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SYFY WIRE Jurassic Park

Sam Neill opens up about why he was 'slightly irked' by the original marketing plan for 'Jurassic Park'

Did I Ever Tell You This? is now on sale from Text Publishing.

By Josh Weiss
Jurassic World's Dinosaurs Actually Scared The Actors

By the summer of 1992 — when production began on a little movie called Jurassic Park — Sam Neill had been steadily working in the world of entertainment for close to 20 years.

Starring roles in major studio projects like The Omen III: The Final Conflict, The Hunt for Red October, and Memoirs of an Invisible Man meant the New Zealand native was not some unknown quantity when he landed the career-defining part of the brusque paleontologist known as Alan Grant.  Nevertheless, he found it rather difficult to wrap his head around the fact that he was leading a multi-million blockbuster helmed by legendary filmmaker, Steven Spielberg

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"Of the main twists and turns in an unlikely career, this seemed the most unlikely of all. How on earth did that happen?" the actor writes in his new memoir Did I Ever Tell You This? (now on sale from Text Publishing), later adding: "I was racked by the usual insecurities. Why me? I'm certainly not an action hero. The idea of me going hand to hand with Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger is simply absurd. I'm more of the ordinary guy on screen. If indeed I was supposed to be that sort of action guy, I was already, I think, forty-five years old, and as always had left things about 10 or 15 years too late."

That gnawing sense of "imposter syndrome" only intensified when Neill and his co-stars — Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum (two acting veterans in their own right) — began to promote the film on the press circuit. Neill recalls feeling like Universal Pictures proudly touted the game-changing dinosaur adventure as a big-budget dinosaur tentpole without any massive star power, which didn't sit too well with members of the cast.

"They set out to prove that they, with Spielberg, could make huge blockbusters without 'movie stars,'" Neill recalls. "This was true enough, but I think it slightly irked us, the actors, to be reminded from time to time we were not real 'stars.' It also rather overlooked the well-established and highly respected careers of Laura, Jeff, and [Richard Attenborough]."

He continues: "As it turned out, we now know that Harrison Ford turned down the part [of Grant], so the 'no movie star' plan may be not entirely true. I emphasize the word 'slightly' because more than anything, we were all delighted to be working with Steven. And to be working on something that would be absolutely groundbreaking, as it turned out." 

So a bit irked? Yes. But still pumped to be a key player in one of the biggest film franchises in cinema history.

The original Jurassic Park trilogy is now streaming on Peacock alongside the first Jurassic World.