This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.
Although Jurassic Park III made less money than The Lost World: Jurassic Park – which itself had made less money than the original Jurassic Park – there was never much doubt that Universal wanted another dino-stuffed movie from Steven Spielberg’s Michael Crichton-inspired film franchise. The problem was working out exactly how to do this, after the sequels had failed to live up to the financial success and audience adoration of the first film.
Eventually, we got the box office-smashing Jurassic World and Chris Pratt in a vest. But before that, ideas came and went as Universal attempted to nail down the best way to resurrect the series without the help of ancient mosquituoes…
Early ideas stage
The long and winding road to Jurassic World began before Jurassic Park III had even reached cinemas. Cinematic franchise founder Steven Spielberg and then-incumbent director Joe Johnston chatted about ideas for a follow-up while Jurassic Park III was still in production. The internet caught wind of this, and rumors cropped up suggesting that work on the fourth film was already underway.
This caused Joe Johnston to come out with a clarifying statement, before his dino-film’s release in July 2001. “Totally crazy, but I know how this particular rumor got started,” Johnston is quoted as saying in March of the same year. “Steven and I were discussing an idea for the fourth one and I said, (with heavy sarcasm) ‘I can’t wait to get started on that’. I guess whoever overheard me didn’t pick up on my tone.”
By June, Johnston’s interest in making another Jurassic Park film had waned even further. “I think it’s time for someone else to play with the dinos”, he said, before revealing that Spielberg had a new concept up his sleeve that would take “the Jurassic Park mythology to a whole new level.”
Despite his insistence that he wouldn’t be involved in another Jurassic Park film, Johnston continued to comment on the storytelling possibilities. In one interview, he stated that “they pretty much have to get off the island after three.” In another, he said “It would be so easy for those birds [the Pterodons] at the end of Part 3 to just follow the helicopter with the surviving humans. They could follow them back to the mainland.”
But Johnston mentioned, in yet another interview, that “Spielberg actually has an idea for number four that doesn’t involve the Pterodons.” He reiterated that Spielberg’s concept would take “the Jurassic Park thing in a whole new direction.”
Dr. Alan Grant actor Sam Neill was keen to return for the fourth movie at this point in time. “I’m very happy with this movie”, he said while promoting Jurassic Park III, “But my thoughts for Jurassic Park 4 is that we eliminate one certain aspect of American culture that bothers me. Let the T-Rex stomp on all Wal-Marts! No one would mind the dinosaurs attacking stores that brought the downfall of downtown America.”
Alessandro Nivola – who played Billy Brennan in Jurassic Park III – also expressed an interest in returning. “You know, I have no idea what they are cooking up, but I’m there,” he enthused, as well as mentioning that he was on a multi-film contract.
Eventually, in June 2002, Spielberg finally confirmed that a concept was lined up for Jurassic Park 4. He told Starlog magazine that “We actually have a wonderful story that I think is the best story since the very first movie. In fact, I wish it were the third story instead of the fourth one. It came late, but it is actually the best story I’ve heard for a dinosaur movie since the Michael Crichton book. And I’m not going to tell you anything about it. My lips are sealed.”
The first script draft
In November 2002, development began on Jurassic Park 4. Spielberg took an executive producer role, and installed Kathleen Kennedy as a producer. William Monahan – who would later win acclaim for The Departed – got to work on the script. Sam Neill again expressed his interest in coming back.
“Steven just blew me away with the story,” Neill told IGN. “Something frightening is happening concerning those dinosaurs that doesn’t necessarily bode well for us humans. Scientists never seem to learn… You know that feeling when you first saw the original film, and you were so in awe, and felt so swept away and mesmerized by the sheer majesty of it all? I believe this premise has the potential to elicit that same kind of response. Out of all the concepts that have been created for these movies, this is possibly my favorite.”
