Welcome to Day 2 of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom set reports! Yesterday I ran the interview I co-conducted (alongside Slashfilm's Peter Sciretta) with the film's producers and today I have our chat with director JA Bayona.
Now, JA has been on my nerdy radar since the beginning. I remember interviewing him for his very first film, the Spanish language creepfest The Orphanage, which was produced by Guillermo del Toro and rocks pretty damn hard.
Between now and then he's been turning out some great work, including The Impossible, which introduced the film world to Spider-Man's Tom Holland, and then the recent tear-jerker A Monster Calls.
While visiting the set during their Hawaii shoot Bayona was able to carve out some time during his lunch break to talk with Peter and I. Naturally we had some questions.
In the below chat you get a good handle on Bayona's priority as a director, the reasoning behind taking the Jurassic universe widescreen, his working relationship with his actors (both human and dino) and some of the director tricks he utilized while making this movie.
It's a good chat and Bayona's passion for storytelling is unquestionably at the forefront. Hope you enjoy!
Eric Vespe: Thanks for having us out. This is really cool.
Peter Sciretta: Thanks for putting up with us while you're on your lunch break. So, a lot of your movies have young people in horrific situations. Does this movie follow that trend?
JA Bayona: Yeah. Very young people in problem again.
Eric Vespe: What do you have against the youth of the world?
JA Bayona: (laughs) Well, I mean, it's... I mean, all the movies I've done I end up very close from the POV of the kids. I don't know. It's a natural thing. It's not planned. I mean, the three movies I did so far you can tell that they're about childhood and dealing with growing up. This is very different, but of course you have a kid in the film, because there's always been kids in the Jurassic movies, you know? And the movie pays tribute and keeps the legacy of the movies that we've seen so far and we love.
Eric Vespe: Can we talk a little bit about the where you're starting off in this one? Frank Marshall told us a little bit about the setup for the story and I think it's really interesting because it gives you a completely different sense of urgency than we've seen in these movies so far.
JA Bayona: And what did Frank tell you?
Eric Vespe: We know about the extinction level event, the volcano . And the sense of the characters returning to try to save the dinosaurs. So we at least know that beginning part.
JA Bayona: Well, the first time Colin pitched me the story, I was very intrigued, very surprised, because it's true that it keeps the legacy of the films we've seen so far, but there's a twist. It's not humans trying to save humans from dinosaurs anymore. It's humans trying to save dinosaurs from the island and I thought that was very interesting. And there's a twist in the in (second) half of the film and the film becomes something very different from the first section of the movie. I thought that was very interesting, too. I was very interested, very intrigued. I really enjoy the pitch and I think the development that we did so far, I'm very happy with it.
Peter Sciretta: Colin already had the story when you came aboard. How do you put your own stamp on that?
JA Bayona: Well, I think one of the things I always enjoy the most in designing the films are the set pieces and Jurassic movies they are perfect for designing set pieces. When I think about the old Jurassic movies that I think about the T. Rex scene in the first one or the scene with the truck hanging off the cliff in the second one. So the first thing I had was “Okay, we're gonna try to design the best set pieces possible.” And I really enjoy that. I really enjoy to design shot by shot. For me every camera position matters. Every movement of the camera. Every shot is a step in escalating of the tension. It's very Hitchcockian. When you see the T. Rex scene in the first one, the gyrosphere scene in Jurassic World, they feel designed shot by shot in a very Hitchcockian way and I and for me movies are about that.
Eric Vespe: Yeah, I was gonna say, the two you described were suspense moments.
JA Bayona: Yeah, it's true. There's going to be a very big action scene in the middle of the movie, but then the whole film plays more the idea of suspense and I really like that. I think somehow the first Jurassic was like that. You had the big T. Rex scene in the middle and then it plays with the suspense of the kitchen scene with the Raptors. We tried to follow the same pattern.
Eric Vespe: Yeah. It's a nice combination. There's a sweet spot between awe, suspense and humor.
