Jurassic World: The (Jurassic) Return of Laura Dern

Photo: Getty Images

What do you remember most from filming in Hawaii? I have read that the production had to stop at the beginning due to a hurricane.

Laura Dern: We survived a Category 5 hurricane on Kauai in the third week of shooting. It devastated the whole island and what a scare it gave us all. Steven and I were walking around the base and a door burst open; he threw us against the wall and when we looked outside, everything was moving from side to side: the cars, the roofs, the palm trees. It looked like a scene from The Wizard of Oz. I remember looking him in the eye and thinking, “Okay…this is happening to us and we have no idea how we’re going to end up.” Going through that with Sam and Jeff really brought us together.. Since then we are like family.

What impact did Jurassic Park in your career at that time?

Laura Dern: Suddenly, I had the chance to be so much more than your typical super-tough action hero, although there was a part of me that thought, “Okay, maybe I shouldn’t do this again.” Such radical parents instilled in me that spirit of “Okay, I’ve done this, now it’s time to do something totally different” They always told me that when I had luck with something, I had to give it back and help other people to do something without they expect it.”

Dern and his Ellie Sattler figurine in 1998.

Photo: Getty Images

I am fascinated by the projects you chose immediately after Jurassic Park. I guess you had carte blanche after the huge success of the movie, so I’m glad you went for something as outrageous as Citizen Ruth.

Laura Dern: Oh yeah, and no one supported me at all. Everyone tried to talk me out of playing this junkie in an abortion comedy. But I love mixing with filmmakers who want to talk about things that nobody talks about, which is what Alexander Payne wanted to do in Citizen Ruth. And around that same time, I had the great privilege of meeting Ellen Degeneres and work with her in “The Puppy Episode”.

I imagine your manager wasn’t too happy with you at the time…

Laura Dern: [risas] It is true that I managed to make life a little more difficult, I brag about it! They were very interesting times, the truth, everyone had very strong opinions. But I knew what I wanted to do with that moment of success, which was to support Ellen in doing something radical. I always seek to surround myself with people who strive to break down walls. and I feel that Jurassic Park also had that ability to amaze. She hadn’t seen anything like it, that’s for sure.

You made a cameo in Jurassic Park IIIhave you been bitten by the bug to play Ellie again since then or to return to action movies?

Laura Dern: I think that if I have kept Ellie in my head all these years it has been because of the words of the fans for whom she has been an inspiration. A wonderful young woman recently came up to me and told me that seeing Dr. Ellie Sattler at age 13 made her believe that a woman could do the same job as a man, whatever he might be. Ellie pushed her into politics, and she recently became the first female congresswoman from her district. It moved me a lot, and there have been many women and men of science who have told me similar stories over the years. So if I decided to do it again, it had to be protecting the character and everything it means to so many people, not just picking up a story that hooked me at 23.”

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