With the re-release of Jurassic Park on the big screen here in the UK and the Blu-ray box set out this week it’s high time to catch up with one of the people who was there at the beginning.
Earlier in the week we spoke to Ariana Richards and today we have an interview with her co-star and on-screen brother Joseph Mazzello who, despite a burgeoning acting career as an adult, is still recognised for his role in the 1993 film.
He spoke to us about the legacy of Jurassic Park, how Steven Spielberg almost cast him in another film, and how a raptor almost ruined his birthday.
HeyUGuys: It’s very exciting to see Jurassic Park back on the big screen and now with the new Blu-ray set. What’s it like for you, with so much history behind the movie?
Joseph Mazzello: I’m so jealous of you, I’d love to see it on the big screen again, I hope they do that here! With the Blu-ray coming out I’m glad they took time with it. I know Steven [Spielberg] cares so much about the quality of the process and it’s going to be a wonderful thing. I can’t wait to see it. I haven’t watched the movie in over ten years, so it’ll be a thrill for me.
Looking back at the movie, it remains an iconic film and it was groundbreaking at the time. When you were making it did it feel like you were pushing boundaries?
Well yeah, although as an eight and nine-year old you don’t think ‘Oh, wow – look at all this technology’. I didn’t think of it in that context but I knew it was special. When I saw the dinosaurs on set and saw how lifelike they were and how they moved… To see twenty guys controlling one dinosaur, even down to one guy controlling the eyelids and another guy doing the nostrils I thought ‘This is going to blow people away’. And then to know that on top of that there was going to be things that were computer generated I knew it was something special. Seeing it on the big screen I was blown away. And looking at things today I don’t feel like they’ve improved all that much – in some ways there’s too much CGI and Jurassic Park had it right with the mix of animatronics and CGI. It gives you a grounding when they are there and it helps bring you into the computer generated aspect.
And even watching it back on the big screen recently it didn’t look dated. Other things date it like Lex talking about an interactive CD-ROM, but the look of the film could be new, it retains that freshness.
Yeah, it’ll be on TV here once in a while and I’ll watch it and say that to myself, it looks like it could have been made today. I’m really proud to have been part of something that holds up so well.
Can you talk about the casting process? Did you know Spielberg before?
I was doing a movie called Radio Flyer with Richard Donner…
And he had done The Goonies…
Yeah, exactly. Actually – HeyUGuys, is that from The Goonies?
Great, so you’ll know all too well that they were friendly. Steven at the time was developing Hook on the same lot as Radio Flyer and he would keep coming over and talking to me and I was seven years old at the time and I didn’t know who Steven Spielberg was! He was this nice man with a beard who came around and wanted to talk to me the whole time. He showed me all the stuff for Hook and as it turns out he was trying to find someone for the film, but I was too young so he said, ‘Joe, don’t worry about that, I’m going to get you into a movie next Summer,’ and that movie turned out to be Jurassic Park. I made a pretty good trade – I love Hook, but Jurassic Park is definitely something to be a part of.
We’ve talked to Ariana about the switching of roles between the two kids in the book, her character was the younger one and the boy was the computer nerd.
Yeah, Steven actually switched those roles for me, because he wanted me to play the part. I can’t think of a bigger compliment than for his to change the script around to be able to have me in it. I feel like my role is very memorable. I still get recognised for it believe it or not. I got to be a funny, wise-guy and I had great fun doing it.
Do people still shout lines from the film at you? Does that happen?
It does! I can’t believe it when it happens. I look so much different now and half the time I have facial hair and still people will be like, ‘Hey, what do you call a blind dinosaur?’ It’s like – how do these people still recognise me? But I look on it as a compliment. It’s a great legacy to have. It’s a nice thing to know that it catapulted my career in such a way and I’m still working today because of it.
And with The Pacific there’s the Spielberg connection again…
Yeah, I had to do five auditions for that, and the final audition was in front of Steven. He didn’t even know I was still acting because I had taken some time off to go to film school and so when he saw my name on the sheet for that day that was the first time he knew I was going for it. So, when I went in he gave me a big hug and then it was down to business and I had to do the audition as if it was the first time ever because it was such a big role and there was so much money at stake that he wouldn’t just give me to me as a favour. I had to earn it. So, to know that he had faith in me as a kid and continued to have faith in me as an adult was a huge validation for me.
And you’re currently shooting G.I. Joe 2?
I am. I’m on hiatus from that at the moment. It’s going great. [Director] Jon Chu is fantastic and we actually went to school together and he texted me one day with a ‘Hey, I have a role for you in my movie, do you wanna do it?’ I told him that for him I’d do craft services… and that was how it happened. I’m loving it – Dwanye Johnson is fantastic. I think you could crush me with his pinky… but he wouldn’t – he’s the nicest, most gentle guy. Channing Tatum is so much fun. We’ve had a blast on set and going out at night experiencing New Orleans the way it’s supposed to be done.
Is there one memory from your time on set as an eight year old that stands out in your mind?
The kitchen scene. We shot that for two weeks and it was so beautifully choreographed, and so scary with those raptors. And that was the one injury I had on set where I’m going into the freezer and being chased – it went the wrong way and the claw of the dinosaur hit me in the head. And that was my birthday! So, that’s hard to forget – having the whole crew singing Happy Birthday while you’re lying on the ground with a bump on your head…
Has there been a cast reunion for the film since it came out?
No, I don’t think so. The film came out before you had the internet and these things got popular. There was no Facebook or iChat, and it was a lot harder to stay in touch with each other. So, there hasn’t been a reunion but I’d love to have one. It’d be so much fun to see everyone again.
So, Jurassic Park 4… There are rumblings and rumours. Have you been contacted, and would you be interested?
I know they are writing it and it’s been developed right now. The last time I saw Steven was at the Emmys and I put the bug in his ear, I have no shame in that! I said, ‘Hey, let me know when you’re doing Jurassic Park 4, ok?’ If it came around and I was a part of it that would be an absolute thrill. I think it would be a great idea to have Tim grown up and see how that would affect things. We’ll see, you never know. If it happens it’ll be the greatest thrill of my life.