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SYFY WIRE Jurassic Park

Remembering the Wild Jurassic Park 4 Script that Became the Stuff of Unmade-Movie Legend

Dino dogs in armor and a medieval castle. Yep, the never-made Jurassic Park 4 script sounds wild.

By Benjamin Bullard

As Jurassic Park is streaming on Peacock right now, so it feels like the perfect time to look back at the long-lost sequel we almost got instead of new trilogy starter Jurassic World.

But getting off of Isla Nublar and sending dinosaurs out to wreak havoc in the wider world didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen without some shocking twists and turns. Though the series has made some pretty wild swerves since life first found a way in Spielberg’s original film, even wilder is the stuff that never made it to the big screen — specifically, the truly bananas early-2000s script that was initially meant to form the story skeleton for the never-made Jurassic Park 4.

Long before Jurassic World brought its Chris Pratt-led cast to the island in 2015, Spielberg was gearing up to produce a fourth Jurassic Park film that promised to make a drastically weird sci-fi turn from the relatively contained, jungle-bound setting of its three predecessors. How weird? Try dino-dog hybrid soldiers spliced with canine DNA, taking radio-controlled marching orders from a cabal of sinister masterminds hiding out in a medieval castle — that kind of weird.

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What Was the Unmade Jurassic Park 4 About?

Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn running through water trying to escape danger in a scene from The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Now the stuff of unmade-movie legend, the early script for Jurassic Park 4 was a Spielberg-approved draft from the mind of John Sayles — the director of seriously great 1990s and early-2000s dramas like Lone Star (1996), Sunshine State (2002), and Casa de los Babys (2003). Thanks to an apparent hack of Spielberg’s email, Sayles’ script first leaked online in August 2004 (it’s still available here, if you dare), sending fans at the time into a frenzy of speculation over how a fourth Jurassic Park movie could pull off such an audacious Paleolithic pivot.

Sayles’ script put a totally fresh spin on the Jurassic franchise’s lore, with John Hammond (the late Sir Richard Attenborough) remaining as the only character from the earlier films. Hammond was to send a new main character (a mercenary named Nick Harris) back to Isla Nublar to retrieve the dino-DNA shaving cream canister that Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) lost in the rain in the original Jurassic Park — right before being devoured, of course, by a pack of ick-spitting Dilophosaurus.

From there, things got downright strange, with Harris being abducted and hauled away to a castle in the Swiss Alps, where the island’s new owners — led by a Bond-esque villain named Baron Herman Von Drax — were cooking up a scheme to assemble a new breed of super-soldiers from the mixed-DNA scraps of dinos, dogs, and, well, humans. The script sent this new batch of hybrid reptiles into the field wearing armor, and proved the whole radio-controlled concept worked by dispatching them on a hostage-rescue mission in Tangier to save a young girl from terrorists. But in a twist that Dr. Ian Malcolm could’ve seen coming from miles away, the movie ends with the dinosaurs shaking off their shackles and turning on the scientists who control them.

Jurassic Park 4 Featured Dinosaur Hybrids Like "Raptorman"

More leaked material from the early 2000s suggested that Jurassic Park 4 might have introduced a new species even crazier than dog-spliced dinosaurs, courtesy of concept artist Carlos Huante’s depiction of what’s now known among fans as “Raptorman” — a bipedal, scaly, green-skinned humanoid hybrid soldier whose go-to firearm was fused directly into its arm (sorta like Barrett Wallace in Final Fantasy VII). No one from the unmade film’s creative team has ever confirmed whether the “Raptorman” illustration actually depicts the hybrid dinos that Sayles had in mind for the script — but Sayles himself would eventually confirm that the script itself was real.

Even though the premise for Jurassic Park 4 sounds delightfully far-flung, some of the underlying ideas seem to have found their way into 2015’s Jurassic World. Owen Grady (Pratt) ends up investigating a lavish mansion that bears a sneaky resemblance to the script’s secret-castle lair, and of course Jurassic World’s unscrupulous scientists are similarly preoccupied with genetically crafting a more lethal grade of dinosaur.

Jurassic World director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow confessed to having read Sayles’ script in a 2015 interview with Screen Crush, and made no effort to hide his admiration: “Honestly man? I liked it in a lot of ways,” he said. “I knew what was going on. What was going on was bananas, but that's not a bad thing! My movie is bananas. There's a lot in there to like. It’s nuts in a lot of the right ways.”

Jurassic Park and its two sequels are streaming on Peacock now.

Originally published Jun 19, 2023.