Meeting the T-Rex
When asked about his reaction to seeing the animatronic T-Rex in action, Mazzello told us he was hit not with a feeling of fear, but wonder at the sight of such a large machine. He admitted that viewers can actually tell which shots feature a CGI T-Rex versus practical effects, as it was too difficult for him to muster a sense of terror while admiring the machine.
He also clarified a popular rumor about the sequence where the T-Rex first debuts. While it’s untrue that the T-Rex wasn’t supposed to beak through the plexiglass roof of the Explorer, the scene didn’t exactly go off as planned. The animatronic dino hit the car with more force than expected, resulting in an unintentional blooper. If you look closely you can see the animatronic T-Rex has a missing tooth, as it accidentally broke off during the filming of that scene.
“That old rumor is… partially accurate, I’ll say,” Mazzello told us. “It was supposed to come down on us, and the plexiglass was supposed to come down from the roof of the car. But what wasn’t supposed to happen is it wasn’t supposed to come down as far or with the force it comes down on. So on one of the takes… a piece of it flies off. That was categorically not supposed to happen.”
He continued, “You can see it, if anyone is watching from home, you can pause it on the Blu-ray… The T-Rex lost a tooth, and it took like half an hour to get the tooth back in. So Spielberg was just like, ‘The heck with it, we’ll forget about it and do it without the tooth.’ There is a moment in the movie where the T-Rex opens up wide on us and he’s missing a tooth.”
Watch a breakdown of the scene in question in the video below:
The Hurricane was Real
The entire plot of Jurassic Park revolves around a freak tropical storm cutting off power on Isla Nublar and setting an entire zoo’s worth of man-eating dinosaurs free. In many scenes it genuinely looks like the actors are battling the worst Mother Nature has to offer, and that’s because they were. According to Mazzello, production was temporarily halted by a hurricane. Spielberg opted to make the best of this setback, using actual footage of the storm for several establishing shots in the final film.
The Brilliance of Steven Spielberg
Mazzello had plenty of praise for Spielberg over the course of the movie. “Spielberg’s a master. Every single shot is a work of art, the way he storyboards. He has a plan for everything and knows just how to execute it… You can think of 20 shots off the top of your head that are just iconic. There are images that are always used from this film and are always different. He’s just a master of his craft. He knows how to establish characters and what their journeys are going to be.”
One example Mazzello pointed to was the fact that Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm is first introduced in a shot where he’s framed between Laura Dern’s legs, setting the stage for the sexual chemistry between Malcolm and Ellie Sattler.
The Secret of the Automatic Cars
The film shows our heroes being guided on a tour of the park inside remote-controlled Ford Explorers. But as Mazzello revealed, Spielberg relied on a pretty low-tech solution for pulling off the illusion of self-driving cars in a pre-Tesla age. They were actually piloted by “ghost drivers” hidden from the camera.
And just to further destroy the illusion, Mazzello said the night-vision goggle prop didn’t actually work.
The Best Deaths in the Jurassic Park Movies
Spielberg’s Consolation Prize
In one of many deviations from Michael Crichton’s original novel, the ages of Tim and his sister Lex are flipped in the movie. Mazzello told us there’s actually a very specific reason Tim was de-aged for the film. Spielberg made the change as a favor to Mazzello because the actor narrowly missed the chance to star in 1991’s Hook.
Spielberg’s Stance on Ad-Libbing
Mazzello reflected on the experience of working with a director as renowned as Spielberg. In some cases, Spielberg was unexpectedly economical, shooting single takes of scenes and moving on. But the director also encouraged his young stars to ad-lib, albeit with some helpful advice. Mazzello said in one scene he ad-libbed the line “This is the ’90s,” but Spielberg encouraged him to drop it so as not to unnecessarily date the film.
Reconnecting With the Cast
When asked if he still keeps in contact with his Jurassic Park costars, Mazzello said that while they developed a close bond during filming, the fact that they lived in a time before e-mail and smartphones made maintaining those friendships difficult. However, he said he did recently meet and catch up with Laura Dern.
However, Mazzello has maintained a close friendship with Spielberg to this day, with the two exchanging a number of letters over the years.
Mazzello’s Surreal College Years
Not only does Mazzello exchange letters with Spielberg, the director actually wrote Mazzello’s letter of recommendation to the University of Southern California. Unsurprisingly, he got accepted.
Mazzello’s Jurassic Park connections continued to impact his life at USC, with the actor revealing one of his exams was interrupted by composer John Williams, who was rehearsing for a concert performance later that night. “I was taking a test – a final exam or something – and outside the theater we hear all these scores. The band is playing E.T.’s score and then Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park. I’m like, what is going on?”
Revealing Tim’s Future?
With so much of the original Jurassic Park cast returning for the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion, many fans are wondering if Mazzello and Ariana Richards might also return to reprise their roles as Tim and Lex, respectively. When an IGN reader asked what he thinks happened to Tim after the end of the original movie, Mazzello said, “I hope we get to find out someday. Not quite yet, but maybe someday we’ll figure out what happens to Tim.”
He continued, “It is a great question and something I do think about all the time, because there’s so much I think you could do with this character. He was the obvious heir to John Hammond’s fortune. He was the heir to Jurassic Park. Would this experience have turned him away from dinosaurs and make him hate dinosaurs as a thing he once truly loved? Would it be that he wants to be the one to step in and run the park the way it always should have been run?”
Sidebar – if you’re interested in reading one version of the story where an older Tim and Lex take charge of InGen, the 2010 comic Jurassic Park: Redemption serves as an alternate continuation of the original movie trilogy.
Empathizing With Hammond
One of the more significant changes the movie makes to the source material involves the portrayal of Richard Attenborough’s character John Hammond. Whereas the book reveals Hammond to be a ruthless businessman who ultimately gets his just desserts, the movie version of Hammond is painted as a much more sympathetic, even childlike character. Mazzello told us this was intentional, as Spielberg wanted audiences to connect with Hammond and his desire to build something as wondrous as Jurassic Park.
Tim’s Rambo Moment
Apparently Mazzello isn’t the biggest fan of the climactic scene where Lex accesses the park’s UNIX computer network to reactivate the security system. Mostly because he felt Tim was too useless during the scene. But when asked if Tim should have acted differently, Mazzello replied, “I think I did the right thing. I rooted on my sister. I was there for moral support. I was in a managerial role, okay?”
He continued, “Do I wish I had picked up the gun and done a Rambo and killed every raptor and that was the end of the movie? Yeah, I do.”
The Face Replacement
Mazzello pointed out an interesting shot during the raptor climax, where Ariana Richards’ face was digitally super-imposed over the body of her stunt doubles. As far as he’s aware, this is one of the first examples of that technique in film.
Mazzello’s Favorite Bloopers
When asked about his favorite bloopers from filming, Mazzello reiterated his appreciation for that broken T-Rex tooth. He also pointed out that there’s a scene in the movie where he flubs the name of a dinosaur but Spielberg kept it in anyway.
For more on the future of the franchise, find out how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted filming on Jurassic World: Dominion and whether we’ll see snowbound dinosaurs in the sequel.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.