Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard have come as close as anyone can to walking among dinosaurs. While filming "Jurassic World" in Louisiana and Hawaii last summer, they had daily access to what they say amounted to a functioning prehistoric facility. But given the film's lengthy development, which began in 2001, it seems like quite the feat to have anyone shielding themselves from dinosaurs at all.
"Jurassic World" is a beast unto itself, though. Numerous directors were attached to the movie throughout its various stages, including "Jurassic Park III" maestro Joe Johnston, and it was rumored that several cast members from the franchise (Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Sam Neill) would return for the fourth installment. It's a marvel, then, that the project landed in the hands of the fresh-faced Colin Trevorrow, whose only previous directorial feature is 2012's "Safety Not Guaranteed." The Sundance hit cost all of $750,000 to make -- a blip compared to the $150 million summer blockbuster that is "Jurassic." (He had good mentorship, at least, as Steven Spielberg remains a producer.)
It helps to have Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard at the center of the raging dino battles. He of "Guardians of the Galaxy" and she of "Twilight" and M. Night Shyamalan films, both have experienced their share of big-budget spectacles. And it shows: What "Jurassic World" lacks in sense of wonder, it makes up for in electrifying action sequences. Pratt and Howard share dual hero duty in the deadly wake of a genetically modified dinosaur, and The Huffington Post spoke to each actor separately via phone over the weekend. Read on for their combined interviews, which discuss the film's impressive post-production magic and how Pratt's "Parks and Recreation" character would fare at Jurassic World.
This movie has been on and off since 2001. Before being cast, did you have any hope that you could be part of it?
Pratt: I think I first heard about it from Aubrey Plaza because she had done "Safety Not Guaranteed" with Colin, and it was such a big boon for him and she was so excited for him that he was given this opportunity to do this movie. So I knew it was in production, but that was probably before I’d even been cast for "Guardians of the Galaxy," so I think it was unlikely. At that point, it wasn’t realistic for me to think, “Oh, there’s a project I like, maybe I can be part of that.” That didn’t make sense at that point, you know?
Howard: Oh man, if one could only hope. My awareness of the project happened in March of 2013. At that point, Colin had come aboard as the director and he was starting to meet with people for the movie. No one knew anything about it, but I had a frank conversation with Colin and it was awesome because he gave me a lot of spoilers, which was something I was really craving. And then soon thereafter he invited me to join in on the dinosaur fun. Then it was still a year out from actually shooting, so I wasn’t privy to the last 15 or so years of development.
Would you go to Jurassic World if it existed?
Pratt: Oh, totally. Oh, hell yeah, I’d definitely go.
Howard: I would never go, because I am very familiar with the "Jurassic" mythology and I feel like that’s cautionary tale enough. I think dinosaurs and human beings, there’s a reason why they don’t coexist on the planet. Something that I personally felt was inspired with Colin and Steven’s take on this story was the really realistic depiction of a dinosaur-themed amusement park that had been around for a while, where people would get a little bored. I think that, in many ways, in our Western culture, that’s kind of our MO. We fetishize new and we want to be the first to see what’s new or the first to adopt what’s new. It’s a culture of people who feel there is worth in being early adopters. It’s a manifestation of John Hammond’s dream, yet people aren’t impressed with the dinosaurs anymore. And that, in a way, is the inciting incident for the story, particularly because this is not a scientific endeavor anymore. The agenda is to make more money. That's the impetus for creating the Indominus Rex, and obviously there is all sorts of havoc that comes out of that. I thought that felt really honest and actually an indication of how self-aware and current this film feels. The greatest sci-fis, in my mind, are two things: They’re what-ifs -- what if this happened, and you get to see it -- but they’re also these philosophical cautionary tales. They deal with the underlying themes beneath the what-if. It’s what-if, but then what happens and what does it mean?
How much of the Jurassic World we see in the film was actually constructed and functioning on the set?
Howard: The park was built. The scope of the park was obviously enhanced with CGI, but, for instance, there was an abandoned Six Flags in New Orleans where they actually built the boardwalk and quite a bit of what you see in the film. So that felt enormously real and it was unbelievably impressive to see what they designed and then ultimately created. And then the jungle was a real jungle, and the Indominus Rex paddock was real and the raptor training facility was real. So our environment felt incredibly honest. We weren’t having to make pretend. The only thing I can compare it to is when I saw "Jurassic Park" for the first time.