JA Bayona: Exactly, yeah. And I think that they'll be a lot of humor in this one. It's going to be a lot of fun, too. It's gonna be suspenseful. It's gonna be probably a little more scary, but it's gonna be a lot of fun, too.
Eric Vespe: It's good to be a little scary.
JA Bayona: Yeah.
Eric Vespe: Well speaking of that, is that why you chose to bring back the animatronic element a little bit because there's something scarier about seeing something in a movie that's really there?
JA Bayona: Yeah. We love animatronics. Colin and I, we talk about how can we bring back more animatronics in the game and there was a space for that in the story. I came with the experience of doing A Monster Calls where we design a huge animatronic and at the end, you can, you need to use CGI more than what you will want, because the audience is so used to CGI that they are kind of like reluctant to animatronics, but at the same time when you have something real, you appreciate the soul. There's a reality that you don't have with CGI. So there's plenty of animatronics in this one. But the story somehow made things easier for us to use animatronics.
Eric Vespe: Who's building them for you? What company?
JA Bayona: Neal Scanlan who's been working on the Star Wars movies. It's been great to work with him. You know, it was kind of surprising the first time we had an animatronic on the set. I was with Bryce (Dallas Howard) and Chris (Pratt) and they were so shocked, so happy to have animatronics. I said, come on! You've done a movie so far, but then I thought about it and of course there was almost no animatronics in that movie.
Peter Sciretta: They just had that one.
JA Bayona: Yeah, but and it was funny to see the actors that were in the first one reacting so excited.
Eric Vespe: Geeking out, yeah.
JA Bayona: They were so excited in front of the animatronic.
Peter Sciretta: It seems like you've worked very closely with Colin. I'm wondering about Spielberg. When we were on the set of the first Jurassic World movie Colin told us how Spielberg had this whole suggestion with the water scene of the seats going down below the water level. I love hearing these stories how Spielberg will “plus” something. Do you have any stories where he threw out a suggestion that changed the movie?
JA Bayona: We don't have any scene, a specific scene, but it's true that Steven has been always very encouraging and he is the sort of person that empowers a director. He makes him feel good and he makes him feel prepared. I wanted to meet him as much as possible. I tried to watch all the pre-vis that we did together. And it was fascinating to show him the stuff and hearing back his ideas. And so there was lots of details here and there.
Eric Vespe: Little flourishes.
JA Bayona: Yeah. I don't remember any specific scene, but I think that there is not any specific scene, but there was a lot of details here and there. He was very, very encouraging all the time and very supportive of our ideas.
Eric Vespe: So he was pretty hands on I would assume during the development.
JA Bayona: Mm-hmm.
Eric Vespe: I know Colin's been on set a lot, but it seems like they put a lot of trust in you. So is that stressful for you? I don't wanna make it sound like that you don't feel supported...
Peter Sciretta: This was a hundreds of millions of dollars movie, right?
JA Bayona: Yeah. I always admire Steven and, I mean, and my movies, a lot of people used to talk about them like they're very Spielbergian, you know? So I feel so comfortable being in this territory that I don't have any problem in that sense, you know.
But the truth is that I've been lucky of being able to sit down with all the previous guys and design the scenes together shot by shot and Steven has been always very supportive. He loved all the stuff that we did and I consider that there was not any pressure totally. Completely the opposite. It was totally the opposite.
Eric Vespe: When you have somebody like Chris Pratt as your lead too he brings so much like natural chemistry and a sense of spontaneity. Have you had freedom to be able to be play a little bit loose and so you're not a slave to the pre-vis?
JA Bayona: A lot, a lot, a lot. Yes. And I always try to give him as much space as possible, because this is the way he works. The other day I was referring to him as a Jazz musician because he's very organic and he does every take totally different from one before. He does it the way he feels it, he's always very truthful to himself and every take is different. And every take there's something new that you love.
It's going to be difficult in the editing room to decide what are the best moments because he's great in all the takes. I'm all the time trying to give the actors a lot of freedom, even though these movies are very designed before they shoot. I always try to keep them alive and keep them organic on the set, so I always show the pre-vis to the actors. We talk about it and a lot of times we change them on the set.
Peter Sciretta: You have Jeff Goldblum coming back and reprising his role. What can you tell us about him and working with him?
JA Bayona: I think it's great to find links between the new Jurassic World movies and the old Jurassic Park movies. So there's details all over the film that are referring not just of course to the first Jurassic World, but also the first Jurassic Park movies. Having Malcolm was a great idea that Colin had and I think somehow he setups the tone, the theme and the atmosphere of this film.
Eric Vespe: Okay. That's cool. It's embracing kind of what the trend that audiences like now and I think TV had a big part of that. They like the long form storytelling aspect. Marvel has been taking advantage of that in a big way. But people have stuff like Game of Thrones and they love watching a story develop. The trick is being able to pull that off and give them that feeling of living in a world and seeing a world that they're familiar with without just making it a whole bunch of like “Hey, remember when you liked this moment?” I think they did a pretty good job in the last Jurassic with that.
JA Bayona: Yeah and I think that Colin keeps doing it in this film. I think he's created the story one step forward. At the same time, paying respect to the original Jurassic World and the original Jurassic Park movies. But the story continues in this one and we keep going in the next, following a story that is longer than the film we're gonna see.
Peter Sciretta: We are back at Isla Nublar, but Frank (Marshall) said it's only in the movie for like 25%. So, where does it go from there?
JA Bayona: I don't know if I can talk about that. This is one of the big surprises and I think that's one of the things that I really appreciate when Colin told me the story the first time. That we go to the island, but then we go to somewhere else.
Eric Vespe: You talked earlier about building a suspenseful scene shot by shot. Can you talk a little bit about what that scene is so people like who might read the interview and then see the movie later will understand which scene that you are talking about?
JA Bayona: Yeah. Well I think there's plenty of scenes. It's not only one. I think that the second half is gonna play a lot on suspense. And suspense is all about not accumulation, but escalating the tension. It's not just putting lots of stuff on the frame. It's more escalating the element in order to get the pace and the tension that puts the audience at the edge of their seats. This is the dream for me, in terms of the storytelling.
Eric Vespe: So it could be personal stakes, it doesn't have to be like world ending, 50 dinosaurs in a single shot kind of thing?
JA Bayona: No, it's not like that. It's not like that. It's quite the opposite. I mean, you'll have, you will have 15 dinosaurs in the same frame more at the beginning of the film and then at the end it's more about the suspense and not seeing them. That's more interesting, always.
Peter Sciretta: You mentioned that this is the second of a trilogy that's planned. Can you talk about the balance of creating a complete story, but you're setting up a third act as well?
JA Bayona: Mm-hmm. I don't know how much can I talk about the story, you know?
Peter Sciretta: Okay. I'm not looking for detail. I'm just saying like how does that, how do you balance that? Like how do you…
Eric Vespe: How do you tell a complete story in and of itself here but also know that you're also leading into another movie?
JA Bayona: I think it's like when you talk about television, it's a little bit like that. I remember when I did Penny Dreadful, I did the first episode and I really didn't know where the series was heading to. It's a very interesting experience because you're playing with the storytelling yet you really don't know where it's heading to. It's not the case of doing a Jurassic movie. I think that Colin has designed more than only one film, you know. He's the guy who has all the answers.
Eric Vespe: Has he shared that with you so you know you're not making some decision on the day that could contradict what he's planning in the future?
JA Bayona: No, but there were moments that Colin said, “I would love if you can introduce this detail in that scene and that detail in that scene because I'm thinking this is going to pay off in the third film.” You know, you're collaborating and including details on a story that is bigger than the one you're doing.
Eric Vespe: Do you think that you'll come back for the third one? Or do you think that Colin might come back? Did you guys talk at all about that? (This was way before it was announced that Trevorrow would return to direct Jurassic World 3).
JA Bayona: We talk a lot about a lot of things.
Eric Vespe: Would you want to come back for the third film? I mean, you're not gonna sit here and go, “Man, I'm having a miserable experience” even if you were, but would you be interested in like seeing the franchise through to the next movie?
