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Laura Dern said her on-screen romance with Sam Neill in the 1993 film “Jurassic Park” felt “completely appropriate” at the time despite their nearly 20-year age difference as the pair spoke out in a recent interview decades after the release of the dinosaur flick.
Dern was 23 years old and portrayed palaeobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler when she starred alongside Neill, who was 42, and took on the role of palaeontologist Dr. Alan Grant in the Steven Spielberg sci-fi action movie about a theme park of cloned dinosaurs, based on the 1990 novel by late author Michael Chricton.
Their characters will soon reunite in the sixth installment of the franchise with the release of “Jurassic World Dominion” in June, but Dern and Neill reflected on how things would be just a little different these days.
Dern was reportedly Spielberg’s first choice to play Sattler, with Neill signing on to star just weeks before filming after William Hurt and Harrison Ford were initially offered the role.
“I am 20 years older than Laura! Which at the time was a completely appropriate age difference for a leading man and lady,” Neill told The Sunday Times.
He added: “It never occurred to me until I opened a magazine and there was an article called ‘Old geezers and gals.’ People like Harrison Ford and Sean Connery acting with much younger people. And there I was, on the list. I thought, ‘Come on. It can’t be true.'”
Ford was no stranger to the age gap discussion and would go on to star in the ’98 adventure film “Six Days, Seven Nights” with Anne Heche when he was 55 and she was 29.
Connery was nearly 40 years older than Catherine Zeta Jones in “Entrapment.”
Dern admitted that the on-screen romance felt “completely appropriate” at the time, but completely understood the discrepancy upon further reflection.
“Well, it felt completely appropriate to fall in love with Sam Neill,” Dern said. “And it was only now, when we returned in a moment of cultural awareness about the patriarchy, that I was, like, ‘Wow! We’re not the same age?'”
Neill noted that Dern was at a “tender age” when she signed on to the film.
“Let me talk for Laura, because this is what men do in the patriarchy,” he joked.
“Laura was a tender age. I’m guessing… 23? And she was already an exciting actor — she had done David Lynch films. It was no surprise she was asked. But I was completely baffled to be called by Steven. I didn’t get it.”
Dern remembered receiving the call to set up a meeting with Steven Spielberg in the early ’90s as she discussed “Jurassic Park” history with Entertainment Weekly in 2013.
“I was talking with Nicolas Cage, and we had just done ‘Wild at Heart’ together, and I said to him, ‘Nic, they want to put me on the phone with Steven Spielberg, but they want to talk to me about a dinosaur movie…’ And he was like, ‘You are doing a dinosaur movie!’ No one can ever say no to a dinosaur movie!'”
She added: “I was like, ‘Really?’ And he’s like, ‘Are you kidding? It’s a dream of my life to do a movie with dinosaurs!’ So he was such an influence on me. Then I talked to Steven and he goes, ‘I know that you’re doing your independent films, but I need you to be chased by dinosaurs, in awe of dinosaurs, and have the adventure of a lifetime. Will you do this with me?’ And I was like, ‘Sure.’”
The 1993 film went on to gross more than $1 billion at the box office with a $63 million budget. As of 2000, the Jurassic World franchise was estimated at $5 billion in revenue, making it one of the highest-grossing franchises of all time.
Chris Pratt — who recently welcomed his second daughter with wife Katherine Schwarzenegger — Bryce Dallas Howard, DeWanda Wise, Justice Smith, BD Wong, Omar Sy and Campbell Scott also star in the new “Jurassic Park World Dominion,” which is directed by Colin Trevorrow and is set for a June 10 release date.