Pratt: You have the skeletal remnants of whatever ride existed before Hurricane Katrina came in and wiped it all out. Some of that was a little bit eerie, but by the time we got there they had the sound stages and sets built. And the sets were just freakin' massive and beautiful. They were three blocks long and two blocks wide with real storefronts. Many of the stores actually had stores inside where you could go and hang out or film. From the outside looking in, it was an abandoned Six Flags. But once you got inside, it felt like you were at Universal Studios.
If only those dinosaurs were real. Since they aren't, what was it like to film scenes where the dinos won't be inserted until the editing process?
Pratt: We had an animatic of the whole movie, which is essentially a cartoon of each long action sequence that we were able to watch for reference. We knew what the shots would be and we knew what would be in the distance, so we could deduce from some of the concept artwork and the production design what certain stuff would look like, but until you see it onscreen you have no idea how beautiful it’s going to be.
Howard: There’s a scene where we physically interact with a dinosaur, and it’s an emotional scene. It’s us responding largely to the performance of the dinosaur, so to have an animatronic dinosaur that we’re working with is as if we were doing any other scene with an actor. It felt incredibly real. And then, of course, there are those moments when we’re looking up at the sky and imagining we’re looking at a dinosaur, and there’s nothing there. I think because the environment was so fixed it didn’t feel as strange as you might imagine.
Pratt: The paddock is real. That’s a practical set that was built in Louisiana. The element of animation that exists in there is just the raptors, but what it looks like when we were filming it was a combination -- depending on the shot -- of either me acting opposite nothing or me acting opposite our actual raptors, who were four guys in gray costumes with raptor helmets that look and act like velociraptors and worked as reference for us, not only in terms of an eyeline, but also for the animators. We’d shoot one or two shots with the raptors in there so the animators would have a reference for the size and shape of these things.
Does that ever feel ridiculous?
Pratt: Well, there are certain moments where you just stop and have an objective moment where you realize how ridiculous the whole situation is, for sure: that there are four guys in tights with dinosaur helmets running around pretending to be dinosaurs. We had a lot of fun, and I gotta thank those raptor dudes because it is a very thankless role to be sitting there, probably pretty embarrassed to be wearing these tight suits, but they were fully committed. But there were moments when it was all looking kind of ridiculous, and I’m sure they were probably aware of that.
Chris, you played the hero in this and in "Guardians and the Galaxy." You play a lovable doofus on "Parks and Rec," and you'll have more heroic opportunities in "Passengers" next year. Are you itching to play a villain at all?
Pratt: Oh gosh, I don’t know. I’d like to embrace some of the darker sides of my own personality in a role. I get to do that a little bit in “The Magnificient Seven,” which I’m filming right now. But possibly. I’m always looking to grow and expand and become a better actor. I think between now and the time either Hollywood has chewed me up and spit me out or I die or retire, I hope to be able to play a villain. That would be kind of cool.
Both of you have done your fair share of big-budget projects. Are you adjusted to manufacturing emotions in front of a green screen?
Pratt: The truth is, you don’t really need to be able to fake fear or excitement. A lot of that is a post-production process. Sometimes you just need to be able to stare into space and let the music or the edit build it. You have to give yourself over to the process, and it kind of doesn’t matter what you feel sometimes. [Laughs] There’s going to be music and edits and buildups in post production that will inform the audience how the character is feeling. Sometimes you just need to be a prop and stand there with your mouth open.
Any consultations from the former cast on how to survive a "Jurassic" movie?
Howard: I know Laura Dern because we directed a miniseries together and we both directed episodes within that. I only saw her so briefly after I had been cast, but she was incredibly supportive. She’s an amazing woman. Obviously I’m so excited for everyone from the original film to see this movie and I really hope that they love it. It’s a little nerve-racking. What provides some comfort is Steven’s involvement. That’s the ultimate litmus test: How does Steven Spielberg feel?
Wouldn't Andy Dwyer have the best time at Jurassic World?
Pratt: Oh, man. Andy Dwyer would have a kick-ass time at Jurassic World, and then he would definitely be the very first one to get eaten.
"Jurassic World" opens June 12.