After the first Jurassic Park came out in 1993 I called Steven Spielberg and said, “If there’s going to be a sequel, I would love to do it.” “Okay”, he said, “I’ll keep that in mind.” So years go by, I went off and did Jumanji and October Sky and among other things Steven made a second Jurassic Park: The Lost World. Late in 1998 Steven called and said, “You still want to make that sequel to Jurassic Park?” How do you turn down an offer like that, to play with the world’s biggest set of toy dinosaurs?
Kathy Kennedy sent me to Montana to meet Jack Horner, the technical consultant on all the JP films. That first visit began a rediscovery of my love of dinosaurs and the science of paleontology, not to mention a twenty-year friendship with Jack Horner. I’ve made twenty-two trips to Montana since 1999 and gone on almost as many digs. A near-complete sub-adult Triceratops that I found in 2007 is on display at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.
We had a script that everyone sort of liked, sort of didn’t, and we were hammering at it trying to make it better. We were only five weeks from principal photography and Stan Winston’s shop was building dinosaurs for the sequences we had storyboarded. Steven called and said that David Koepp had pitched him a great idea… a kid of divorced parents gets lost on the island, the parents come up with a devious scheme to get Alan Grant to help them find the kid. It was a lot simpler than the idea we were trying to make work, and we could use the dinosaurs that Stan had built and that ILM had computer-modeled.
It was a bit of a white-knuckle ride from that moment on. We had a release date so we pretty much had to start shooting on schedule. Only problem was, we didn’t have a script. We hired and fired a string of writers until we settled on Peter Buchman. Actually, I think we fired Peter a couple of times, too, but we hired him back, flew him to Hawaii and locked him in his hotel room. There were days when Peter was literally hours and a page or two ahead of us, but we never caught him and he kept us shooting right to the end.
Back at Universal Studios, Ed Verreaux had designed and built a series of magnificent sets on the big stages… a jungle set that was so lifelike it intercut seamlessly with the real thing in Hawaii, although that’s equally due to Shelly Johnson’s lighting scheme, using intermittent bands of light and shadow to give the limited jungle set an almost UN-limited visual depth. An aviary, rivers, canyons, Pteranodon nests, the box was overflowing with toys.
Post production on films like JP3 is where the fun is, staging a dinosaur fight and adding Raptors to shots that already had Stan’s animatronic dinosaurs in the foreground. Steven went to Universal and got us a few cool millions to finish the dinosaur wrestling match. All in all, Jurassic Park 3 was arduous but mostly because we were never sure what we were shooting in two days. I hope the cast and crew had a lot of fun, I know I did.