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Actors We Almost Got To See In Jurassic Park Movies

The soon-to-be six film "Jurassic Park" franchise is one of Hollywood's most gargantuan success stories. The original, directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the book by Michael Crichton, tore ticket sales records to shreds in the summer of 1993 as it thrilled critics, dinosaur lovers and moviegoers of all ages. Though subsequent installments haven't quite lived up to the blockbuster that started it all in terms of acclaim (even fans will admit they've varied in quality and tone), audiences keep returning to "Jurassic Park" and "Jurassic World" movies, to the tune of several billion dollars and counting. That makes it one of the entertainment industry's most valuable properties, so it stands to reason that any actor would jump at the chance to share the screen with all those T-rexes and velociraptors. 

Of course, the dinosaurs are the stars of "Jurassic Park" movies, but these crowd pleasers have also benefitted from some solid and sometimes unexpected casting choices. Wayne Knight and Jake Johnson both stood out in supporting roles, and Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum made legendary characters out of Doctors Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm. But it almost didn't happen that. Several celebrities passed on the opportunity to act across from real (or at least extremely realistic-looking) dinosaurs, especially before "Jurassic Park" had proven itself to be a beast at the box office, while a long list of others just barely missed out on a part. These are the actors who were almost cast in the "Jurassic Park" and "Jurassic World" trilogies.

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford had already starred in two mega hits that became massive franchises when Steven Spielberg was looking to cast the lead role of Dr. Alan Grant in "Jurassic Park." Ford had broken through with 1977's "Star Wars" (directed by Spielberg's friend and sometimes collaborator, George Lucas) where he played the roguishly handsome Han Solo. Then, Spielberg made him Indiana Jones in his own epic adventure (with a story by Lucas), 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark." He's reprised each role multiple times, into his late '70s. 

Ford was Spielberg's first choice for Grant, which makes perfect sense. He'd been one of the most bankable leading men of the last decade. He'd already proven himself capable of anchoring an action movie, and there was considerable overlap between the personalities of Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Dr. Alan Grant. Per the Los Angeles Times, Spielberg revealed during a Q&A at a screening of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" that he offered Ford the chance to play the skeptical paleontologist. Ford turned him down. He's never spoken publicly as to the reason. Perhaps he thought the characters were too similar or perhaps there were scheduling conflicts. 

"Jurassic Park" was in production as Ford was playing Jack Ryan in two movies: "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger." Ford also signed on to play Dr. Richard Kimbell in "The Fugitive" that year, based on the 1960s TV series about a man who escapes after being framed for the murder of his wife. If it was a choice between those two films, he couldn't have gone wrong, given that "The Fugitive" was also a critical and commercial success.

William Hurt

Spielberg's next choice for Grant was William Hurt. The actor, who passed away in March of 2022, played General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross in the Marvel Cinematic Universe during the latter years of his storied career, so the idea of a younger William Hurt headlining a franchise might not seem strange to today's audiences. However, it seemed strange to Hurt at the time.  

Hurt started out on the stage, but by the early '90s, he'd developed a reputation as a respected film actor after starring in adult-minded dramas and comedies such as "Body Heat," "The Big Chill," "Kiss of the Spiderwoman," "Children of a Lesser God," and "Broadcast News." Though all of these projects were well-received and he was nominated for two Academy Awards for his work, Hurt hadn't been at the center of a family friendly summer blockbuster or a movie that contained action-heavy set pieces. As recounted in "The Making of Jurassic Park," he couldn't see himself in the role, didn't seem interested in the idea of the movie, and politely declined the opportunity to play Dr. Alan Grant without ever having read the script. 

Years later, he accepted an offer from Spielberg, albeit for a much smaller part. He plays the Professor who creates robot children in 2001's "AI: Artificial Intelligence."

Richard Dreyfuss

Steven Spielberg and Richard Dreyfuss worked together on the movie that's often credited with creating the very idea of the summer blockbuster: 1975's "Jaws," where he played oceanographer Matt Hooper. They'd teamed up two more times for 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and 1989's "Always," which suggests they had a good enough working relationship. Outside of his collaborations with Spielberg, Dreyfuss had become a box office draw in his own right. He won an Oscar for best actor for his performance in 1977's "The Goodbye Girl," and he'd narrate the popular coming-of-age movie, 1986's "Stand by Me."

