It was 1993 when Steven Spielberg released a film featuring groundbreaking computer-generated imagery of dinosaurs, Jurassic Park. The film was revolutionary, becoming the highest-grossing of the year, making $912 million worldwide during its first theatrical run. Yet, there are so many behind-the-scenes facts, secrets, and tidbits that people don’t know.
From the animals behind the velociraptors’ roars to the effects teams genius way of making the iconic ripple in the water cup so consistent, there are more than a few little-known facts about the film that’s considered to be one of the greatest technical achievements in the history of cinema.
Mr. DNA Was Originally A Joke
Remember Mr. DNA, aka the Microsoft Office Clippy of the Jurassic Park universe? Well, that animated talking DNA strand telling the history of the genetics of the park’s inhabitants started as a joke and wound up making its way into the film.
During an interview, screenwriter David Koepp said, “I remember Steven [Spielberg] and I were wrestling with that very issue, about the DNA, and one of us said, ‘What are we supposed to do? Have a little animated character called Mr. DNA?’ And the other one said, ‘Yes! That’s exactly what we’re going to do!'” And thus, Mr. DNA was born.
The Lush Scenery Is Thanks To A Grade-A Greensman
On August 24, 1992, filming for Jurassic Park began on the island of Kauaʻi. If there is one thing about the film that is hard to overlook, it’s the lush greenery seen throughout the beautiful landscape. Of course, to get a set to stay as lush and beautiful as the Jurassic set, a professional had to be brought in.
Danny Ondrejko was the head greensman during filming, meaning he’s responsible for any and all things “green.” But this most certainly wasn’t his first rodeo. Ondrejko is also responsible for the sets on The Goonies, Hook, the Back to the Future franchise, and Edward Scissorhands, to name a few.
Nic Cage Encouraged Laura Dern To Take Spielberg’s Call
Fans of Laura Dern’s performance as Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park have none other than Nic Cage to thank. The actor is actually one of the main reasons Dern wound up taking the original call with Spielberg. During an interview, Dern spoke of Cage’s influence on her decision.
She said, “I said to him, ‘Nic, they want to put me on the phone with Steven Spielberg, but they want to talk to me about a dinosaur movie…,'” And he was like, ‘You are doing a dinosaur movie! No one can ever say no to a dinosaur movie!’ So he was such an influence on me.”
A Famous Line Was A Fleeting Comment By Phil Tippett
One of Jurassic Park‘s more well-known lines was nothing more than a fleeting comment made by Dinosaur Supervisor (yes, that was a real position) Phil Tippett. When speaking to director Steven Spielberg about some of the first T-rex footage, Tippet said, “I think I’m extinct,” speaking of his job in the film industry.
Spielberg liked the concept so much that he added it to the script. After the scientists see the living dinosaurs in the park, Dr. Grant says, “I think we’re out of the job.” As a rebuttal, Dr. Malcolm says, “Don’t you mean extinct?”
The Ominous Cup Ripple Was Made By A Precise String Pluck
One of the more well-known scenes to come out of Jurassic Park is the ripples made in the water cup on the car’s dashboard when the Tyrannosaurus rex is close. And while the engineering of the T-rex is no doubt a bit more famous than the water cup, a bit still went into the latter.
To get the beautifully precise ripple in the water, a guitar string was strung through the car and down to the ground, right below the cup. Then, someone lay underneath the car and plucked the string when the T-rex put its foot down, resulting in the water ripple.
The Ford Explorer’s Sunroof Wasn’t Meant To Break
In one frightening scene, the Tyrannosaurus rex breaks through the Ford Explorer’s sunroof. Unfortunately, the two kids, Lex and Tim Murphy, happen to be in the car, and they start screaming their heads off — for a good reason! Those screams aren’t actually staged.
As it turns out, there were no plans to have the sunroof break. So, the kids were completely taken off guard when the glass fell down on top of them, resulting in their terrified screams. That take is the one used in the film!
