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When adapting a book as iconic as Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, changes sometimes need to happen in order to get things off the ground. Though sometimes altering the source material may not have a huge impact on the story itself, it can help turn a film adaptation into something special in its own way. One such change happened when casting Jurassic Park, as Steven Spielberg made the decision to swap the ages of Tim and Lex so that he could fulfill a promise to actor Joseph Mazzello.
The actor was recently on hand for IGN’s Watch From Home Theatre commentary for Jurassic Park, and he discussed the story about how he got the gig to play the younger brother to Arianna Richards’ Lex, starting with a message full of a particular gratitude:
I’m very thankful for the fact that it wasn’t completely faithful to the book, because that’s the reason I got the job. In the book, it’s actually [Tim] that’s older than [Lex].
The story of Joseph Mazzello’s casting in Jurassic Park gets even better, as the Bohemian Rhapsody star also mentioned that he never auditioned for Tim Murphy. Instead, he was given the role by Steven Spielberg himself after auditioning for another one of his cult classics.
If events had played out the way Joseph Mazzello had originally intended, he’d have been cast in the 1991 retelling of the Peter Pan story, Hook. And that started because of a pretty spectacular friendship between Steven Spielberg and another prominent director:. As the actor explained,
I was actually offered Jurassic Park, I did not audition for it. And the reason for that is because I was doing a movie called Radio Flyer, directed by Richard Donner; and he and Steven were really good friends because they produced The Goonies together. So they knew each other, and [Steven] would come on set because he wanted me for the movie Hook that he was about to do.
While we may not have gotten The Goonies 2 from Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg, we did end up getting two of Joseph Mazzello’s most memorable roles. While the actor didn’t get the part in Hook, he still got a pretty fantastic story out of the deal.
In addition to seeing the sets for Neverland and other locations in the film, Mazzello’s story about trying out for Hook put him in a room with Steven Spielberg, and two other notable figures:
I ended up doing a screen test [with] just Steven Spielberg, Robin Williams, and Dustin Hoffman in a room together for an hour and a half. Just the four of us, to test me to play Jack. And it’s like literally Steven holding his camcorder, and it’s Robin Williams just cracking me up for an hour and a half where I’m trying to do these emotional scenes and can’t even keep it together.
The role of Jack, the son of Williams’ protagonist Peter Banning, would eventually go to Dick Tracy’s Charlie Korsmo, and Hook would go on to become an eventual cult classic with ‘90s kids and Spielberg fans all over. But when one electronically locked door closes, another with a hungry Velociraptor behind it opens, as Joseph Mazzello would learn in the final piece of his fateful Jurassic Park story:
After that [audition] was all done, I guess I was still a little bit too young. I was seven, and they wanted somebody who looked a little more gruff and was a little older. So Steven came up to me, and he said, ‘Don’t worry Joey, I’m gonna get you in a movie this summer.’ And that movie ended up being Jurassic Park, and he switched the ages of the characters in the book, so that I could be in the film.
Sometimes a failed audition can lead to a greater project overall. The promise that both Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg saw in Joseph Mazzello yielded one hell of an audition story, and ultimately a casting swap that would change a minor detail in Michael Crichton’s source material for the screen. And to think, if Jurassic Park had stuck to its source material, Mazzello not only would have missed out on being called a human piece of toast by random fans, he wouldn’t have gotten to kiss Sam Neill or learn the filmmaking trade from Steven Spielberg himself.
Though in either case, Mazzello would have had to deal with a villain that has a hook for a hand, so the difference is negligible when you think about it. Of course, the new question on people’s minds is whether or not Joseph Mazzello’s Tim will be returning in Jurassic World: Dominion. As Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum are all reprising their roles, and their young co-stars from Jurassic Park haven’t been seen in the franchise since their cameo in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, there’s plenty of room for their characters to grow.
Who knows what the Jurassic future could bring? What we do know is what Jurassic past has given us, which can easily be revisited through Jurassic Park. That film can be found on Digital HD, as well as 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD, wherever you buy or rent your movies. Meanwhile, Jurassic World: Dominion is slated to open June 11, 2021; but should that change, we’ll report those updates when they are announced.