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Jurassic Park's Ill-Fated Lawyer Is Very Different in the Book
Pour some out for Donald Gennaro, a victim not only of a T. rex, but of adaptation.
It’s maybe the most iconic death in the entire Jurassic franchise. The blood-sucking lawyer, having fled in terror and abandoned two children, hides in a bathroom. However, the escaped T. rex finds him anyway. The dinosaur knocks down the bathroom walls, revealing the terrified lawyer sitting on the toilet. He screams, the T. rex lunges, and CHOMP — that’s the end of the lawyer.
However, while the lawyer, Donald Gennaro, meets an ignoble end in Steven Spielberg’s iconic 1993 film Jurassic Park (now streaming on Peacock), he survives in Michael Crichton’s original 1990 novel. And, not only does he make it out of Jurassic Park in one piece, he’s a less cowardly character, one who fends off raptors rather than dying embarrassingly while sitting on the john.
How Jurassic Park's lawyer Donald Gennaro differs between the movie and the book
As played by Martin Ferrero, who was in his mid-40s when he was in Jurassic Park, Gennaro is scrawny with a receding hairline. He lacks people skills and clearly sees nothing but dollar signs when it comes to Jurassic Park. Gennaro is the only expert who sees potential in the park, prompting Dr. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to say that he can’t believe “the blood-sucking lawyer” is the only one on his side.
In the book, though, Gennaro is described as “a stocky, muscular man in his mid-30s wearing an Armani suit and wire-frame glasses.” He’s got a family, and he’s annoyed that he had to miss his daughter’s birthday to be at Jurassic Park, which he has misgivings about, and he has instructions from the park’s investors to shut it down if it seems like it won’t work. Dr. Alan Grant takes an immediate dislike to him, and Gennaro shows off a bit of a misogynistic streak when he’s initially surprised to learn that Dr. Ellie Sattler is a woman. So he’s not a great guy off the bat, but he has more of a pompous vibe than his sniveling book counterpart.
But, whereas the movie’s Gennaro dies during the first dino attack, the book’s version acquits himself quite well. He’s not there, in the book, when the T. rex escapes, but he and game warden Robert Muldoon come rushing to rescue an injured Dr. Ian Malcolm. Throughout the book, Gennaro is trying to help rectify the situation, unlike his movie counterpart who abandoned two kids in terror before dying.
The book’s Gennaro fights off a raptor. He tries to turn the power back on. He helps prevent a boat that unwittingly is carrying raptors from reaching the mainland, in a plot that wasn’t adapted in the film. While Grant, Sattler, and the kids are the clear protagonists of the book, Gennaro is still a hero. His willingness to step up almost feels more impressive, since he’s not a dinosaur expert. He’s just a lawyer in an Armani suit.
Why is the movie Gennaro so different from his book counterpart? Chalk it up to efficiency, most likely. The movie’s version is really a combination of two characters, Gennaro and Jurassic Park’s publicist, Ed Regis. Regis is not in the movie at all, but he meets a similar fate at the jaws of a T. rex, and he’s the one playing cheerleader about the park. It makes sense when you think about it. The lawyer would maybe be the more cautious one, while the PR rep would be gung-ho about promoting the dinosaur park.
But the movie, by nature of being an adaptation, had to condense the book a bit. There wasn’t necessarily room for another heroic character alongside Grant, which meant that there wasn’t really space for Gennaro to help save the day. Nor was there really a need for a PR rep, since in Spielberg’s movie Hammond (who is much kinder and jovial than the book’s version, in which he dies a karmic death) acts more as the friendly park salesman There was room for someone to get eaten on the toilet, though.
So, pour some out for Donald Gennaro, a victim not only of a T. rex, but of adaptation. Because, you do have to admit: It’s pretty funny that the lawyer got eaten on the toilet. Spielberg made a good call.
Jurassic Park is now streaming on Peacock.