanks to an escaped dilophosaurus.
Now the dilophosaurus was a real dinosaur, but the two most iconic features of Nedry's karmic retribution were completely made up. The real thing didn't actually spit venom, that particular detail was one that Michael Crichton made up for his book. Actual dilophosauruses also didn't have that awesome-but-also-terrifying neck frill; that was a little detail made up by Steven Spielberg.
Find out about the famous cameo you never noticed and more Jurassic Park facts on the next page!
6)Their source for the raptor sounds will surprise you
Obviously there aren't any recordings kicking around of the sounds dinosaurs made, so Jurassic Park's sound designer, Gary Rydstrom, had to get creative. Using recordings of many different animals, he was able to recreate the noises and sounds that he thought they would make. For example, when the raptor looks through the window of the kitchen door, the breathing sound it makes is actually the sound of a horse breathing. But the source for the sounds they make when communicating is....unexpected.
Turns out the barking sounds they make are actually the sound of tortoises mating. According to Rydstrom, he recorded the sounds at Marine World, and even he couldn't quite believe it, saying "It sounded like a joke, because tortoises mating can take a long time. You've got to have plenty of time to sit around and watch and record them." As for the T-Rex, most of its sounds were actually from Rydstrom's Jack Russell terrier, Buster.
7) One scene features a surprising cameo
Over the course of his career, Steven Spielberg has given us some of the greatest movies ever made. Many of the movies he directs and/or produces include little shout outs or references to his other films. In the scene where Nedry and Hammond are arguing in the control room, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from another Spielberg movie featuring a giant monster. Watch Nedry's left monitor closely.
Did you catch it? That's not one but two shots that feature Jaws playing on one of Nedry's monitors. Even though it's a super quick moment that most people never even noticed, it's a nice way to acknowledge one of Spielberg's most important movies.
8) The T-Rex was huge. Really huge.
While they've been extinct for over 60 million years, we all know that the Tyrannosaurus was one of the largest predators to ever walk the Earth. So understandably, when it came time to recreate one on screen they had to think big.
They built two animatronics for the film, one was full life-size and about 40 feet long, the other was only from the torso up and was designed for more precise movements and close up shots. The full size one weighed over 12,000 pounds (yikes!) and they had red flashing lights that would go off so everyone would know when it was about to be on set. Those who worked with the T-Rexes on set have said that it was so big that its head going by felt like being passed by a bus.
9) An accident on set ended up making a scene better
The sheer size of the T-Rex animatronics made filming with them both complicated and very difficult. But in one scene that ended up actually being a good thing. As Bob Ross would say, "We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents."
In the scene of the first T-Rex attack, where it traps the kids in the jeep, the puppet's head wasn't actually supposed to break through the vehicle's sun roof. The kids' screams in that scene weren't faked, but that only makes the scene better, not to mention scarier.
10) They had to get creative to shoot the rippling water shot
One of the most memorable moments of Jurassic Park has got to be the shot of the water glass warning us (and the kids) that the Tyrannosaurus is coming. But apparently getting a shot of water rippling like that is more complicated than you'd expect.
They were able to make the shot thanks to a guitar string. They ran the string through the car and under the cup (so we wouldn't see it), then someone laying under the jeep would "pluck" it, and the vibrations would make the water ripple. We don't often think about the work that goes into little shots like that, so it's always cool to see what sort of crazy things they have to do to make them happen.