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What Most Excited Jurassic World Dominion’s Laura Dern And Sam Neill About Returning To Their Legacy Characters

Sam Neill and Laura Dern in Jurassic Park
(Image credit: Universal)

Warning: minor SPOILERS for Jurassic World Dominion are in play. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, feel free to take a different Jeep off to the twist-free coverage we have on CinemaBlend. 

Bringing back their characters of Dr. Ellie Sattler and Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic World Dominion, actors Laura Dern and Sam Neill had their fair share of moments that recaptured Jurassic Park’s magic. None of that would have been possible without an invitation to return to the dinosaur franchise, or a desire to even reprise their characters for the first time since 2001. Sure enough, Dern and Neill’s enthusiasm made for an easy return, as both actors were particularly excited about specific angles presented for their legacy Jurassic characters.

Covering the return of both Jurassic Park all-stars, my participation in interviews with both Sam Neill and Laura Dern saw us cover a lot of ground in the franchise they were representing. We made sure to talk about their experiences on Jurassic World Dominion, while also dipping back into the well of the past. As such, when discussing the run-up to making director Colin Trevorrow’s “conclusion of the Jurassic era,” there were various pieces to their classic roles that stuck out as pleasant paths for a much welcomed return.

Starting with Laura Dern’s recollections of what excited her most about Dominion, it all started with the man who kicked it all off in 1993. As she stated to talk to CinemaBlend about what most pleased her about returning, Dern praised three figures in the Jurassic power structure specifically when expressing her gratitude:

First, I have to thank Steven Spielberg, his protectiveness of his characters from the original film, and want to hear my point of view on the character when he first brought up the idea. As well as Frank Marshall, and then Colin [Trevorrow] was fierce about wanting us all to be central lead characters together. He didn’t want someone to show up and do a cameo. And he cares deeply about the environmental messaging embedded in this franchise, starting with Michael Crichton’s book; as well as who Ellie was amongst the male characters in the original movie.

Dr. Ellie Sattler’s icon status is something Laura Dern is still praised for to this very day. Protecting that legacy went hand in hand with Colin Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael’s Jurassic World Dominion script, which sees Ellie leading the charge against an existential threat that could lead to the next mass extinction. She's the one who lures Dr. Alan Grant out of the first place you’d expect to see him: an archeological dig site in Utah.

As the two reunite for the first time since Jurassic Park III, Ellie eventually approaches Alan with an ask that turns into another adventure filled with genetically-modified danger. It’s pretty similar to how the two were won over on visiting Jurassic Park’s central island by a cheerily persuasive John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough). Only this time, the stakes are higher than a mere theme park endorsement.

However, Jurassic World Dominion shows off how ill-equipped, yet totally required Dr. Grant's presence is in the franchise. While there's one key difference between Alan and Chris Pratt's Owen Grady, Sam Neill's iconic emergency father figure has his own reasons to jump into danger yet again. As he explained in his own opinion of what Dominion represented to him, Neill admits there are two reasons that he'd even embark on this journey in the first place:

There’s two things that keep him going through this, because look, Alan never wants to be part of the action. We know this to be true, because whenever he goes on one of these adventures, it’s always against his better judgement; and what will go wrong usually does. But the second thing is, we’ve seen it in the trailers so it’s not secret, the love of his life, turns up. He’s missed her all these years, and the opportunity to spend time with Ellie Sattler…that’s what really keeps Alan going. He’s happy to be with her, even if it means finding yourself in great jeopardy from time to time.

Bear in mind, Dr. Alan Grant has already made two harrowing trips into the world of dinosaur-filled peril, as following the events of The Lost World (that are still in canon), we reunited with him in Jurassic Park III. Being present on Isla Nublar, and then being suckered into a surprise trip onto the more dangerous Isla Sorna, the very academic character faced down more beasts than he probably cared to admit to. 

Yet as soon as Dr. Ellie Sattler turns up, asking an “old friend” to jump into danger for the sake of humanity, Sam Neill’s trademark smile flashes on screen, confirming that Grant is leaving another dig site. Ellie’s quest in Jurassic World Dominion was another huge part of what had Laura Dern ready to go when it came to returning to the franchise she helped put on the map. 

Sam Neill and Laura Dern sitting on the hyperloop train in Jurassic World Dominion.

(Image credit: Universal)

Looking into the genetically-engineered locust plagues that the nefarious corporation Biosyn have been using to push their own corporate agenda, Dr. Sattler’s expertise lures her and her fellow Jurassic Park co-stars into danger once more. Dern admitted to that focus drawing her back in for Dominion, as she continued to discuss the process that led to her participation in the third Jurassic World film:

So it was a very open conversation about what was important to me, and her being a soil scientist, focusing on climate change was real important to me, and he cared very deeply about that. That was brought into the script, as well as who she would be as a feminist and activist spirit and voice in her life at this time, and also in relationship to Alan Grant. I love that, and I love, thank God, the team of people that were protective of these characters, so that we could come together and do it. Which has been an amazing experience. … It feels like what, I hope, fans who love that character would have wanted, and frankly expect from her. Because we knew we could do no less.

Once their decisions were made to come back, it wasn’t long before Laura Dern, Sam Neill and even Jeff Goldblum were back to their old tricks on the set of Jurassic World Dominion. Presumably closing off their roles from the original film, Drs. Grant and Sattler finally sharing an on-screen kiss was a moment worth waiting nearly 30 years for. We may not see them again on the big screen, but if that’s the case, the ending to the Alan and Ellie story is one that stays true to their characters right to the final frames.

No one knows what the future holds for the franchise, as the Jurassic World still turns after Dominion’s conclusion. There’s plenty of opportunity, and even some promise in DeWanda Wise’s Kayla potentially leading the future of this dinosaur-populated world. For the moment, Jurassic World Dominion is currently in theaters, continuing to present dino-fueled adventures that are thrilling audiences.

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.