Neill wasn’t the only star swayed by this apparently-impressive concept and Spielberg’s obvious enthusiasm for it. Jeff Goldblum told Cinemania around the same time that, “I caught up with Steven not too long ago, and he explained the idea he’s developing for a new film. He was very excited and enthusiastic about it, and I have to admit I was instantly taken with his vision for the movie. Completely ingenious, and totally wonderful. It puts such a clever spin on the whole thing, while at the same time returning to the scientific intrigue and fascination of the first film. Steven gave me strict instructions to stay available, because it’s not entirely impossible that the services of my character will be required.”
By July 2003, Monahan had finished his first script draft. “Let’s just say it takes place someplace else,” Kathleen Kennedy teased of the film’s setting. “It will not be green. We will not go back to the jungle,” she added, before mentioning that Monahan will “bring something to it that’s going to make it feel fresh.”
“I got offered it when I was a screenwriter for about a week”, Monahan later said of his Jurassic Park 4 draft. “I had a really good time. I wrote it really funny. The kids in it were like the ones in Willy Wonka.”
(A Movieweb report from this period believed that the film would begin with small dinosaurs arriving on the Costa Rican mainland, resulting in a expedition of experts being sent to a nearby island. There, apparently, they’d find dinosaurs “thriving and breeding at an uncontrollable rate, so much so that it poses a threat to the nearby continent. They must find a way to curb the spread of the dinos or face an ecological disaster.” It’s still unclear whether this report is an accurate description of Monahan’s draft.)
At this point, a director hadn’t been chosen, but cast and crew continued to join the project. Sir Richard Attenborough apparently let slip during a BBC Radio 5 interview that Spielberg had approached him about the film and that he was keen to do it. Keira Knightley is said to have auditioned for the movie around this stage.
Paleontologist Jack Horner – technical advisor on every Jurassic Park film – was also asked to come back, and duly signed up to resume his dino-wrangling duties. “If you like velociraptors, you will love Jurassic Park 4,” he was quoted as saying shortly afterwards.
At this point, a version of Jurassic Park 4 was coming together nicely. Attenborough, Neill and Goldblum were all keen to return. An enthusiasm-spawning concept (which, to this day, has never been disclosed) and new setting were being discussed. Auditions were underway, experts were on board. Everything seemed to be going to plan…
The leaked John Sayles draft
Monahan left the project to work on Kingdom Of Heaven. In May 2004, Lone Star and Piranha writer John Sayles was brought in to finish the script. The following month, Frank Marshall came on board as a producer and Dark City and The Crow helmsman Alex Proyas was reportedly in talks to direct. A winter 2005 release date was targeted, and planning work was allegedly underway to build a huge water tank at Pinewood Studios for use in the film.
By July 2004, the script had significantly changed. Now Attenborough’s Hammond was the only returning character. There were two new leads, with Jeremy Piven and Emmy Rossum eyed for the parts. Alex Proyas – who was working on I, Robot at the time – came out and said “I am very uninterested in doing Jurassic Park 4.”
In August 2004, a review of a leaked Jurassic Park 4 script surfaced on Ain’t It Cool News. This script is still available online, and we’ve spoken about it before in great detail (see here for our breakdown of this script, which details the elements that eventually showed up in Jurassic World). Sayles later confirmed that this leaked draft, credited solely to him, was the real deal. Spielberg’s emails were hacked and that’s how it ended up online.
You may already know that Sayles’ leaked draft was rather crazy. It began with Hammond sending a new character called Nick Harris (“an unemployed soldier of fortune”) to Isla Nublar (now under the control of a Swiss company) to retrieve the shaving foam can stuffed with DNA samples that Dennis Nedry dropped way back in the first film.
Nick is caught, knocked out, and wakes up in a medieval castle in the Swiss Alps where the new owners of Isla Nublar are working on a hybrid dinosaur consisting of human, canine, and dino DNA. Nick is recruited by the Swiss scientists to act as a drill sargeant to a pack of dinosaurs that they’ve managed to tame using radio signals.
Nick’s dinos are put in armored suits and sent to Tangier to rescue a 10-year-old girl from some terrorists. The mission is a bloody success, and Nick is next sent after a drug lord who is promptly attacked by dinosaurs while in his jacuzzi. At the climax of the film, the dino-soldiers turn on their Swiss masters.
