According to actor Laura Dern, when director Steven Spielberg offered her the role of paleobotanist Dr Ellie Sattler in 1993's Jurassic Park, they were both clear about it being an empowering character. This vision has been carried forward in the new Jurassic World trilogy.
Dern became a global star with her portrayal of Sattler in Spielberg's Jurassic Park series alongside Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum. The three actors have reunited for the final film in Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World trilogy, which she believes features powerful women. "Because of the industry being shamed into considering gender and diversity in storytelling, we are seeing ourselves reflected in the stories. Thank God!” she says.
"But what I love is that this franchise, from its beginning, treated women equal to the men and it has continued to evolve with powerful women at the helm," Dern adds during a virtual interview from Los Angeles.
The 55-year-old actor mentions that while earlier people would talk about only boys' fascination with dinosaurs, the success of Jurassic Park changed that perception.
“I met a woman last week who mentioned that she's the first female Congresswoman in her area. And that Ellie Sattler was her hero because [before that] she had never seen women who were equal to the men in a film. It really gave her the courage to go into politics. That means so much to me,” says the actor.
In her illustrious career, Dern has featured in critically-acclaimed films such as Rambling Rose, Wild, Little Women, Marriage Story, as well as series Enlightened, Big Little Lies and Twin Peaks: The Return. She has won several prestigious awards including the Golden Globe, the Academy award and the Emmy.
When she was offered a chance to return to the world of dinosaurs, Dern wanted to ensure that her character had evolved with times. “In the movie she has to move forward. She has to evolve as a woman. I love her for being an independent single woman, and also [for focusing] on the area of science. Today, Dr Ellie Sattler would take her expertise in paleontology and move towards soil science, and also focus on climate change. She would figure out a way to avoid another extinction and take care of all of us with the bravery and intellect that she has,” the actor says.
Titled Jurassic World: Dominion, the last film in Trevorrow’s trilogy also features Bryce Dallas Howard as the park’s former manager Claire Dearing, DeWanda Wise as former Air Force pilot Kayla Watts and young actor Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood. Having spent time with these “amazing” actors, Dern feels that the franchise has been on the right track. "These characters are really in line with what Steven Spielberg intended when we collaborated on who Ellie Sattler would be. It makes me very proud. It made for an amazing time.” And even though there are a lot of “heroic” men in the movie, Dern jokes she would want the women of the film to be by her side in the time of crisis.
She credits her parents, actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, for teaching her from a young age to follow “filmmakers with vision”. “If I feel there's a story that must be told, either because it has a unique voice and vision or if it is telling a woman's story with all her flaws and vulnerability, I do it. I feel so grateful,” says Dern
Jurrasic World: Dominion will be released in India on 10 June.