Ultimate DVD - December 2001

 

 


DINOSAURS BITE BACK!

As the third dinosaur DVD prepares to hit the shelves, Sam Neill and director Joe Johnston reveal why third time is a charm for the Jurassic Park franchise

Sam Neill

You were absent from The Lost World; what persuaded you to reprise the role of Alan Grant for Jurassic Park III?

I wanted to get it right. I wasn't right in the first one - it's a very good film, but I could have done it better. Almost always at the end of movies you think, 'I wish I had done that a bit differently'. Certainly it was true at the end of the first one and it's not often you get the chance to do things again in life. When they persuaded me to do this, they did a bit of fast-talking and said, 'This is going to be bigger and better than the one you did before'. That was persuasive. I said, 'I need to pay a bit more attention to the character this time'. I was a little bit perturbed the first time when some reviewers said, 'The dinosaurs were more interesting than the actors'. Novelty factors aside, I think this is the best of the three films.

A second sequel always runs the risk of seeming tired. How does this film avoid that problem?

For me it was a smart move to get a new director and a new cast, so that one takes a fresh look at things. The T-Rex and I are really the only two dinosaurs that have been resuscitated. Steven has new eggs to fry, and he'd done it twice and that's probably enough and Joe is just the right guy for the job. He's wonderful with action, nice with actors and it's exciting for him. I suspect it wouldn't have been exciting for Steven, but he loved coming to the set and checking what was going on.

After the first 20 minutes, Jurassic Park III is pretty much non-stop action. How did that take its toll during the shooting process?

I think we are all pretty cut and bruised up, but I was kind of expecting it because Joe said rather ominously, 'This is going to be the most physical thing you've ever done'. And it was, big time. There's 10 times more action in this film than the first one, 10 times more banging up and running around and jumping off things and getting slammed and drowning... There was no end to the indignities that we had to suffer!

Describe how it was working on set with Stan Winston's dinosaurs.

What surprised me and probably everyone else who worked on the film was just how swept away one was by the experience of watching this technology. They are much more animated than ever, and if a dinosaur is more realistic then it's going to be more fun to work with. When these things are switched on, you really feel that you are working with sentient beings on the set. They're pretty cool.

How does playing an action hero differ from your more serious drama roles?

I think it's a particular sort of acting when you are playing those Errol Flynn/Harrison Ford/Mel Gibson action parts. I don't do those kinds of parts much, and that's probably why I wasn't any good the first time around. I play psychopaths and people's dads and things like that usually... I don't underestimate it: it's not just physical work, it takes real malice aforethought to get those things right.

Did the other cast members ever ask you for advice?

You'd think they would, wouldn't you? But nobody asked me for one piece of ordinary advice the whole way through the film.

This year alone we've seen you In Jurassic Park III and The Dish, a small but much loved Australian drama. Do you consciously plan your career moves?

I have been making films since 1976; that's quite a long time and some things are big and some films are small. I do them if they interest me. I make films in the US and Australia and the more obscure parts of the world. I don't make career moves: acting is my work and I love it, but there's much more to life than that, thank God. I think The Dish is a wonderful film, and I think Jurassic Park is wonderful too, and these things counterbalance each other.

Brian Barratt

<Note: The Joe Johnston part of the article has been edited out.>

 

 

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