Hold onto your butts — Jurassic Park returns to theaters this Friday!
Steven Spielberg’s dino adventure is being revamped in 3D to give audiences another chance to check out the massive blockbuster on the big screen. And to celebrate, we’re taking a page from Shark Week to celebrate a group of even scarier predators — T-rexes, velociraptors, and all the rest.
That’s right — it’s "Park Week" here on Hollywire, so we’ll be bringing you Jurassic Park-related goodies all week!
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Jurassic Park opened in June of 1993, and its status as an instant money-making machine was no accident — the film had been conceived with massive built-in merchandise opportunities, including video games, toys, and partnerships with corporations like McDonald’s. Back then, it was the highest-grossing film of all time with a worldwide tally of $914 million — and three Oscars for its sound and visual effects. Basically, Jurassic fever swept the world and never really wore off, because we’ve still got it and can’t wait for Friday to experience dino mania all over again.
For our "Park Week" kick-off, we’re taking a look at the cast of the original both then and now — because what fun would Jurassic Park be if those dinosaurs had no humans to chase and eat?
1. Richard Attenborough (John Hammond)
Signature Line: “We have a T-rex!”
In Michael Crichton’s original novel, John Hammond is a rather loathsome businessman who comes to a gruesome end thanks to his creation. But Steven Spielberg opted to make him a more lovable, Walt Disney-like figure — and a survivor. He’s a guy who genuinely wants to bring wonder and spectacle to the masses (kind of like Steven Spielberg, huh?). Richard Attenborough was his first choice for the role. The legendary actor and director had been working in film since the 1940s, with roles in classics like The Great Escape and Doctor Doolittle, before finding an even greater passion for directing films like Gandhi. Spielberg originally wanted him to play Toodles in Hook, but Richard was unavailable. Luckily, he was available for an even better role, one that drew him out of a 15-year hiatus from acting and would go down as one of his most memorable. He appeared in a handful of films after Jurassic Park, including his role as Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street, but has since retired from the film business due to poor health.
2. Jeff Goldblum (Ian Malcolm)
Signature Line: “When the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”
Chances are, your favorite line from Jurassic Park is spoken by Ian Malcolm. His character serves as much of the comic relief as well as the naysaying voice of reason who isn’t sure bringing dinosaurs back to life is a great idea. (He’s kind of right, isn’t he?) Spielberg cast him second after Hammond and again, The Fly star Jeff Goldblum was his first choice for the role. Ian Malcolm has scores of one-liners dripping with sarcasm and calls himself out as a womanizer, yet remains an audience favorite because most of what he says turns out to be true. Jurassic Park turned out not to be Jeff’s only major blockbuster, since he played a similar righteous scientist in Independence Day and then got upgraded to the hero of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, with Julianne Moore as his love interest and Vanessa Lee Chester as his raptor-battling gymnast daughter. He’s still a frequent comedic presence with roles on Will & Grace, Glee, and Portlandia.
3. Sam Neill (Alan Grant)
Signature Line: “The point is, you are alive when they start to eat you. So you know, try to show a little respect.”
For the hero of the piece, Spielberg considered bigger stars like Richard Dreyfuss (in a role that would’ve been similar to his Jaws scientist) and Kurt Russell, but couldn’t afford them on their budget. (Most of the money was being spent on the real stars, the dinosaurs.) He chose New Zealand-born actor Sam Neill, known best for A Cry in the Dark and The Hunt For Red October, to play the child-averse paleontologist who has to care for Hammond’s grandchildren following a T-rex attack. Sam has kept busy ever since in a number of projects, including a role on The Tudors, though only one was as high-profile as Jurassic Park — Jurassic Park III, which returned to his character after The Lost World centered on Ian Malcolm.
4. Laura Dern (Ellie Sattler)
Signature Line: “Dinosaurs eat man... woman inherits the Earth.”
As with Alan Grant, casting for the female lead wasn’t as easy for Spielberg as the roles of Hammond and Malcolm. He initially didn’t think Laura Dern was right for the part. “I saw her as kind of frail and always being pursued by circumstances and men,” Spielberg said. “I never envisioned her as a tough gal, like Linda Hamilton or Sigourney Weaver. But, actually, she didn’t need to be.” While her paleobotanist Ellie may not exactly be up there with the heroines of Terminator and Aliens, she definitely does display some grit in her velociraptor chase scene. Some of that edge has come out in her post-Jurassic roles, including a pair of Golden Globes for her work in the HBO movie Recount and the tragically canceled Enlightened.
5. Joseph Mazzello (Tim)
Signature Line: “Turn the light off! Turn the light off!”
Another near-miss in Hook casting led Joseph Mazzello to Jurassic Park. Spielberg liked him for the role of Jack in that movie but he ended up looking too young, so he brought him into Jurassic Park instead. Tim represented a lot of young boys in the Jurassic Park audience who were similarly obsessed with dinosaurs — particularly after the release of the movie. Following Jurassic Park, Tim graduated from USC film school while continuing his career as an actor, including a role as one of the Facebook creators in The Social Network and an appearance in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, currently #1 at the box office.
6. Ariana Richards (Lex)
Signature Line: “He left us! He left us!”
Unlike most Jurassic Park cast members, Ariana didn’t go on to have a particularly memorable acting career — after a handful of other roles, like the popular but bulimic love interest in the teen comedy Angus and a guest spot on Boy Meets World, she has mostly bowed out of the acting game to focus on painting. Her Jurassic Park role is thanks to the fact that Spielberg wanted to cast the young-looking Joseph Mazzello as her brother, forcing a switch in ages and allowing Lex to have a stronger character, with a crush on Alan Grant, her goat-loving vegetarian ways, and a knack for hacking that comes in handy late in the movie. She was cast primarily for her screams — her audition consisted of a three-minute scream fest. “I hadn’t seen screams like that since Fay Wray was undone at the sacrificial altar by King Kong,” Spielberg said.
7. Bob Peck (Robert Muldoon)
Signature Line: “Clever girl...”
The British actor was best known for his starring role in the BBC miniseries The Edge of Darkness (since remade into a Mel Gibson movie) prior to his portrayal of the gamekeeper of Jurassic Park, a man who hates raptors with very good reason (particularly once they eat him). He continued to work throughout the 90s in a number of lesser-known films but passed away in 1999 from cancer.
8. Wayne Knight (Dennis Nedry)
Signature Line: "Ah, ah, ah... you didn't say the magic word..."
One of few Jurassic Park actors who is more notable for another role, Wayne was just as slimy and weaselly as Nedry in Jurassic Park as he was as Seinfeld’s nemesis Newman. As the (non-dinosaur) villain of the piece, Dennis Nedry is the guy who pretty much deserves his gruesome end at the hands of a baby dilophosaurus — a fate Seinfeld probably would have enjoyed seeing Newman end up with. In addition to roles in films like JFK and Basic Instinct, Wayne has done plenty of voice work in films like Toy Story 2 and Kung Fu Panda.
9. Samuel L. Jackson (Ray Arnold)
Signature Line: “Hold onto your butts.”
These days, if you put Samuel L. Jackson up against a velociraptor in a movie, we’d probably put money down on Sam to come out on top. But back in 1993, pre-Pulp Fiction, he didn’t have quite the same legendary badass reputation — and the dinosaurs got the better of him. In fact, as the park’s chief engineer, he’s one of the least badass characters in the movie, more of a brainy type than the guns-blazing persona he’s known for. Since Jurassic Park, he’s been a big part of a couple other major action franchises — the Star Wars prequels and The Avengers — and a crucial part of Quentin Tarantino’s filmography. We kind of want a rematch between Sam and those raptors now that he’s a certified badass...
10. Tyrannosaurus Rex (T-Rex)
Signature Line: "Roooooooooooooarrrrrrr!!!!!!"
Despite massive stardom resulting from Jurassic Park, T-rex must have become overexposed, because she failed to find work that wasn't capitalizing on her iconic role in Jurassic Park. Following a prominent role in the first sequel, T-rex was all but absent from Jurassic Park III, replaced with the younger, hotter spinosaurus. Consistently typecast as a villain, T-rex has moved into a residency at Universal Studios' Jurassic Park: The Ride, where she continues to give the same pale imitation of the performance that made her a screen icon. But it's never too late for a comeback, right?
Which Jurassic Park star are you most looking forward to revisiting on the big screen?