Jurassic World Interview with Director Colin Trevorrow

A few years back, a low-budget sci-fi movie called Safety Not Guaranteed played at the Sundance Film Festival, garnering a lot of attention for director Colin Trevorrow, though even the fans of that movie may have been surprised when his name was mentioned to direct the long-delayed fourth installment of Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” series, Jurassic World.

While it might seem like a big jump in terms of profile and budget (and it is), Trevorrow is proving himself to be no fluke as he has created a film that works as a direct sequel to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park, while introducing more characters into a new dinosaur park that’s now fully operational. Running the show is Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire, who is trying to get the theme park’s latest “attraction” up and running, a genetically-created dinosaur hybrid called Indominus Rex. When it escapes and starts going on a killing spree through the packed Jurassic World, she must call upon Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady, a dino trainer of sorts, to help stop the Rex before it kills more of the park’s patrons.

ComingSoon.net previously spoke with Trevorrow in 2012 for Safety Not Guaranteed, so this was a good chance to catch up with him. Maybe it’s the filmmaker’s New England roots, hailing from Vermont, but Trevorrow is such a straight-shooter when it comes to his experiences making a big budget Hollywood tentpole movie (which were all positive), and he gave us a couple of hints about what the future brings in terms of what he might do next with his writing partner Derek Connelly. He also told us that he was never as into superheroes as other filmmakers, who have been scooped up to direct movies for Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios, and he also went into a little more detail about why he only planned to direct the first movie in this planned relaunch, which has nothing to do with the usual reasons.

ComingSoon.net: It’s been a while since we spoke for “Safety Not Guaranteed” so it’s good to see you’re doing well.

Colin Trevorrow: Yeah, times have changed… but not really. It’s still just me. 

CS: I think when we spoke back then, this wasn’t even on the horizon although you did hint at something bigger.

Trevorrow: When we were talking about “Safety Not Guaranteed,” it wouldn’t have been this because this didn’t happen until about February of 2013, so I might have been talking about “Flight of the Navigator” which was something we were working on before that, which also could have been big.

jurassic worldCS: It’s interesting because “Jurassic Park III” came out in 2001 and I’ve been doing this job about 13 years and I’ve spoken with Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall, and there’s always this feeling they were going to do a fourth movie. Do you have any idea what finally came together that made it happen and start moving forward?

Trevorrow: I think there were two steps that really moved it forward: one, was that Steven had an idea that was very strong which was to have the park be open and fully functional. As I’ve looked back on the history of development. He had three key ideas that he had given to different writers. One was having a raptor trainer and someone to command them and send them on the aggressive path towards another dinosaur, that was something that was a sales draft and they had been messing around with that for a while. It had different forms, but that was somewhat consistent. I think that when he figured that out, it really began to take some shape. When I came on, the script that was written, off of those ideas was something I understood or was interested in, but I still loved the ideas. So we sort of went back to one and took those three key sign posts and used those to forge a different path. 

CS: It’s sometimes hard for me to convince my editor to cover indie movies, so one of the things I always say to try to justify it is that maybe one of these directors will do a huge movie so I want to thank you for doing that so I can tell my editor, “See? I was right!”

Trevorrow: Not only me. It seems like it’s happening more and more these days. It’s a bit of a trend and hopefully for the right reasons. I think people assume that it’s because they’re easy to control and inexpensive, and I think it’s a cynical assumption to me. It certainly isn’t the case with me, but knowing a lot of the people who have been hiring these directors, I think there’s a genuine desire to have new voices tackle these stories, so they can play a younger and rapidly changing audience.

CS: When I spoke to Charlie McDowell last year for “The One I Love,” I mentioned you as someone whose first movie was also produced by and starred Mark Duplass, and he suggested you had aspirations to make bigger movies like the ones Spielberg normally makes.

Trevorrow: I don’t know if I wanted to be Spielberg, I would never say that. I definitely loved the movies of that time and I hoped to someday make bigger films. I definitely didn’t have any intention to do it right away. I didn’t go out seeking this or seeking to do a big movie. I was going to do a very small movie that I’m actually going to do next, but I really wanted to build a body of work and a library and to hone my craft over time. I hope that doesn’t sound pretentious. It’s a very genuine desire that I had, and yet, when this opportunity came to me–the part that Charlie is talking about–smacked me around and said, “Bro, you have to do this.” So I really had no choice.

CS: When I was reading back our earlier interview, I noticed you mentioned “The Goonies” a lot.

Trevorrow: Just Amblin movies in general. These are the movies that I grew up on. I am 38 years old. I was born in 1976 so I really was the exact right age to grow along with Steven’s movie as they grew. Even as he started doing more mature films, I was maturing more, but his Amblin movies were right in the sweet spot for me. That was right in my childhood, and I think as a result I had an empathy and an understanding for why people of my generation and even younger people care so much about these things. It’s very personal to them and to me, and that is new in movie history. There have always been movie fans, but I don’t think that people have loved things the way we do right now, the people that grew up during that time.

CS: You’re probably right and I’m not sure that movies that are popular now will still be that popular in 20 years. This is a direct sequel to the first movie and there will be many arguments about whether the second and third movies happened, but can you talk about referencing the first movie? You have some visual homages and Easter egg-type things and some more overt mentions. Can you talk about how you decided how much to throw in there as nods for the fans?

Trevorrow: We wanted to do it in a very balanced and measured way. First of all, I know that all of the fans are going to go, and there are certain things they’re going to want to see that are going to make them feel like this has a connection to the films that they loved, and yet the movie has to be for more people than just the fans of “Jurassic Park” (of which there are a great many). I wanted to do it in a way that didn’t invade the experience too much and yet was present. I would say on the set, “Let’s hold Jurassic Park in our hands but not too tight” and that’s the rule we applied. 


CS: You definitely captured the tone and spirit of the first movie, but how on earth did you get a PG-13 rating?

Trevorrow: Believe it or not, as long as the dinosaurs don’t have sex with each other, then you can put a lot in these movies. (Laughs) No, in all seriousness, I tried to strike a balance that would allow for kids to see something that is genuinely scary but is it going to scar them for live? I’m okay to scar them for a couple weeks, and I’m all right with scaring children. Maybe it will be unexpected for people who see this movie, but I’m totally supportive of the idea that children need nightmares and need monsters, just to give them some character. This movie, maybe it does ride the line, but it adheres to a level of intensity and scares that Steven’s movies in the early ‘80s did. There’s scary stuff in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” There’s some really nasty skeletons and dead bodies. I’m not a gore fan, not a big horror movie fan at all. It’s just too intense for me, I can’t deal, so I think I just found a very natural balance based on what my tastes are, the kinds of scares that I like. I prefer to be scared in a way that a 12-year-old would want to be. I don’t consider this movie to be scarier or more intense than “The Lost World” or “Jurassic Park.” Maybe I’ve not been able to see it objectively yet and maybe it is, but I find it to be in the same zone as those movies. There’s scary stuff in those movies!

CS: You never really say how much time has passed since the other movies, if it’s real time, but is there a lot of backstory about how they got Jurassic World going after the earlier problems that fills in the gaps?

Trevorrow: Yeah, we actually have a website that has a lot of backstory on it. It’s called “Masrani Global” and it’s the corporate website for Irrfan Khan’s character’s company, and it details very clearly the history all the way back to the Canadian Tiranodon clean-up of 2001 and what exactly happened since “Jurassic Park III” and how we reached this point. We mention it very briefly in the film, just a couple moments to make sure that people understand that this is in the same world and all of that is canon, which it is. Even though this is a direct sequel to “Jurassic Park,” it isn’t that necessarily in any official way, it’s just because that was a movie about a theme park and so is this, and “Lost World” and “Jurassic Park III” took part on another island and had nothing to do with the theme park business, so they just were very organically not as connected, but they do exist in this world. 

CS: What’s it like working with Steven having been a fan of his movies, either your first impressions or some of the surprises that he brought to the table you weren’t expecting?

Trevorrow: What I wasn’t expecting was the level of creative respect he was going to show me. I think I went in with the assumption that I imagine a lot of people have, which is that I’m going to be a puppet on a string for a big corporation who has their own agenda. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was given not only just so much freedom to write and then direct the movie that I wanted to make, but I was treated like a peer by him and I’m not a peer of his and I have not earned the right to be treated that way and yet, he did anyway, and as a result, it became a true collaboration. It became a scenario where we were genuinely creating something together that is a mixture of our instincts and it really does feel like a multi-generational story being told from two different perspectives, and I’m very proud of that. 

