Filmmaker J.A. Bayona speaks up on directing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which is coming to the home formats this month.
Q: Do you have any favourite monster movies or dinosaur movies from when you were a kid?
A: Can we say that King Kong is a dinosaur movie? At school when I was very, very young, they had at my school a 16mm print of the old King Kong and they used to show it at the end of every year to all us kids. I still love that movie and I tried to work in a reference to that movie in Fallen Kingdom when we discover the indoraptor and the big gates open to reveal its shadow. There is even a moment at the end of the story when we feel sorry for the indoraptor, a moment before he dies. You feel sorry for him at this time – he is not a monster, he is just a creature, a rejected creature in exactly the same way that King Kong was, and Frankenstein, too. Frankenstein was a reference for me also. Actually, when I talked to the visual effect guys trying to look for inspirations for the monster, one of the references that I sent them was a picture of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster.
Q: What were some of the other references for the indoraptor? It is as though it has weird tics and has experienced trauma…
A: Yes. It is a prototype that went wrong. So we used a lot of references like tics, shivering and shaking in a very weird way. I remember that one of the things that I told the visual effects guys was that I wanted to put the accent on the eyes and the teeth. I really like to have a creature that is so dark that when you see it in the darkness you can only see its eyes and its teeth. Because the way that kids feel about dinosaurs is simple. They think about the textures, the colours, the eyes and the teeth. Also, one of the things we talked to Steven Spielberg about was that he found the long arms we gave the indoraptor very, very scary. They feel almost like human arms on the indoraptor.
Q: You must have loved shooting the indoraptor’s entrance to the little girl’s room…
A: Yes. That was a particularly exciting moment. Of course, that is a reference to the first Jurassic Park when we see the raptor trying to open the door.
Q: Knowing your previous work it felt as though the first portion of this movie on the island was like a disaster movie and the second half was more like a horror film…
A: Totally. The first time [Fallen Kingdom screenwriter and the first Jurassic World director] Colin Trevorrow told me the story he said that he was planning a movie whose second half had to feel a little bit like a haunted house movie. I fell in love immediately with that idea, having dinosaurs inside a mansion and playing with suspense. That’s the reason I loved so much the first Jurassic Park – those scenes with the velociraptors chasing the kids in the kitchen. Also, the first time that we see the T Rex. I think those are among the most memorable scenes I have ever seen in any movie and I wanted to be able to create a couple of scenes as memorable as those. I wanted to have people remembering them in the future.
Q: There is something cool about having horror and action in a contracted space and here you have the baryonyx attack in the bunker on the island, and the monster chasing Maisie through the corridors…
A: Certainly, geography is so important when you play with suspense. I think in the bunker, for example, you have that image of this tunnel leading into darkness and suddenly you start to play with drips of lava, and every time you see a drip of lava you have a glimpse of the baryonyx and it is very important that the audience sees the baryonyx before the characters do. This is when you play the suspense; when the audience knows a little bit more than the characters. That as a director is very exciting. I really like to design those scenes and I work them shot by shot and build up the tension in a way that every detail is important to get the best effect for the audience, and to get the best reaction from the audience.
Q: When you were young and learning your craft were you influenced by individual films or by the work of certain filmmakers?
A: When I was a kid there was only one television channel in Spain and they used to show all sorts of movies: Hitchcock, Truffaut, Spielberg, Kurosawa, Polanski. So I discovered those movies when I was very, very little and for me they were part of the same thing. It is great because there are so many different ways of seeing movies and I enjoyed all of them. For me, every single movie I saw as a kid was very exciting and you can tell by watching the movies I do that I really loved those films. And, from time to time, I like to reference them. In that sense, one of the reasons that I wanted to be part of a Jurassic movie was because I learnt so much about Steven Spielberg’s craft and about his style of filmmaking. I just wanted to be part of a Jurassic movie and to try to be part of the legacy of movies that he created in the past.
Q: You have previous experience of working with water on The Impossible, so were those underwater scenes on this movie a collaboration in the writing between you and Colin Trevorrow?