While Dylan McDermott, Tom Sizemore, Dennis Quaid, Kevin Costner, and Tim Robbins were all rumored to have auditioned for the role, In "Steven Spielberg: A Biography" by Joseph McBride, the author claims that Dreyfuss was one of two remaining names Spielberg was considering for Dr. Alan Grant, once Harrison Ford and William Hurt were no longer possibilities. Ultimately, Dreyfuss didn't get the job because he was too expensive.

Kurt Russell

The other actor mentioned as a candidate for the role of Dr. Alan Grant in "Steven Spielberg: A Biography" is Kurt Russell. Russell had been a child star with a Disney contract, but he'd shed his cute kid image and had begun to make a name for himself in a string of much grittier independent movies, like John Carpenter projects "Escape from New York," "The Thing," and "Big Trouble in Little China." His firefighter action flick, "Backdraft," was just released and his star power was burning at its brightest just as Spielberg was casting for "Jurassic Park".

Like Harrison Ford, Kurt Russell had the kind of good looks and charisma that could best be described as part-hero, part-scoundrel, and he was accustomed to grueling, stunt-filled shoots. He may very well have made an excellent Dr. Grant, but — as his fame was peaking — Universal Studios thought his salary expectations were too high, and they decided to go with the lesser known Sam Neill instead, just weeks before filming began.

Juliette Binoche

French actress Juliette Binoche was used to working in her native tongue with renowned directors like Jean-Luc Godard and Leos Carax. She had just made her English language debut in 1988's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" not long before the novel version of "Jurassic Park" hit bookshelves. She fit the profile that Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy were looking for in a Dr. Ellie Sattler. She was the right age, she gave off the right vibe, and she had the acting chops.

Spielberg reportedly offered Binoche the role in "Jurassic Park," but the actress has said in interviews — including a guest piece for Vice — that she instead committed to "Three Colours: Blue." The Polish and French co-production was the middle movie in a trilogy for which Binoche received rave reviews (she appears in cameos in the other two parts). She'd go on to star in "The English Patient" (for which she won the Oscar for best supporting actress) and "Chocolat."

Robin Wright

Robin Wright had been a model and a soap opera star before nabbing the role of Princess Buttercup in 1987's cult classic genre mash up, "The Princess Bride." Buttercup is supposed to be one of the most beautiful woman in the world, but also a bit of a tomboy; that Wright was chosen to fulfill that criteria put her on the radar of casting directors who sought her out for parts in what would become hit films such as "The Firm" and "Born on the Fourth of July." The production team behind "Jurassic Park" wanted to lean into that carefree tomboy energy, however, and approached her about playing Dr. Ellie Sattler (per Total Film). 

Wright had recently begun a relationship with actor Sean Penn and was pregnant with their first child during the time most of those films were casting. She told the Guardian she turned down many high profile roles that came her way after "The Princess Bride," including "Jurassic Park," partly because she wasn't interested in them and partly in favor of being a mom.

Though Wright and Penn separated for good in 2010, she doesn't seem to have any regrets about the years she spent at home with her children and the affect it may have had on her career. Wright is content with the projects she's chosen. She made an impression as Jenny in 1994's Academy Award winning "Forrest Gump" shortly after giving birth to her second child. Recently, she's earned praise for her performance as General Antiope in Patty Jenkins' "Wonder Woman" movies. 

Helen Hunt

The role of Dr. Ellie Sattler eventually went to Laura Dern, so it's easy to see why Helen Hunt was also in consideration. The two accomplished actors share a strong resemblance to each other and are about the same age, and they're both smart and versatile screen presences. Hunt began acting as a child in TV series like "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Swiss Family Robinson," and "The Facts of Life." By the '80s, she'd transitioned from TV to movies with film credits like "Peggy Sue Got Married," and from child star to teen-then-young adult actor. Hunt's name ended up on a long list of potential Dr. Ellie Sattlers that also included Julia Roberts, Jodie Foster, and Sarah Jessica Parker. 

She auditioned for the role, quite competently. In a parallel universe in which Helen Hunt played Sattler, "Jurassic Park" would've surely still been the global phenomenon that it was. In the end, Spielberg chose Dern.

Instead of flying to Isla Nubar, Helen Hunt would return to TV with "Mad About You," for which she won four best actress Emmys. During its run, she also won the Academy Award for best actress for 1997's "As Good As It Gets." Hunt would eventually get her own opportunity to run away from things on the big screen with 1996's box office smash, "Twister," which Spielberg produced. 

