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Movies & TV

11th Jun 2023

30 years ago today, Spielberg removed Jurassic Park scene for being too scary

Rory Cashin

Jurassic Park

Fans of Jurassic Park will definitely know the scene we’re talking about…

On a production budget of $63 million, Jurassic Park went on to make over $1 billion at the global box office, with more billions besides on home media and merchandise. It was nominated for three Academy Awards that year – Best Special Effects, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing – and went on to win all three.

In the 30 years since since it was released, Jurassic Park has come to be known as one of the most important blockbusters of all time, ranking alongside the likes of Star Wars, Jaws and The Matrix. It was based on a novel by Michael Crichton, with the rights purchased before the book was even published, but once the novel did hit the shelves in 1990, the adaptation began work right away.

Arriving in cinemas on 11 June 1993, there were a few key differences in the Crichton’s book and Spielberg’s movie. Crichton was paid $500,000 to adapt his own book into a screenplay, with more writers jumping in and out of the project before it arrived on the big screen, including Malia Scotch Marmo (Hook, The School For Good and Evil) and David Koepp (Mission: Impossible, Panic Room).

During those drafts, alterations were made, including merging the characters of Ian Malcolm and Alan Grant, before this was undone again in a later version; Spielberg came up with the idea of the animated DNA to deliver much of the exposition of Crichton’s book; Hammond was changed from a ruthless businessman to a kindly grandfather; the ages of the characters of Lex and Tim were swapped around, primarily because Spielberg wanted to work with Joseph Mazzello. And some of the eventual fates of the characters were also entirely changed to give the movie a slightly happier ending.

Two more big changes were made from the book. The first was initially down to budgetary concerns, and the second because Spielberg deemed it to be too horrifying.

That first scene involved Doctor Grant, teamed up with Lex and Tim, as they continue their escape from the wrong side of the electric fences by jumping into a boat and making their way down a river towards safety. During the scene, the T-Rex picks up their scent and begins to pursue them, fully submerging itself in the river in the process, while Muldoon (Bob Peck) attempts to save them by tranquillising the dinosaur. This chase scene was later replaced by the one in which the T-Rex chases down the jeep with Muldoon, Sattler and Malcolm, which was thought to be more cost-effective.

The latter scene, the one which Spielberg thought was too scary to keep in, will sound familiar to fans of the Jurassic franchise. It is essentially the opening of the book, and would’ve been the opening of the movie, in which a young girl, who is travelling with her rich family on Costa Rica, gets viciously attacked by chicken-sized dinosaurs called Procompsognathus.

When it came to the reasoning why the scene was removed, producer Kathleen Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly that “[Stephen has] got a good instinctual sense of to what extent kids want to be scared and at what point you’re doing stuff that’s simply horrific.”

Of course, this would actually make the opening scene of Spielberg’s very next production, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, released in 1997. Additionally, the T-Rex river chase was effectively cut in two and used across two different sequences in the franchise, the first being the Roland Tembo (Pete Postletwaite) tranq’ing the T-Rex in The Lost World, and the other being the Spinosaurus river attack in Jurassic Park III.

Spielberg has almost made a career out of pushing the boundaries on blockbusters being that little bit too scary – see also: Jaws, War of the Worlds, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – but this might be the only time he swerved away from something that even he thought might be too horrifying for families to endure.

Jurassic Park is available to watch on Sky Cinema or with a NOW Cinema Membership right now.

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