A: The whole underwater scene was already in the script. What I suggested to Colin Trevorrow was that it had to be done in one single shot in order to feel the claustrophobia of the moment. And I really pushed for having the camera inside the gyrosphere all the time with the characters of Claire and Frankie. I think when you work a scene as a director you are always trying to capture the truth and emotion, and in that sense the camera had to be with them. We had to really sink the gyrosphere in the water with the actors inside and we had to capture that sense of claustrophobia so it would have been totally inconvenient to do any shot from outside of the gyrosphere.
Q: It must have been difficult to pull off…
A: It was very scary, I can tell you, as a director. I just checked with the security guys, with the stunt people two or three times as to how they were doing it because I was definitely very scared about the security of the actors.
Q: It must have been great to get to shoot in that iconic tank at Pinewood…
A: Yes. I really enjoyed working at Pinewood and working with the English crew. They are so talented and I really enjoyed the collaboration. The collaboration is so important in these movies. There are so many people involved. The heads of the departments need to collaborate together to get the result we are looking for, and when you try to fit a dinosaur inside a mansion you need to talk not only to the special effects guys and animatronics guys and the visual effects guys, you also need to talk to the production designer and cinematographer in order to create something that looks a hundred per cent real. And then you need to add all the post-production, all the sound. It’s a lot of people involved in making one of these movies and it was so great to work with all of them. You are working with the best people possible.
Q: Tell me a little about the way you run your sets because I heard that you like to use sound as a component when you’re filming…
A: Yes. Normally I use a lot of music. I use anything that I can lay my hands on to provoke a moment of truth. So very early on in the process I told the actors that if they were okay with it from time to time I would scare them with sounds. They were okay and, of course, afterwards they said it was a lot of fun because I really enjoy doing that on set. And at the same time I was capturing them with my camera so if you look at the movie, for example, there is that moment where you see Frankie and Claire falling in the gyroscope from the cliff. Their fear is totally real because I asked special effects to create this kind of rollercoaster where you get a moment of zero gravity, and you can see the fear on their faces. That’s what you are looking for as a director and the actors love that because it helps a lot to create the performance.
Q: Do you have any ideas on what you like to include on the DVD or Blu-ray release?
A: I am a Blu-ray consumer and I love to check all the extras. I think it is a combination of offering material that the fans of the movie will enjoy and I also like to offer content that expands the vision of the movie. Also, I like to include material that helps to understand the process of making a film. For example, there are a lot of pieces where they tell you about the organization on a set. It gives the audience an idea of the amount of work that needs to be done.
Q: Even though you are the director, did you get that child-like thrill the first time you saw one of your animatronic dinosaurs?
A: It is true that the first time you see an animatronic you realise that you are doing a dinosaur movie because up until that moment you don’t see any. All the dinosaurs are drawings, concepts, storyboards, and when you first get to set there are no dinosaurs. Then, suddenly, you have the chance to see a T Rex or the indoraptor or Blue or the stegosaurus. Finally, you see a dinosaur and the level of excitement is something that I can put on camera. This is why it is so important for the actors to have animatronics because they increase the level of energy that they put in the scene.
Q: What was the first animatronic you worked with?
A: The first one that we did in the movie was actually Owen with the baby raptors and we had some very simple puppets playing the baby raptors. They were very effective. They were super cute like the ones we have in the movie. I love that moment. It’s a very simple moment, a simple scene, but you can tell by looking at Chris’s face how excited he is to be acting in front of them.
Q: Even though Colin Trevorrow is directing the next movie, you will have some input?
A: Not really. I think it is great that Colin, who started it all, finishes the story. I would love to come back some day to the Jurassic universe but I think it is time for Colin to finish what he started.
Q: Finally, what do you think it is about dinosaurs that people find so exciting?
A: I think it is the fact that cinema is able to portray them, these creatures that disappeared millions of years ago, and the fact that we can see them walking in front of us with that level of realism. It is fascinating. It wakes up the sense of wonder that from time to time movies deliver to the audience. At the same time it is very interesting that they are fascinating but also very dangerous. You can tell by the relationship that Owen has in the movie with Blue. You feel for Blue but at the same time you are afraid of Blue because it is a pretty dangerous animal. That combination is very exciting as a filmmaker.
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM is now available on digital download and released on blu-ray and dvd on 5th November from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment