Jurassic Park taught us all many things. We learned a lot about hiding from velociraptors in fancy kitchens, using “please” when dealing with nefarious computer hackers named Nedry, and that Jeff Goldblum never needs an excuse to have his shirt casually fly open during the most climactic parts of a movie. But how much do you know about the great actors who brought the characters to life? Before you catch IFC’s Jurassic Park movie marathon, check out a few things you might not know about the cast. Don’t worry, we spared no expense.
1. Sam Neill is an award-winning wine maker.
In 1993, the same year Jurassic Park hit theaters, the Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated actor started a small vineyard outside of Gibbston, New Zealand with five acres of Pinot Noir grapes. Now 23 years later, the vineyard, named Two Paddocks, has grown in size, producing five varieties of Pinot and two varieties of Riesling. Neill discovered his love for red wine through his acting mentor, the legendary James Mason, when the pair would dine together in London around the time the future Dr. Grant starred as the adult Damien in The Omen III: The Final Conflict. Insert “blood of Christ” joke here.
2. Laura Dern has been in nine movies (and counting) with her mother.
Yes, the actress who brought Ellie Satler to life is the daughter of Academy-Award nominated actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, so she comes by the performing bug naturally. In fact, the trio is the first family to ever receive adjoining stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But Laura Dern has most frequently worked with her mother, with both of them receiving Academy Award nominations for the 1991 period drama Rambling Rose, the first time in history that a mother and daughter received acting nominations the same year and for the same film. Dern was just 24 at the time, making her one of the youngest Best Actress nominees in history.
3. Jeff Goldblum is an accomplished jazz pianist.
Before he flirted with Ellie Satler via chaos theory lesson, beloved actor (and frequent Portlandia guest star) Jeff Goldblum grew up in Pittsburgh, where he learned to play piano from his parents as a kid and started playing gigs at cocktail lounges around the city in his teens. At the encouragement of Woody Allen, Goldblum formed the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra (named for a Pittsburgh neighbor) in the early ’90s. The quintet plays a regular weekly show in Los Angeles that is heavily improvised, with Goldblum interacting with audience members in between sets of Thelonius Monk or Dave Brubeck. And if you’re REALLY lucky, the national treasure known as Goldblum might sing his version of the Jurassic Park theme with lyrics, which we’re guessing probably causes much chaos (wink wink) among fans in the audience.
4. Wayne Knight worked as a private detective in between acting jobs.
Knight got his first Broadway role by writing to the producers of the long-running comedy Gemini and demanding an audition if they ever needed a replacement actor. They called him in for an audition, and he got the job. But in between acting gigs, Knight waited tables around New York City. A friend had gotten a job at a detective agency, and Knight decided to give it a try since the agency liked hiring actors (they tended to be pretty adept at lying). It’s safe to say Knight’s detective work literally paid off, as one of his first major movie roles was as a detective interrogating Sharon Stone during the infamous leg-crossing scene in Basic Instinct.
5. Ariana Richards was in a Ben Folds music video.
One of Ben Folds’ first hits was “Brick” off the 1997 album Ben Folds Five album, Whatever and Ever Amen. Richards starred in the 1998 music video for the song, playing a pregnant high school teenager going to get an abortion in a nod to Folds’ own experience with his high school girlfriend. Richards followed that up with a role in the direct-to-video flick Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, reprising her original Tremors role as Mindy Sterngood. These days, Richards is a studio painter, specializing in portraiture and landscapes in the style of the Impressionists. One of her pieces hangs in Steven Spielberg’s office.
6. Sir Richard Attenborough was part of the Royal Air Force Film Unit during WWII.
Before he became an acclaimed actor and filmmaker, Richard Attenborough joined the Royal Air Force early on in WWII. After his initial training period ended, he was moved into the newly-created Film Unit, which operated out of Pinewood Studios (the future home of Star Wars and the Bond franchise, among other films). The R.A.F. Film Unit was responsible for not only documenting RAF personnel in action but making propaganda films. One such film was 1944’s Journey Together, which starred the 21 year-old Attenborough and Edward G. Robinson. Attenborough moved through the ranks of the RAF Film Unit, earning the title of sergeant, filming many missions from the rear gunner’s position. Unfortunately he sustained permanent ear damage during one mission whilst filming the Bomber Command unit on an air raid in Germany. He is also the last veteran of WWII to win the Best Director Oscar.
7. Joseph Mazzello was supposed to star in an earlier version of A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film A.I. Artificial Intelligence had a long, thorny development period going all the way back to the early 1970s when Stanley Kubrick sought to turn Brian Aldiss’ short story “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” into a feature-length film. He brought on Spielberg as a producer in 1985, but abandoned the project in 1991 after multiple re-writes and complaints that computer graphics weren’t advanced enough to bring the artificial human, David, to life. The project was revived in 1994 after Kubrick saw the special effects in Jurassic Park, and Mazzello was immediately attached to star as David. However, Kubrick’s interest in the project waned due to technical difficulties, and he made his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, instead. Spielberg took the reins after Kubrick’s death in 1999 and cast Haley Joel Osment as David (Mazzello was 17 by the time Spielberg’s version of the film went into production in the summer of 2000). The closest Mazzello ever got to making A.I. was the hokey 1997 family sci-fi film, Star Kid, where his character finds and wears an alien cybersuit with A.I. capabilities that changes his personality.
8. Bob Peck mentored Sir Ian McKellen at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Though McKellen was actually born six years before the late Peck, the veteran actor of stage and screen has frequently cited Peck as the actor from whom he learned the most. Peck, who played game warden Muldoon in Jurassic Park, spent nine years with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s acting ensemble during what is arguably known as its “golden era.” He played a number of prominent roles alongside the likes of McKellen, Dame Judi Dench, Jeremy Irons, Sir Ben Kingsley, and Ian Holm (among others). Former RSC artistic director Trevor Nunn recalled seeing McKellen watching Peck from the wings during a performance in awe and whispering, “He is the future.” Though he won a BAFTA for his work in the BBC thriller Edge of Darkness, Peck didn’t gain widespread notoriety outside of the U.K. until his role in Jurassic Park. Sadly, he passed away just six years later in 1999 from cancer, but left a considerable mark on the stage, screen, and McKellen himself.
9. B.D. Wong is a Tony Award winner.
While B.D. Wong is known for roles in everything from Jurassic Park to Mr. Robot, he made a name for himself early in his career on the Great White Way. Wong won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for his role as the enigmatic opera diva, Song Liling, in M. Butterfly opposite John Lithgow in 1988. He also starred as Linus in the 1999 Tony Award-winning revival of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, aka the show that made a young Kristen Chenoweth a star. But despite Wong’s musical theatre talents, Disney chose Donny Osmond to record the songs for Wong’s character in Mulan, Captain Li Shang. Perhaps he’ll reprise the role in the inevitable Mulan stage musical?
10. Samuel L. Jackson practiced lightsaber moves on the golf course.
It’s no secret Samuel L. Jackson is crazy about golf. He has a clause added to all his film contracts that he must have easy access to golf courses even when he is on location. But in an interview with Golf Digest, Jackson admitted that he used to carry his lightsaber around in his golf bag with his clubs while on location in Australia, because he had over 109 movements to learn for his role as Mace Windu in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Whenever play on the course was slow, Jackson would practice his movements to the delight of many of his fellow golfers. Apparently, his golf handicap is better than Mace Windu’s lightsaber skills: the character is killed during a fight with Darth Sidious in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. May the FORE be with you, Sam.