Jurassic World: Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard as Leads

jurassic_world_posterFor all of the wonder of the Jurassic movies, it’s the characters that have provided personality to a story where science made it possible for dinosaurs to walk the Earth again.  Beyond the wide-eyed thrills, we are introduced to multidimensional characters with whom we share an emotional connection.  Offers Crowley: “An important aspect of all of the Jurassic films is the strength of the characters.  They are essentially what drives the storytelling.”

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Director Trevorrow sought the ideal troupe of actors to bring these characters to life.  “Considering all the things a movie like this needs to do, to be able to find people who truly embody these characters and make us love them and feel like we know them was so important,” explains Trevorrow.  “When you’re dealing with dinosaurs running around and eating people, it’s really important that you care about these people.”

The Hero: Chris Pratt as Owen

Owen is a man who is as quick in repartee as he is in decisive action.  He is a military veteran who respects the precarious place of humans in the natural order and now works at a behavioral facility on the outskirts of Jurassic World.  He operates outside the system but needs its backing to fund his raptor research, which places him in the uncomfortable position of working for the establishment while rebelling against it.

jurassic_world_6_prattWhile Owen’s first date with Claire was actually their last, he still spars with her at every opportunity, relishing the moment when she needs his help in Jurassic World. And Claire’s never needed it more than when a crisis erupts that she can’t solve with her immediate team.  Drawn into unexpected service from his outlying facility, it’s up to Owen to step up before all hell breaks loose.  He is the consummate adventurer—a classic hero in the rough—one who lives by his own wits, ingenuity and raw instinct.

Spielberg on Chris Pratt

jurassic_world_3_howardThe filmmakers found their hero in comedic actor-turned-action star Chris Pratt, last seen as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy.  Spielberg recounts his casting, dryly noting: “Safety wasn’t guaranteed in those days using Chris Pratt because he was on a very successful TV series.  Even though I thought he had the chops for this and Colin believed in him, it was a bit of a risk.  When Guardians of the Galaxy came out, we all thought we were really smart even though we didn’t make it.”  The filmmaker was impressed by Pratt’s on-screen test: “Chris is a wonderful actor and has a strong screen presence.  He has a tremendous sense of humor and he’s a team player.  He’s going to go all the way with his career.”

“Owen is strong, self-sufficient, adventurous and very capable, and audiences want to see a guy like that,” adds Crowley.  “I didn’t know much more about Chris than what I had seen on television, and to see him emerge as this strong figure has been incredibly impressive.  As he became Owen, we all looked at each other and knew he was that hero.”

A huge fan of Jurassic Park, Pratt, much like his director, vividly remembers seeing the original film in 1993 in his small-town theater.  “I was 14 years old and was right at that age where I was impressionable.  It blew my mind.  The science and imagination came together in this way that was full of suspense, beautiful imagery and great storytelling.  It was like cinema was reinvented right in front of me, and it was then that I discovered how cool movies could be.  I had complete Jurassic-mania and saw it twice that weekend.  After that, I spent the next six months of my life running from imaginary dinosaurs.”

Pratt was drawn to Owen’s strength, character and decisiveness, and admits that he had to exercise restraint to quell his own comedic instincts during filming.  “Owen is stoic, quick to act and without a single bit of goofiness, which for me is hard,” he says.  “My natural instinct is to be a goofball, and it’s something I had to remind myself to quiet before every take.”

Still, right from the start, the gravitas of the project sunk in for Pratt.  “The shoot began on an air base where airplanes took off during World War II,” he explains.  “Bryce and I were both in our jungle-worn wardrobe with dirt on our faces, shooting on 65 mm, and you could hear the cameras rolling.  We’re stepping on our marks looking at each other, and we could have been on the set of Casablanca.  That’s when it became real for me and felt like a very big deal.”

