Did Steven Spielberg Improv the End of 'Jurassic Park'?

'Jurassic Park'Credit: Universal Pictures
Spielberg is a planner, but that doesn't mean he can't pull off a quick switch. 

Steven Spielberg had a pretty wild 1993. He made Jurassic Park and Schindler's List. It's one of the greatest years a director has ever had.

Spielberg was under a ton of pressure that year. He wanted to make Schindler's List, but the studio thought it was a huge risk. MCA/Universal President Sid Scheinberg would only allow the director to pursue Schindler's List if he made Jurassic Park first. 

And thus, the legend of Spielberg's 1993 came into focus. Instead of doing one before the other, Spielberg worked on both movies simultaneously.

He said of the experience, "When I finally started shooting... in Poland, I had to go home about two or three times a week and get on a very crude satellite feed to Northern California... to be able to approve T-rex shots. And it built a tremendous amount of resentment and anger that I had to do this, that I had to actually go from [the emotional weight of Schindler's List] to dinosaurs chasing Jeeps, and all I could express was how angry that made me at the time. I was grateful later in June, though, but until then it was a burden."

As you can imagine, shooting two things at once, rolling from one physical production into another, was exhausting. Spielberg had to have Jurassic Park perfectly mapped out for this to work. But when it came to the end of the movie, he wasn't so sure he liked what was in the screenplay.

For the original end, Michael Crichton and David Koepp had a set piece where the velociraptors chasing them were defeated by Grant in a crane, who knocked a dinosaur skeleton into them, and by John Hammond using a shotgun to dispatch the rest. You can actually see storyboards for this in the DVD extras on the film. 

 

Well, when Spielberg got to set to shoot that scene, something felt off to him. This wasn't the ending he thought would work.

Assistant director John T. Kretchmer said during a 25th anniversary Q&A, "Steven came to us when we were in the middle of the sequence and said, 'I think we have to bring the T-rex back, the audience is going to want to see the T-rex.'"

What happened next was a scramble.

Kretchmer said, "Michael Lantieri, who was our special effects genius on the show, had to rig [the physical effects] in like 24 hours, it was an off-the-cuff thing."

Meanwhile, Spielberg worked with the actors to find new marks. 

What resulted was the finished product we see today, a mostly CGI dino "saving" Grant and company as they exit the park. They still have the skeleton fall, but this time it's part of the escape. I think it turned out well, don't you? Let us know in the comments.     

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4 Comments

Actually, also from the behind the scenes material (read it from the "Making of" book), there's more than just that. The reason why the crane didn't work, and I agree, was because it didn't make much sense to have a story about man's arrogance against nature, only to have a man-built machine win the day. It had to be nature itself.

May 9, 2022 at 10:27AM

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George Lucas actually directed the end of Jurassic Park

May 9, 2022 at 9:45PM, Edited May 9, 9:45PM

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Michael Winters
Director / Writer
75

Spielberg is a master director because he won't let logic get in the way of good drama. The T-Rex ending was perfect, except how did it get into the front door of the museum? Without anyone noticing until it attacked? Never mind. It was a far more elegant solution than guns (yawn) and cranes.

May 12, 2022 at 12:02PM

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Thomas Quinn
Writer-Producer
8

I always felt the ending was rather abrupt, as if there was something missing. I’m not sure the original ending in the script would have been better either? ….maybe Spielberg’s distraction with Schindler’s List was reason enough. It’s a shame as up until that ending, the film was as strong as his earlier classics.

May 12, 2022 at 1:54PM

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Derek Boyes
Writer/Director
135