The Dinosaurs Have Little Screen Time
Contrary to popular belief, Jurassic Park sees little to no dinosaurs throughout its two-hour runtime. Only 15 minutes out of the total 128 minutes see Stan Winston’s life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, including the velociraptors, a triceratops, the Tyrannosaurus rex, and the wide array of dinosaurs in the opening scene on the island.
The rest of the runtime is focused on the human cast members, many of which wind up meeting their end on the island while the rest are running and hiding for their lives. Sorry, but isn’t this film supposed to be about the dinosaurs!
The T-Rex Wasn’t Going To Make A Comeback
A few weeks before filming was scheduled to wrap up, Steven Spielberg threw a twist the cast’s way, changing the film’s entire ending. Originally, the raptors were supposed to meet their end by a T-rex skeleton falling on them. But the animatronic T-rex made such an impact on Spielberg that he decided to have the dino make a comeback.
In an interview, Spielberg said, “I think the star in our movie is T. rex. The audience will hate me if the T. rex doesn’t come back and make one more heroic appearance.” As a result, the T-rex takes out the raptors.
Universal Secured Film Rights Before The Book Was Released
Steven Spielberg wasted no time going to Universal, asking them to secure the rights to Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel Jurassic Park. The thing is, the famous director asked the studio to secure the rights a solid six months before the book was even released to the public!
At the time, both Speilberg and Crichton were working on re-vamping the screenplay for a p pet project, ER, a film based on Crichton’s time in medical school. As it turned out, both the Jurassic Park film and the drama series went on to be massive hits.
Hurricane Iniki Forced The Cast And Crew To Find Shelter
On September 11, 1992, while filming the final scenes of Jurassic Park on the island of Kauaʻi, one of the worst hurricane’s in Hawaiian history struck, Hurricane Iniki. The destructive weather and harsh conditions forced the 130 cast and crew members to find shelter in their hotel rooms.
The storm only cost production a day of shooting, and they were able to use actual footage from the hurricane in the storm scenes of the film. Fun fact: it’s rumored that Richard Attenborough slept through the whole storm! That’s one heavy sleeper.
Tortoises And Horses Make Some Pretty Scary Sounds
While the gigantic Tyrannosaurus rex is truly terrifying, a few smaller dinosaurs that are equally, if not scarier, are the velociraptors. The pint-size Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs are quick, agile and make one creepy and screechy sounding roar that has more than one of the cast running for their lives.
Interestingly, the sound engineers didn’t use a computer or inanimate objects to produce the sound. Instead, they got creative. In the sequel film, the sound coming from the velociraptors is actually mating tortoises! And their breathing is nothing more than recordings of horses.
Richard Kiley Was The Park Tour Guide In More Than The Film
Before all of the dinosaurs break loose on the island, the visitors enjoy a nice, laid back tour around the different exhibits. For the duration of the tour, they’re in a Ford Explorer with a voiceover tour guide explaining various details about what they’re seeing. Well, that voice belongs to Richard Kiley.
As it so happens, though, the film wasn’t the only time Kiley played the dutiful role of the Jurassic Park tour guide. He’s actually the guide in Michael Crichton’s novel! He also narrates the Jurassic Park River Adventure ride at Universal at both the Florida and California parks.
The Triceratops Ate Some Bad Berries
It might not be outwardly mentioned in the film, but anyone who’s read the Jurassic Park novel knows what’s wrong with the Triceratops Dr. Ellie Sattler and Dr. Alan Grant stumble upon during their initial visit to the park. Actually, a Stegosaurus in the novel, the doctors come across her lying on her side, terribly ill.
As it turns out, the poor dinosaurs attempted to eat some stones to help her digestion. Unfortunately, the stones happened to be next to West Indian lilac berries, a poisonous berry that made the dinosaur very sick.
Jim Carrey Almost Landed The Role Of Dr. Ian Malcolm
It’s hard to imagine Jurassic Park without the sarcastic quips of Jeff Goldblum coming each time his character of Dr. Ian Malcolm is on the screen. The thing is, a lot of other actors were up for the role, including Jim Carrey, who, at the time, wasn’t exactly all that famous yet.
According to the casting director, Carrey did quite well in his audition. Still, he didn’t land the part of the doctor. Instead, he went on to star in some spectacular comedies in 1994, including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb and Dumber.
The Two Seatbelt Latches Foreshadows Evolution
One scene that happens early on in Jurassic Park that might seem silly and unnecessary actually foreshadows something monumental later down the line. On the helicopter ride to the island, Dr. Grant finds himself unable to buckle his seatbelt, as there are only two latches available with nothing actually to latch to.
This seemingly unimportant scene is a clever bit of evolution foreshadowing. Later in the film, it’s revealed that the frog DNA used in the cloning process has evolved, allowing dinosaurs to change their gender, even though they’re all bred to be female. Yea, mind blown.
Harrison Ford Was Almost Running With Dinos
Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg have made cinematic history together, bringing the character of Indiana Jones to life in one of the world’s leading franchises. So, it might not be too surprising that the director wanted the star actor to lead the charge in his 1993 film Jurassic Park as Dr. Alan Grant.
Well, Ford didn’t hold the same sentiment as Spielberg, and their history together didn’t sway him from turning the role down. In the end, it went to Sam Neill.
Sam Neill Was Accidently Burned By The Flare
During the scene where Dr. Grant uses a flare to distract the Tyrannosaurs rex from the kids trapped in the car, something unexpected happened to actor Sam Neill. Unfortunately, a bit of the flare dropped a little bit of something onto the actor’s arm, burning him in the process.
During an interview, Neill looked back on the occurrence, saying, “It [the flare] dropped some burning phosphorous on me, got under my watch, and took a chunk of my arm out.” Ouch!
Ariana Richards Scream Was The Loudest
One thing that’s hard to miss in Jurassic Park is actress Ariana Richard’s character, Lex Murphy. More specifically, her scream that seems to happen every other minute after everything turns into chaos. The thing is, it’s that scream that won Richard’s the role of the young girl.
Apparently, in the audition for the role of Lex, Steven Spielberg had actresses scream (which makes sense, considering the role). Richard’s scream was so loud that it actually wound up waking up Spielberg’s wife, who happened to be taking a nap down the hall! She wound up running into the audition room to make sure everything was okay with the young girl.
The Raptors Are Just The Special Effects Team In Costumes
One of the most famous and well-known scenes in Jurassic Park is the kitchen scene. In this particular instance, Lex and Tim Murphy are in the kitchen of the Park’s headquarters, trying to hide from the hungry velociraptors hunting them. While the other dinos on the island are animatronic, the raptors are a bit different.
Instead of being robots, these raptors are actually costumes with members of the special effects design team inside. See, it’s a bit less horrifying when you think about grown men running around with tiny raptor arms.
Tim Murphy Was Originally An Older Brother
In Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel Jurassic Park, the character of Tim Murphy is actually the older brother to Lex. But after seeing the audition of a specific young actor, director Steven Spielberg decided to switch the age of the character, making him a younger brother.
That actor was Joseph Mazzello. And it wasn’t until the young boy was cast as Tim that Speilberg decided to switch the character’s age. Talk about waiting until the last minute to edit the screenplay!
Steven Spielberg Made A Nice Chunk Of Change
For his direction on Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg walked away with a solid amount of money. A total of $250 million, to be exact. This sum includes profits made from the box office and various merchandise, such as hats, tee shirts, and other Jurassic Park swag.
This large amount of money is more than anyone has ever made on a single film. And that’s saying something, considering the big-named films that are now part of cinematic history.
The 3D Unix Interface Was A Real Program
During one of the rare instances Lex Murphy isn’t screaming, she mentions one of her talents: working with computers. Considering computers were a very new form of technology during the time the film is set, it’s quite the talent! One that’s shown in a specific scene where she reboots the park’s system.
While the 3D Unix interface Lex reboots look very fake to the modern eye, the system is actually completely real! The specific 3D browser seen in the film is a 1990 interface made by Silicon Graphics called FSN (Fusion).
Live Feed? Try QuickTime Film!
