This article contains spoilers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
Toby Jones doesn’t have a ton of screen time in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but his role as Gunnar Eversoll – an amoral businessman who facilitates the black market sale of living dinosaurs to various bioengineering and military concerns, without any thought to the repercussions — is all too reminiscent of many venal, greed-driven, corrupt sorts we’ve seen all too often in the news over the years (at least one of them has even made it to high office). Eversoll, however, doesn’t get off with a smack on the wrist or a light sentence — he just gets eaten alive.
As for Jones, this is his latest foray into a giant franchise, with his past work including stints in The Hunger Games, the Harry Potter series and as the evil scientist Arnim Zola in the first two Captain America movies (where he was last seen as a consciousness inhabiting a supercomputer). His long list of credits also includes movies like Infamous, The Mist, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Frost/Nixon, Atomic Blonde and many more.
Acting is the family business (his parents are both actors, while one brother is also a thespian and another is a director) and Jones comes out of the tradition of great British character actors — the kind always welcome on screen no matter how large or small the role. We had the great pleasure of speaking with Jones on the phone recently about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and other topics, including working with director J.A. Bayona and the whereabouts of Arnim Zola.
Den of Geek: So let’s talk about this guy, Eversoll. He doesn’t seem like a particularly nice sort.
Toby Jones: Yeah, I mean, I of course think he’s a terrific guy. Trusting, ambitious, and dynamic. Resourceful, interested, ruthless sort of a chap. He’s an energetic guy when it comes to money and perhaps slightly foolhardy when treating dinosaurs like you treat stolen paintings I suppose.
He certainly doesn’t seem to have any sort of moral viewpoint about the kind of work he’s doing.
Yeah, I hope, without having to articulate it, that he might remind people of certain people one might see in the news from time to time.
He certainly does represent a certain type of businessman. Is there a backstory for him? Do you tend to create your own backstory when you take on a character or do you kind of go with what’s on the page and keep it there?
Well I think the interesting thing of working with J.A. is he’s from the independent sector as it were. He has done studio movies but he’s definitely got his own style when working with horror and special effects and he was very, very open to me coming with ideas as to how we might dress him, and other ideas that he couldn’t deliver but he was very keen on them.
There was certain scenes that we could put things in, and others on a film of this scale, you can’t put them in. But he was definitely collaborative about that. I had the idea that this guy’s just traveling the globe on a day by day basis just doing deals purely on a financial amoral basis, not really with any close scrutiny other than the profits involved.
You kind of alluded to this just now but when you come onto a big franchise movie like this do you prepare differently? Do you go in knowing there may not be as much room for improvisation or adding character bits, because in some ways everyone’s serving the bigger concept in the movie?
I think that’s true. I think that’s no secret. It’s much clearer when you’re working in very strict genres and a franchise which has to operate according to certain demands of the audience. The audience wants a Jurassic experience primarily, they’re there for the dinosaurs. So any space that you have around it, you’re trying to exploit as much space as you can to try and color in a new way, to make it interesting in a new way.
I think there are limits when you come into a franchise but when you’re working with a director like J.A., he’s always pushing to make the thing more than the sum of its parts.
What was your impression of working with J.A. overall?
He’s a cinephile, so there’s a lot of music, there’s a lot of John Williams playing between takes over the loud speaker. It was almost like reminding everyone of the kind of universe we were involved in, the tradition of Spielberg projects.
He’s very aware of that but I think he brings to it his own sort of expertise in suspense and horror and his own ability to use CGI to those aims. There’s a danger that you just get dwarfed by the scale of the project, but when I picture him I picture him scurrying between actors, giving opportunities to try new things, to keep the actors at the center of the project even though there are endless technical considerations to be attended to at the same time.
What’s it like to walk onto those big sets at Pinewood in England? Pinewood, Shepperton, all these studios that exist or existed are part of the history of British cinema. Is there a sense of history when you walk onto the soundstages today?
I think so. Obviously the way that the movie industry is going, the movies in the U.K. now are often these really huge scale franchises, and some of them I’ve been involved with. The studios you mentioned — Pinewood, Shepperton and Leavesden, which is now owned by Warner Brothers — they’ve expanded and in some countries they’ve branched out into new spaces and they’re chock-a-block with high-end franchise movies. But there’s no doubt when you come through the gates of these places you would be sad if you weren’t aware of the romance of where you are, and the tradition that these places embody.
They are our version of what you’ve got here in Hollywood. There’s a strong sense in some of the buildings that the furnishings and architecture are from great eras of British film, rather than what we have now which I suppose is the era of great British technicians and great British actors to a certain extent.
This is the first time we’ve spoken, so I only found out through my research that your dad is Freddie Jones, who I loved watching in some of the old Hammer films that he’s done.
That’s right, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, that one.
Did he ever impart any wisdom to you about the craft when you were first starting out?
Oh listen, he still does. He gives me notes, but they’re the kind of notes that actors would give each other. My dad’s fascinated by why people do what they do, aspects of human behavior, and we often discuss it not just because of jobs but because we’re both interested in that anyway. It’s a compulsion. It’s not just to do with acting, but it’s interest anyway, an anthropological interest.
On another topic, do you think that Arnim Zola is still out there on the internet somewhere?
Are you working for HYDRA when you ask me that question or are you working for the opposition?
I’ll never tell.
I’m not prepared to answer questions like that. It’s too risky for me to comment.
Has Marvel ever hinted at him coming back? I think many fans would like to see you in an android body with your face on a little TV screen.
(Laughs) Hail HYDRA!
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out in theaters now.