Gwyneth Paltrow

Today, Gwyneth Paltrow is probably most familiar to audience for playing Tony Stark's employee turned girlfriend turned wife and widow in the MCU, as well as for her lifestyle brand, goop. But back in the early '90s, Gwyneth was an unknown who just happened to be the daughter of actor Blythe Danner and producer Bruce Paltrow. Before scoring an audition for one of the most coveted roles in Hollywood — Dr. Ellie Sattler — Paltrow had only acted in a TV movie that her father directed as well as a stage play. She was just 20-years-old when she screen tested for Spielberg and Kennedy, though Laura Dern was 23 and the character in the book is 24. 

Paltrow would win the Oscar for best actress not long after for 1998's "Shakespeare in Love," but her youth and inexperience are apparent in the audition tape. While other actresses on Spielberg's list could've been plausible Dr. Ellie Sattlers, Paltrow simply didn't seem right for the part. 

The actor who beat her out for the role is also the daughter of a Hollywood power couple with a father named Bruce. Dern's parents are actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd.

Sean Connery

Sean Connery was one of the most recognizable movie stars in the world. He was the inaugural James Bond and played the iconic character seven times, but Connery wasn't and isn't only synonymous with 007. The Scottish actor has starred in nearly 100 movies, from mysteries like "Murder on the Orient Express" to military dramas like "The Hunt for Red October" to medieval fantasies like "Sword of the Valiant." 

Not long before Spielberg began pre-production on "Jurassic Park," he'd worked with Sean Connery in 1989's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" in which the actor portrayed Indy's father, Henry. That role — an educated, older gentleman obsessed with greatness — wasn't entirely dissimilar from the role of John Hammond, the overzealous visionary behind the dinosaur theme park. Given their prior working relationship and Connery's enormous celebrity, it makes sense that, according to Yahoo News, Spielberg first approached him to play Jurassic Park's flawed proprietor. 

It's unclear why Connery didn't end up co-starring as John Hammond in the movie, though it may have had to do with scheduling conflicts around his other films, "Medicine Man" and "Rising Sun." The role went to Richard Attenborough, a lauded theater and film actor as well as a director and producer (and brother of famed nature documentarian and narrator, David Attenborough) who hadn't been on screen for more than a decade prior to co-starring in "Jurassic Park."

Jim Carrey

It's impossible to think of anyone but the sardonic Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm. The oddly charismatic actor with his very particular speech patterns made a character who (spoiler alert for a 30+ year old novel) dies in the book into an absolute icon, with unscripted moments that will endure throughout cinema history. But the part could've gone to another handsome but happily off-kilter actor: Jim Carrey. 

Carrey was one of the breakout stars of the sketch comedy series, "In Living Color," which had been on the air for a little more than a year at the time "Jurassic Park" began its casting process. Carrey wasn't yet a household name, but industry insiders knew he was bound for bigger things. Filmmakers were apparently very impressed with Carrey's interpretation of Dr. Ian Malcolm, with casting director Janet Hirshenson telling Entertainment Weekly that it was "terrific." Unfortunately for Carrey, producers had Goldblum in mind from the start. After reading the source material, they all liked the idea of Goldblum, who was then and is still known for bringing his manic energy to genre films like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Fly." 

Carrey's career didn't suffer from this early upset, though. He'd reach household name status with 1994's "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" then become one of the highest paid actors of all time with films like "Dumb & Dumber," "The Cable Guy," and "Yes Man" for which he earned a whopping $35 million.  

Christina Ricci

"Jurassic Park" was able to reach such broad audiences because it's essentially a horror movie for kids. Almost everyone loves dinosaurs, but dino fandom is particularly concentrated in the age group that can't go to movies by themselves yet. By making "Jurassic Park" scary but not too scary, and by centering the action around John Hammond's grandchildren, the film became accessible and interesting to viewers young and old. Casting a movie can be difficult, but casting child actors in a movie can be an even bigger gamble, so it was imperative to the film's success that Spielberg and Kennedy pick just the right Lex and Tim Murphy. 