JA Bayona: Yeah. I'm really enjoying the experience of doing a Jurassic movie. I'm really enjoying it. It's not painful at all to come back, I can tell you. I think it's a lot of fun. I love to work with these actors. It's great. They're so creative and it's great to be in the set working with them. And also this is the kind of stories that I like. Emotion and visual effects, great music. I love it.
Peter Sciretta: Can you talk a little bit about B.D. Wong's character? He seems to be the big thread that from the last one that kind of launches into this one. At least apparently.
Eric Vespe: He's one of the big hanging threads.
Peter Sciretta: Hanging threads, yeah.
JA Bayona: How can I talk about it without spoiling anything? I think it's true that there is this character in the shadows that is playing an important role in the story. And it's there. I mean, we have B.D. in there. Again, it's a connection with the old films. It's not only a connection with the Jurassic World movie, but also with Jurassic Park. And there's details, there's more details, not only characters, but there are things that are in contact not only with Jurassic World, but with Jurassic Park.
Peter Sciretta: I was a little nervous, to be honest, that this franchise was gonna be militarized dinos in a war. I thought this movie was gonna be that and I'm so glad that you return to the island. Can you talk a little bit about that?
JA Bayona: Yeah. Colin and I were on the same page. We wanted to make it feel like a very classic Jurassic film. We go back to the island, but at the same time we go to new places. You bring the story to places that people is not expecting and we are closing some chapters and we are opening some new chapters.
I mean, it's like you say, it's more like the narrative of a TV show, where you are closing some lines and opening new ones. And I think that feels very exciting and I think that this is one of the big things that television is bringing to the movies. There's a lot of bad things that television is bringing to the movies, but there are good things and one of those is that people more and more is more prepared (for) the twist, is more prepared to things that you will not buy in the '80s and now you buy them, you know?
I mean, you can kill Han Solo right now in a Star Wars movie and I think there's a little bit of responsibility in television to blame for that.
Eric Vespe: Yeah. I mean, when you have shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones just kind of showing…
JA Bayona: Exactly.
Eric Vespe: That's one of the things I love about TV now, because it keeps you on your toes as a viewer, because nobody's safe and they'll kill a fan favorite or whatever. I love that kind of shock.
JA Bayona: But at the same time we wanted to make it feel very classy. One of the first things I ask and I have the support of everyone was that we are shooting in CinemaScope. We are shooting in 2.40 and never a Jurassic movie has been like that.
Eric Vespe: Yeah, the first one was 1.85, right?
JA Bayona: Yeah. But I thought that we wanted to make it bigger and we wanted to make it more epic. So I had the support of everyone. And I can tell you it looks amazing.
Peter Sciretta: What are you shooting on, Arri 65?
JA Bayona: Yeah. And it looks amazing. I think that the island looks beautiful.
Eric Vespe: With the widescreen format, did you look at any particular cinematic inspiration for that? I mean, Leone shot that wide and David Lean famously shot very wide, too.
JA Bayona: Yeah. Exactly. I think one of the things I'm telling all the time to the camera operator is that we need to do a movie that cannot be seen in a plane. So we are using all the format, from the extreme right to the extreme left. So we are filling the frame in a beautiful way. You have references like, I mean, Vilmos Zsigmond, the movies he did with Michael Cimino. When you see the frames of these movies and they look like paintings, you know.
Eric Vespe: Yeah. There's fore, mid and back, there's always there's layers, yeah.
JA Bayona: Exactly. And Steven, all the Indiana Jones movies and the frames, they look like paintings. And I wanted to have that in this in a Jurassic movie, so we created this big canvas. And we are playing a lot in making interesting compositions.
Eric Vespe: Talk a little bit about the tone. We know that there's more suspense in this, but was there a target for the tone throughout that you were going for? Like leaning more on action or more on suspense?
JA Bayona: I think when you do a movie like this, it's a movie for a big audience, so it has a lot of things to everyone. It has suspense, but it has action, it's a lot of fun, too. It's a little bit darker than the previous one, but it's a lot of fun, too. It's quite challenging because you have a lot of different tones and you need to blend them in a single story.