CS: You mentioned you and Derek want to do something else, but if this does well, would you still want to be involved in some capacity as a producer or writer?

Trevorrow: Oh, absolutely. I’ll be involved in a creative way for it. I loved this experience. I was a little frustrated with myself because unfortunately, I just answer questions honestly. It’s very difficult for me to lie to people so when asked… Steven and I decided long ago that I would just do one of these movies and he understood what my priorities were as a filmmaker and what I want to do, and that I want to be able to live and exist in as many different worlds as possible and tell different kinds of stories. When I said that I felt like if I had read that, it would sound like one of three things: Either the movie is terrible, I had a bad time or they had a bad time with me. None of those things are true. The real truth is that I have been charged with helping to build something bigger than just this one movie and find a way to move this forward and one of my decisions is that I think the best thing for this franchise, because it can so easily have diminishing results and so easily become a series of remakes, is that we should apply the same template that they do to “Mission: Impossible,” which I think is in danger of the same thing and bring in new directors and new voices every time out so they continue to change and evolve. 


CS: I’m really interested to see what you and Derek do next, because “Safety Not Guaranteed” was such an interesting film with a unique voice.

Trevorrow: Well, this was a very personal film for us, and we consider this our second movie. I know it’s a “Jurassic Park” movie, but it belongs to us just as much as “Safety Not Guaranteed” as far as we’re concerned. We’re working on a movie called “Intelligent Life,” which is also going to be an Amblin movie that we’re very excited about and that collaboration is for life. That’s not going away any time soon.

CS: You mentioned “Flight of the Navigator” that you were developing before this came about, so is that something you’re still interested in doing? I imagine after this movie comes out, you can do whatever you want.

Trevorrow: No, we wrote a draft of it. I don’t think we’re going to do that one. I think that one’s kind of moved on and I think I also recognized that if I even have one, I might only have one “make a movie based on something I love from my childhood” on my card left to play? (laughs) So I want to hold that card just because I think one of the big priorities for me now, at least in the short term – and I’m moving very quickly to do the movie I’m going to do next, because I’m aware how long these larger films take and there are things that I want to do that are larger-scale big studio kinds of films, because I love those kinds of entertainments. I love the audience, and I want to make them happy, and yet, there are other stories that I want to tell so I think what is planned has been designed here and I’ve been working on it even during post-production on this movie is to be able to make potentially two movies relatively back-to-back that are smaller stories and another one that is a medium-size story that will just let me challenge myself and continue to scare myself, because I think you can fall into complacency very quickly, especially with the amount of resources that are provided and how luxurious all of this can be. This wasn’t a potentially stressful experience for me. This all moved very smoothly and I recognize how rare and lucky and fortunate this experience was. I’m hoping to keep that good fortune going as long as I can, but I know it won’t last forever.

CS: The nice thing is that doing this movie will help whatever you do next. People who like this movie will give a smaller movie you do a chance.

Trevorrow: Yeah, that’s one of the benefits that if you make a film that has the level of reach that this film will. It can draw an audience into something else that is a little different. I’m not a believer that—whatever you want to call it—“the fanboy culture” only likes movies like this. I think we love movies and they love good movies, so I think whatever audience I build for this film, I think will follow me into some other territory just ‘cause they’re fans of cinema.

CS: I expect that once people see this movie, the fans will want you to direct a Marvel or a DC movie and you’ll be asked a lot about that, too.

Trevorrow: I can say pretty confidently that I am not the right guy to do a superhero movie, just because I was not a comic book kid. I don’t know that mythology and I don’t have it ingrained in me in the way that a lot of these other directors do. Guys like James Gunn and Joss Whedon, these guys know that stuff so deeply, and I’m a little bit scared of that idea because the last thing I would want to do is not show the respect and the understanding for that mythology out of ignorance.

CS: Has Derek moved to California yet or are you still on opposite coasts?

Trevorrow: Well, Derek’s always been here. I’m the one who lives far away. I live in Vermont. I’m going back to Vermont this year. I’m going to shoot this smaller movie in the fall in Upstate New York and then we’re going to do something next year in New York City, so I’ll be on the East Coast for a little bit.

Jurassic World opens nationwide on Friday, June 12, with previews on Thursday night.

(Photo Credit: Sebastian Gabsch/Future Image/WENN.com)