Specifically, filmmakers knew they needed a young actress who could sell the T-rex attack and that now-famous scream. For older sister, Lex, Spielberg auditioned Christina Ricci (per the Oklahoman). The audition process involved a lot of simulations in which prospective kids were made to scream and look terrified. Ariana Richards, who ultimately got the part, recalled to Amblin that only her scream woke up Spielberg's wife, who'd been sleeping on a couch down the hall. 

Richards may have gotten the job, but Ricci got the career in show business. She has more than 80 acting credits to her name, while Richards now works as a painter

Jeremy Piven

"Jurassic World" debuted in the summer of 2015, but the long-anticipated fourth installment in the "Jurassic Park" franchise had languished in pre-production hell since before "Jurassic Park III" had even hit theaters. The BBC notes that producers finally felt like they were getting somewhere in 2004 when writer John Sayles turned in a "half-crazy half-brilliant" script about a genetically engineered A-team of dinosaurs that were running rampant over the planet. Though this "Jurassic Park IV" never came to be, many elements from the notorious screenplay survived and have since found their way into "Jurassic World" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." 

For example, the character that became Owen Grady started out as an ex-Navy SEAL named Nick Harris. According to Cinemania (via Dark Horizons), Jeremy Piven, who was then starring in "Runaway Jury" was being courted for that role, though Glenn Powell told the Hollywood Reporter that he also auditioned. By the time the final script for "Jurassic World" was approved and casting began in earnest, Piven was no longer the producer's first choice.

Keira Knightley

When it looked like "Jurassic Park IV" might actually go ahead with Sayles' script, Kiera Knightly not only auditioned but apparently (per the Daily Mail) secured a role. The British actress who was only 18 and fresh off of her surprise hit, "Bend it Like Beckham," seemed enthusiastic about working with Spielberg, who was slated to executive produce and had enjoyed her in the film about girls' soccer. 

According to Knightly, she'd been asked to read for two roles. One was someone's granddaughter, and the other was the film's lead female character, who Knightley didn't want to say too much about, for fear of spoiling something or breaking Spielberg's trust. But it wasn't to be. By April of 2005, production had been delayed. Spielberg was reportedly having second thoughts about the script, and talks with all the actors in contention fell apart. It all worked out, though: Knightly got her franchise shot in "Pirates of the Caribbean."

John Krasinski

Once production on a fourth chapter of the "Jurassic Park" saga started up again, nearly 10 years later, the project's plot had been toned down (a little) and its name had been changed to "Jurassic World." But the lead character was still former military — a Navy vet turned dinosaur trainer — and newly appointed director, Colin Trevorrow wanted someone who could combine the sensibilities of Sam Neill and Jeff Goldbum to play him. Early on, there was talk that producers wanted John Krasinski. "The Office" had ended not long before, and Krasinski seemed like he was about to follow in George Clooney's footsteps, going from TV heartthrob to Hollywood leading man. 

Today, Krasinski is just as well-known for writing and directing the "Quiet Place" movies and for playing Jack Ryan on the TV series of the same name as he is for playing Jim Halpert, so it's easy to imagine the multi-hyphenate cracking wise while running from an Indominus rex. Funnily enough, the role went to another actor who got his start playing a goofy boyfriend on a much loved mockumentary-style comedy: Chris Pratt of "Parks and Recreation" landed the role of Owen Grady. Pratt is rumored to have beaten out Krasinski for the part of Star Lord in "Guardians of the Galaxy," too.

Josh Brolin

Before Chris Pratt signed on to play Owen Grady, producers seriously considered one more actor (who was also busy with the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the time): Josh Brolin. Brolin, who is a little more than 10 years older than Pratt and Krasinski, had also been batted around for the lead role back when development of the project had stalled out in the early 2000s. With the film now in Trevorrow's hands, he returned to the idea of Brolin, who was an aesthetic match for the rough-and-tumble character. 

Brolin auditioned at around the same point in the movie's development as Bryce Dallas Howard, who did eventually win the part of Claire Darling, so it does seem as though he made it pretty far into the casting process. In an interview with critic Drew Turney, Trevorrow acknowledged that Brolin would've been great as the velociraptor wrangler. He explained that there wasn't a big story behind the casting decision. They offered the role to Pratt first and he accepted. It sounds like Brolin may have been Trevorrow's back up choice, but it's likely that Pratt's experience with comedy may have given him an edge. Owen Grady was supposed to be a hybrid between Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ian Malcolm, and Josh Brolin is more of a Dr. Alan Grant type.