We personally still get extremely excited anytime we get to speak with someone from a property that we love, and chatting with Ariana Richards who played Lex in the first Jurassic Park film was certainly one of those experiences.
If you'll recall, Richards played computer-savy Lex in Steven Spielberg's 1993 cinema adaptation of the dinosaur adventure based on Michael Crichton's book. Lex in the film is definitely different than the novel; she's the older sibling, and she knows her Unix systems.
Richards very kindly agreed to chat with Bleeding Cool about her experience on the film (now an astounding 25 years later), and to celebrate the re-release thanks to Fathom Events of Jurassic Park in select theaters to celebrate the milestone anniversary.
Arianna Richards: There's so much excitement going on right now about Jurassic, with it coming back to select theaters. [woo, yay Fathom Events!]
Bleeding Cool: I mean, isn't there ALWAYS excitement for Jurassic Park?
AR: Thats a very good point, it seems to go on throughout generations. Now with Jurassic World, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, it's really fun for me to see it affect people and the generations now, everyone is so excited about dinosaurs. And the young people now, who are just discovering it for the first time, they want to watch all the Jurassic Park movies.
BC: I can attest to that- I have a 12 year old daughter, who fell in love with the films and the movie magic of the series that just sort of takes you somewhere else when you see it the first time. She's very excited that I was getting to talk to you today.
AR: That's fun! 12, that was the same age I was when I played Lex [in Jurassic Park]. That's crazy.
BC: And, that whole thing with young ladies seeing another young lady in a film being interested in and being good at something that they're not usually known for being- it had a positive impact on her. Just going, "oh hey, that young lady likes computers, *I* like computers."
AR: Oh fun, I love that, that's fantastic! It's one of those things as a child actor, that you hope you get the opportunity to play those roles with a breath and depth to them, to play those super interesting characters. But what a great treat it was for me, at age 12, to play Lex. Reading the book by Michael Critchton, I was suprised to see the difference in the boy being the older brother, who was so much more savy and educated and able, and Lex, was just absolute annoying little brat. [we both laugh] I was so thrilled that Steven and Kathy [Kathleen Kennedy] and Frank [Marshall] and the team to change it around, that I got to play the older character that had something so so great going for her. It wasn't the norm for a young girl, to have that in her life. And then to get to save the day?
BC: Yeah it was TOTALLY Lex who saved the day, it wasn't any of the adults.
AR: Well, I do like to take some credit. [we both laugh again, and goodness does she have a delightful laugh]
[At this point, we asked Ariana if she'd introduced the Jurassic Park franchise to her offspring yet]
AR: Well, my husband and I have a three year old daughter so far, and we feel like she's just a little bit too young to be introduced to the franchise just yet. She hasn't seen the movies yet, but she's super excited about dinosaurs because….well, ever since filming the movie, I was gifted with a beautiful hand painted raptor sculpture by Stan Winston and Steven Spielberg afterward, which they gave to each of the main cast. It's about 4 feet long and maybe 2 feet high, a beautiful model, so she's grown up seeing that. And my paintings of me with dinosaurs, the self portrait I did, things like that. So she's getting entranced with dinosaurs, and has decided that triceratops is her favorite one, and she's learning all the names and types which has been really fun for me. When she gets a little bit older, she's going to be in for a surprise.
BC: Oh my gosh, that's going to be so much fun!
AR: Yeah that'll be a really neat moment! I'll have to get that on tape, I think. It's so neat to see something that, like you said movie magic, that draws you in, that people of all ages can delve into and find escape.
BC: I actually just got back from a convention in Atlanta, Georgia [DragonCon], and one of the host hotels had decorated their lobby [Hilton] in Jurassic Park style, with beautiful dinosaurs everywhere, and it was the coolest thing to see people reacting to the film in such a big and positive way STILL, people of all ages enjoying it.
AR: That's so fun! It's really amazing for me as a child working on the first film, living in the moment, and enjoying the process, working with great people and enjoying going to the set everyday and seeing a brand new dinosaur I'd never seen before, and there acting my part, I didn't really think about what the future would bring or even how big of a blockbuster it would be. It was all kind of a ride that took me by surprise, and it's continued on.
BC: I saw that you'd received the Reel WiT Award this year-
AR: Yeah! Oh wow, you really did your research. I was so honored, I was really really touched when they got in touch with me and said they wanted to give it to me for my work as Lex, and how it inspired young women and girls to think about computing and technology and arenas that they didn't quite feel were for them before, that was really fun for me. To be an inspiration for a lot of people, it's great, and you can't argue with that.