With the pixel interface of 1990s computers, the “live feed” video Dennis Nedry uses to communicate with the dock looks like nothing more than a webcam shot. But looking closely, and a bit past the 1990s technology, at what is supposed to be a live video feed from a webcam is actually pre-recorded.
In a blink and you’ll miss it moment, viewers might notice that the video pop-up shown on the computer isn’t a live feed at all, but rather a pre-recorded QuickTime video being played!
Putting The T-Rex Together Was Almost A Fatal Project
One of the “main characters,” the Tyrannosaurus rex, was almost a fatal project. Constructed using animatronic technology, one worker almost had his last day on set while applying the rubber skin over the robotic parts of the dinosaur. In doing so, he was tasked with crawling inside the robot, a dangerous mission.
The thing is, if the power was turned off, the metal sheets and hydraulics holding the T-rex’s head upright would fall down and onto whoever was positioned inside the model. As fate would have it, the power in the building went off that day, trapping the worker inside the model. Thankfully, he was fine.
The Film Grossed A Almost A Billion Dollars Worldwide
While Steve Spielberg walked away from Jurassic Park with a solid paycheck, it’s nothing compared to the amount of money the film grossed at the box office in both North America and worldwide during its original theatrical release. In North America alone, the original film of the Jurassic franchise grossed $357 million.
And that amount is nothing compared to the worldwide box office sum of $912 million. At the end of 1993, Jurassic Park secured its place as the highest-grossing film of the year. And this is just during its original release! After the film’s 20th anniversary, it surpassed the one billion dollar mark.
Spielberg Filled In The Dino Sounds During Filming
The dinosaur sounds heard in the film were added after filming came to a wrap. That means, while filming, the actors were surrounded by animatronic dinosaurs that did nothing more than move around. They were totally silent, making no screeching, screaming, or other roaring sounds heard in the movie.
But Steven Spielberg had a solution for the awkward dino silence. Instead of acting around the quiet robots, Spielberg would stand off-camera, making dinosaur roars in a megaphone. According to actor Sam Neill, Spielberg’s dinosaur roar’s weren’t exactly convincing.
The Venom-Spitting Dilophosaurus Is Fictionalized
One of the carnivorous dinosaurs in Jurassic Park is the Dilophosaurus. And while these creatures are depicted as being kind of small and able to spit venom, neither trait is accurate. In fact, From head to tail, this specific dinosaur is said to have been over 20 feet tall.
Also, there is no proof that Dilophosaurus spit any type of venom or poison. Actually, according to PrepScholar teacher Hayley Milliman, there is no evidence stating any dinosaurs used venom of any kind. Well, the venom-spitting trait definitely makes for a more thrilling movie!
A Dino Head On A Stick Was Used In Certain Scenes
While a majority of the time, the Tyrannasorous rex seen onscreen is that of the animatronic dinosaur, there are some instances throughout Jurassic Park where that is not necessarily the case. Some scenes in the movie didn’t allow for the massive robot, as filmmakers couldn’t fit it into the set, namely the finale.
In these instances, Spielberg had crew members hold up what he called a “barber pole,” so the actors knew what they were screaming at. These poles were pretty much dinosaur heads fashioned to a long stick.
Jaws Makes A Cameo
In one scene with Wayne Knight, his character Dennis Nedry is seen watching another Steven Spielberg film. During the slip, Nedry is seen watching none other than the 1975 horror monster film Jaws.
The quick scene shows Nedry watching as Chief Brody throws chum into the water and the famous shark shows its many rows of sharp teeth for the first time. It’s a fleeting moment but a very cool cameo for those who enjoy Spielberg films.
Dr. Ellie Slater Was A Popular Role
Laura Dern might have ultimately won the role of Dr. Ellie Sattler, but she wasn’t the only one going through the auditioning process. In fact, a lot of big-name actresses were vying for the role, including Julianne Moore, Jodi Foster, Julia Roberts, Joan Cusack, Sandra Bullock, and Helen Hunt, to name a few.
Needless to say, Dern had some heavy competition. Fun fact: while Moore didn’t win the role of Dr. Sattlerr, she was cast as Saras Harding in the 1997 sequel film The Lost World: Jurassic Park.