It takes a lot to faze Tea Leoni. A few years back, the actress played second fiddle to an asteroid. Now, in Jurassic Park 3, Leoni is sharing the screen with co-stars who are a bit more fearsome and lifelike—and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love having enormous co-stars,” she enthuses. “I was once a co-star to a comet, and actually that film did very well, and then of course I couldn’t lay claim to that either,” jokes the actress about her involvement in 1997’s Deep Impact.
Leoni agreed to do Jurassic without seeing a script first, instead basing her decision to join the cast on director Joe Johnston’s enthusiasm—and her own enthusiasm for working with Johnston and stars Sam O’Neill and William Macy.
“Joe just said, ‘Listen, you’re a mom who’s lost her 12 year old son, on an island with dinosaurs. What do you think?’
And I thought, ‘cool,’” she remembers.
Contrary to expectations, Leoni found Jurassic was blissfully free of green screen work. Instead, the dinosaurs themselves provided enough jolts of reality. “For the most part, we were face to face with some of the most terrifying puppets,” reveals Leoni. “I mean, these guys make Chucky look like child’s play. And that made the acting easy, because when you have a – whatever it is – 6 ton, 1700 horsepower, 30-foot high creature coming at you along a track at 18 MPH, you find the fear. You find the fear quite easily, actually.”
Working with the dinosaurs was a revealing experience for Leoni. “They weren’t like fun machines, but the did have personality,” she says. “These puppets are so [real]; it’s odd to even say lifelike because there’s no reference, really. No one has ever seen a moving dinosaur, but I would credit Stan Winston and his team with vivid and real imagination because you can look into each creature, even in the same species, [and see] a different personality. It wasn’t like this one’s green, or this one’s taller or this one has horns–there were different shapes to the faces, and some seem to have more smiles.”