JoBlo recently shared this image, and it quickly flew around the web. It’s from concept artist Carlos Huante’s work on Jurassic Park 4, although it’s not quite clear which draft of the script he was working from at the time.
The received wisdom is that “Raptorman” – as Huante calls him – was from John Sayles’ final draft, the one he turned in after the leaked version that received lots of online ridicule.
There’s also a chance that Raptorman was a potential approximation of what the tame dinosaurs in the leaked draft could have looked like. He does seem to have something embeded in his head, which could be the radio-wave-emitting headwear used to control the beasts in the leaked story. Or it could be the human/dog/dino concoction that the Swiss scientists were working on.
Either way, the idea of a dino-human hybrid had been hanging around for a while. In October 2003 – before Sayles took over from Monahan – Jack Horner was asked about “what man would look like if we had evolved from dinosaurs instead of mammals” on Minnesota Public Radio (at a time when every word on Jurassic Park was being lovingly compiled online by Dan’sJP3page.com).
Horner responded by saying, “Keep thinking about that, and in a couple of years go see Jurassic Park 4,” which suggests that a dino-human character was under consideration long before Sayles got involved.
It’s obvious that a story existed, at some point, featuring a straight up human/dinosaur hybrid with a metal gun-like arm and a very pointy groin. This is presumably an extension of the gene-splicing idea that has always been present in the Jurassic Park franchise. But still, Raptorman would’ve been utterly unlike anything we’ve seen before in this world.
The wilderness years
At this point, Spielberg wasn’t wowed by the script drafts he’d read. Special effects guru Stan Winston – who was attached to the film throughout all the changes – told IGN in April 2005 that the film was now on hold.
Winston explained that Spielberg “felt neither of [the drafts] balanced the science and adventure elements effectively. It’s a tough compromise to reach, as too much science will make the movie too talky, but too much adventure will make it seem hollow.”
It’s around this time that the film entered development hell and began to look like it would never happen. A winter 2005 release was now impossible to reach, and no one was trying to set a new date instead. From the public perspective, there was a lot of toing and froing.
In January 2006, Jurassic Park III‘s director Joe Johnston came back into the fray, as it was reported that he was working through yet another script draft with dino expert Jack Horner. In February 2006, Frank Marshall told IGN that a “good script” was in place and that the film could reach cinemeas in 2008. Marshall backtracked in April of the same year, telling Empire that they had an idea but no script.
Jack Horner’s book How To Build A Dinosaur came out in 2010. It was meant to be a tie-in to Jurassic Park 4, but ended up preceding the fourth film in the franchise by half a decade.
And finally, Jurassic World
In June 2011, Mark Protosevich was brought in to work on a new treatment for the film. Spielberg mustn’t have been 100% happy with the result, because Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver were brought on board in January 2012 to start afresh. It seemed like Jurassic Park 4 was still just at the wheel-spin phase, and no closer to getting made.
But then, a breakthrough – Brad Bird urged Kathleen Kennedy to consider Colin Trevorrow for her other huge project, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Instead, after watching Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed, Kennedy and Frank Marshall set up a meeting between Trevorrow and Spielberg to talk Jurassic Park 4. Without even reading Jaffa and Silver’s current version of the script, Trevorrow signed up.
Encouraged to do so by Spielberg, Jaffa and Silver had refocused their draft on a functioning dino theme park. Trevorrow brought in his Safety Not Guaranteed cohort Derek Connolly and ran with this idea, working up a new script that started with a functioning theme park and incorporated ideas other ideas from previous drafts (including the former-military main character and the trained ‘raptors).
With a lot of concepts left on the roadside (Raptorman, returns for the core cast), and probably a fair bit of cash spent, Universal finally got their fourth Jurassic Park movie. It ended up making more money that any of the previous ones, and reinvigorated a franchise that had spent over a decade in gestation.
Now? There’s the small matter of Jurassic Park 5…