Peter Sciretta: Michael Crichton always had some themes that reflected society and it seems like you guys are kind of dealing with animal cruelty...
Eric Vespe: And bureaucracy too. Because we, Frank said that there's like the decision from the world's governments are pretty much just to leave them alone.
JA Bayona: I think so, yes. I really like that from the story that Colin planned for this one, that he talks about the moment we live in, in a very obvious way when you see the film. I think that's very interesting. It plays with the idea of how we use science, not blaming science, but the use of science that some people do. And this has been part of the legacy of the films in the Jurassic movies and I think nowadays it's a theme that is out there right now.
Peter Sciretta: Can you talk about Justice and Daniella? When I was talking to Colin, he said they were the secret sauce of this movie. What does he mean?
JA Bayona: (laughs) You will see. I mean, they're new characters and they're bringing a very specific personality to the film. You will see. I think they're very Colin's world. It's been very interesting because he has, you can tell the sense of humor of Colin through these characters and I really enjoy working with them. They're excellent and a lot of fun to be with on the set, you know. I cannot tell you much about it. But they're very interesting characters.
Eric Vespe: Now, I mean, I know that Chris said on the press tour for the last movie that anybody of our age that grew up with Jurassic Park, it was a big moment for people. I mean, I was 12 when it came out and I vividly remember the day I saw it. Like not just watching the movie, but like the lead up to it. My Grandma dropping me off at the theater and how the lines were around the block and how that was on the news the night before and I wasn't sure if I could get in. It was an event that was like a big landmark for me. So when you have somebody like Goldblum coming back in the role and he's surrounded by people who grew up with this, was that like a moment, the first scene with Ian Malcolm? Could you tell that people were geeking out about it?
JA Bayona: The truth is that I remember that the first day of shooting... I used to shoot all the time with music on the set. So, of course the first music that (I played on Jurassic World 2) was the Jurassic Park theme from John Williams. It was so much emotional in that moment on the set. So there's a lot of that. But the truth is that there's so much work to do that you're not really, at least I can tell you, you're not into that nostalgia. You have your characters in front of you. You have so much work to do every day that it's when you come back home and you say, “Oh my God, I've been doing a Jurassic Park movie!” That's the moment that you are aware of it, but I haven't been that nostalgic in the set.
Eric Vespe: Not yet.
JA Bayona: No, not yet.
Eric Vespe: It'll all hit you when you wrap and you're in the editing room.
JA Bayona: Yeah, and I think that's good because it gives you a distance from the material. You're doing something new. I mean, it's something that you need to be aware that you are trying to move the story a step forward, so you wanna pay tribute to the old movies, but you want to move forward at the same time.
Eric Vespe: Yeah. You don’t wanna be too wrapped up in them. I mean, even Steven himself has kind of fallen prey to that with like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
JA Bayona: Totally, yeah.
Peter Sciretta: You talked about the filming in scope and these movies have been shown in IMAX, so I assume this is going to be in IMAX. Are you gonna expand or do you want it to just be shown in scope?
JA Bayona: There's been some conversation about it. The idea would be to keep the aspect ratio. This is what they've been doing with the Star Wars movies. I think when you design a film, when you design a shot, it's kind of like going against the film if you change the aspect ratio.
Eric Vespe: And it takes you out of the movie. I just watched the new Transformers and every other shot's switching aspect ratios.
JA Bayona: Yeah. No, no, no. I mean, I am very, very specific with a shot in the set. This is probably, I mean, apart from the work with the actors, I am very specific in where the camera should be and how the camera should move. For me, this is as important as performance or even a line in the dialogue. So for me, breaking that it would be like going against the film.
Peter Sciretta: You mentioned playing the music. Is that in between setups or... ?
JA Bayona: No. Sometimes we play while we shooting.
Peter Sciretta: While you're shooting. Oh, like an action scene if people are like running and stuff.
JA Bayona: Yeah, an action scene or you just play sounds.
Peter Sciretta: Are you playing dinosaur sounds?