BC: I was a young person when the film came out, and it was that thing again where seeing yourself kinda represented on screen, but in a way that we hadn't seen before with the entirely capable, minus the understandable falling apart one or two times that we probably would ALL experience in that situation-
AR: That's a good point as well, keeping the believability aspect of being in that situation. Yes, of course, you're going to have emotional breakdowns. as a child especially, there's going to be moments of panic.
BC: And sneezing. [we both laugh] Still one of my favorite moments from the movie because of your reaction in the scene, still to this day.
AR: You are not supposed to get great joy at my expense [laughing], just not acceptable-
BC: But it means you did your job really well!
AR: Yes, yes, okay, thank you. You're not alone, Steven got a great amount of joy from that scene too. That was the best part of filming that scene with all that glop on my face. He's very decisive and has everything organized, I usually only did maybe 3 takes of any angle. But in that scene, the makeup person had the hardest job, wiping all that off my face between takes. And by the third take, that awful goo was dripping down my lip, and Steven just short of jumped up and said 'YES THAT WAS PERFECT!', having such a great time.
It was fun, he was so enthusiastic. Joey and I- I still call him Joey, I don't think he'd like that, he likes to be called Joe now, but he was only 9- but Joey and I would hang out a lot with Steven, kind of being his friend, and playing games together between filming scenes. He would just interject little questions about upcoming scenes, seeing what we thought about it, putting out a suggestion for it, and by the time we were ready to roll, we'd already rehearsed it really, we already knew where to go with it without even really trying.
BC: Not surprising, that he knew that was a good way of working with kids.
AR: Yeah, it just seemed to come natural to him, and he was very genuine about it, that he wasn't calculating that 'well this is what I need to do to work with kids'. It was just the way he is naturally. And when we'd get a scene just right, he wouldn't just say 'ok great, moving on' he would LEAP out of his director's chair and say 'WOW, THAT WAS SO PERFECT, EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR!' and would come over and give both of us a hug and say 'awesome', things like that. It really made me enthusiastic about heading over to set and film every day.
BC: What painting are you working on right now, or what's next up on your easel?
AR: I'm painting a portrait of a newly married couple from their favorite wedding photos, sort of blending together my impression of them, it's a bigger canvas for me, its 24×36 inches, and it's a fun one. They're out side, and beautiful lighting, and its a good example of the type of thing I do when people get in touch with me and say 'hey, I'd love for you to paint my kids playing together at the beach', or 'my grandmother holding a little grandbaby'. It's fun.
And I guess there's a part of it from my acting background, where I like to make things personal, I like to get to know the people I'm working with to know their personalities. Part of it putting my impressions of what their essence is, what they're like, out there.
BC: Are there any words of advice you would give young, aspiring actors and actresses about either not taking it too seriously or taking it seriously, just something you'd tell a young person who was looking at this as something they want to do.
AR: Wow, that is such a big question.
BC: Sorry! Sorry.
AR: No it's a good one, I'm just trying to think of how to answer it. You could literally discuss it for 30 minutes, that one question. Because it's far reaching. My experience was fantastic, I had so much fun being a child actress, it was just right for me. But on the other hand, my parents weren't pushing me to do it or anything, they weren't stage parents, I was the one who wanted to do it.
I feel like it's better to go with the flow, and not take things as seriously. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was because I wasn't aware of the rejection and that kind of side of things as a youngster, it wasn't until I got a little older I realized things like 'oh wow, that project I really wanted to do I didn't get, that's a bummer'. So I was shielded from that, and enjoying it.
Kids should have a real childhood, they should enjoy life and experience new things, and you don't want to get too serious about anything as a kid. And that's why it was perfect for me, and could be perfect for some kids to try out. Try out an acting class, see if you like it, see if it's fun. And of course the parents, have to have a lot of free time on their hands to get you to auditions, but that doesn't always work out for all families.
Have fun with it. Acting is so much fun, I think every kid who feels like it should try plays and classes and performing, singing, you name it, just try it out.
BC: I guess I'll end with the same thing I'm sure everyone is asking you, and if so, I apologize for you having to repeat yourself- but if you were approached to return to the dino-fold and do something in a Jurassic World entires, would you?
AR: Absolutely. If I get invited to come back to play a role in any of the new Jurassic movies, I would be totally thrilled. I would say yes. Because I LOVE acting, and I'm sure I'll be doing more of it in the future.
Thanks again to Ariana for her time, make sure you check out her artwork here, and check Fathom Events for your local theater listings to see the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park roaring back into theaters on September 16th, 18th, and 19th here.