Bryce Dalls Howard as Claire

The Bryce of whom Pratt speaks is none other than acclaimed actor Bryce Dallas Howard, who has showcased her diverse talents in blockbusters from the Twilight series and Spider-Man 3 to more dramatic hits, including The Help and 50/50.  She was brought aboard to portray Claire, the operations manager of Jurassic World, who strives to make every guest’s visit free of worry.  When things run smoothly, it’s because of Claire; when they don’t, she’s held accountable.  Deftly managing the needs of thousands of guests every day with a constant eye on the bottom line, it’s her job to make sure that the park remains exciting to sophisticated parkgoers who have seen it all.

Claire watches Jurassic World from the sanitized safety of a control booth, where she monitors all activity (human and dinosaur alike) from a safe distance.  She views the dinosaurs strictly as “assets” and has lost sight of the wonder and power they exhibit.  It is only when things fall apart that Claire experiences the park from a completely different perspective: as the hunted.

Beyond the allure of being a part of the beloved franchise, the actress appreciated the caliber of storytelling and the strong character she was tasked to portray.  Relays Howard: “It is fantastic that Colin created this multifaceted, three-dimensional female character who goes through this very emotional journey within the greater context of a giant, effects-driven dinosaur movie.  At the end of the day, it’s a good story well-told.”

When we first meet Claire, her personal life has taken a backseat to her responsibilities at the park and the pressures—not to mention the questionable ethical decisions—that come along with them.  “Claire is responsible for the entire park and understands that at the end of the day everything needs to add up, and there are some difficult decisions and realities within that,” shares the performer.  “Her journey becomes about finding her own humanity and her ability to be open and not fixated on making everything work in order to make a profit.”

Of his leading lady, Trevorrow commends: “Bryce is one of our best actors that we have.  She created a woman who starts off just on the borderline of being unlikable.  She takes you on the journey, and by the time you get to the end…the ending is hers.  I’m so proud of what she does at the end of this movie. If you didn’t have an actor who could make you believe everything that was happening, it just wouldn’t work; it would all feel silly.  Bryce is just extraordinary.”

When the park’s newly developed dinosaur begins exhibiting potentially threatening intelligence, well beyond expectations, Claire is forced to seek outside assistance and reluctantly pays a visit to behavioral specialist Owen, with whom she shares a bit of history.

The chemistry between these two seemingly opposite, headstrong characters is undeniable.  Explains Pratt: “We know that something happened between these two on a date, and Owen enjoys poking fun at her because she’s wound so tight.  There’s obviously an attraction between the two of them, and that fuels this conflict that’s constantly between them in these crazy circumstances.”

Howard responds to the romantic undertones and how they propelled the story line, something new to the world of the Jurassic franchise.  “One of the many great things about this story is that, in the context of the chaos that has broken out in the park, they realize that they need each other and go on this journey to save her nephews, save the park and ultimately themselves,” the actress shares.  “The romantic undercurrent feels very unique for a Jurassic film, and I appreciated that.”

Although both actors had a general idea of the physical demands their roles would require, nothing could prepare Howard for the ultimate challenge of running through the muddy jungle…in heels.  “I’ll never forget the first day of shooting in the jungle as I stood there looking at the terrain, which was covered in mud, vines and stones.  I looked down at my high heels and all I could do was pray,” she laughs.  “But now, it’s something I can add to the special skills listed on my résumé: running in the jungle in heels.”

Chris Pratt: I’m secretly a stuntman trapped in an actor’s body

Pratt felt that his work experience in physical comedy prepared him for the stunt-heavy action sequences, supervised under stunt coordinator Chris O’Hara (The Avengers) and stunt rigging coordinator Randy Beckman (Ted 2).  “There was a lot of running, jumping, leaping, diving, rolling, punching…a lot of action-hero moments,” Pratt provides.  “On Parks and Rec, I’m diving over counters, crashing into cars, falling down stairs on roller skates—so all that stuff comes easy to me.”  He pauses, slyly: “I’m secretly a stuntman trapped in an actor’s body.”