JA Bayona: I'm joking all the time with Justice because I'm playing sounds to scare him during the takes. So it's been a lot of fun to work with him in that setting.
Eric Vespe: Well, at least you're only doing sounds. Some of the old school directors, like John Huston, would actually shoot guns in the air to startle their actors.
JA Bayona: Oh wow.
Eric Vespe: Not even blanks. Like he would have his gun there.
JA Bayona: I remember a shot once with a gun in my hand during The Orphanage because I had to scare the actors. We were shooting not in a soundstage, but in a place that was full of birds, so they had these guns to scare the birds. And I said, “Give me one of these guns.” So I was in the video village with a gun in my hand. There are some references in the behind the scenes. It was a pretty bizarre image. Yeah, no, I'm not using that.
Eric Vespe: So, you're saying you used guns to scare children in your early career.
JA Bayona: No, it was for the lead actress!
Eric Vespe: Okay, good.
JA Bayona: It was for the lead actress.
Eric Vespe: That won't look as bad.
JA Bayona: It was for the lead actress. No, but I like music. It helps a lot in creating the mood, sometimes the tension. Sometimes you play light music to make the actors feel good in the set and the lines come with a freshness that maybe you would not get in a different way.
Eric Vespe: Is that something that you used on previous films and brought into this?
JA Bayona: All the time. Every time, yes. I love it.
Eric Vespe: That's awesome.
JA Bayona: I love it. And the actors normally they love it.
Eric Vespe: “Normally?”
JA Bayona: Yeah. Normally they love it. I mean, I haven't found any actor yet… No, they love it. They love it. I'm thinking, is there any actor who asked me not to play music? No.
Eric Vespe: The only time I've actually really seen that a lot was Peter Jackson did that on his King Kong a lot with Naomi Watts. But it was like always very romanticy music and to kind of set that romanticized '30s time period.
JA Bayona: I understand. For example, I remember one take with Bryce was very interesting. There was no dialogue in that scene. It was all about the way she was looking at a determined thing, you know? And it was very fun, because I played three pieces. Every piece very different from the other one. So one was like one was a romantic music, the other one was a scary and she played three different performances in every take. It was very interesting.
These are the kind of things I do enjoy bringing to the story. These movies they're so big, they're so pre-designed that you want to get to the set and break that.
Eric Vespe: Yeah, you wanna have a little emotional truth.
JA Bayona: Exactly, yeah. And Bryce, she's very organic. So I told her, “Listen, I'm gonna play three musics and the performance is going to be according to the music I'm playing.” And she was like “Okay, great.” We did three takes and the three were different. The three were good. And that gives you options in the editing.
Peter Sciretta: Do you plan these mixes ahead of time or are you just on set with an iPod or whatever?
JA Bayona: I'm with my iPod all the time. And I'm connected to the Internet, so it's all about, like, remembering a piece in that moment and look for it and play it.
Eric Vespe: What kinds of music? Was it scores or was it pop songs?
JA Bayona: Many scores, yes. Yeah, in this one there's been a lot of (Michael) Giacchino, of course, because he's gonna do the score and of course John Williams.
Eric Vespe: Any Jerry Goldsmith sneaking in?
JA Bayona: Jerry Goldsmith has been playing a lot. Total Recall.
Eric Vespe: Oh, Jerry Goldsmith is one of my all time favorites.
JA Bayona: And Basic Instinct. We play a lot of this, too.
Eric Vespe: That's a good one.
JA Bayona: It's a lot of fun, yes.
Eric Vespe: Awesome, well thank you so much again for taking the time for when you could have been relaxing for a little bit, but instead you were talking to us nerds.
Peter Sciretta: Thank you very much.
JA Bayona: See you soon.
Eric Vespe: Yeah, I'm looking forward to watching you work.
JA Bayona: Oh, thank you so much. Enjoy the shoot!
Tomorrow brings some more on-set interviews, our first with some of the actors. We begin with the enthusiastic, energetic and super excitable Bryce Dallas Howard and on Wednesday you'll hear from Chris Pratt and then Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda before this week is done!