"When did you first want to be an actor?"
I get asked this all the time and still haven't managed to find a way to respond without cringing.
"Oh, I've just always known."
Right? It sounds so pretentious. It sounds like the response that a smitten bride-to-be would give her friends when asked "When did you know that he was The One?" As she answers, the bridal party minions respond with a collective "awwwww!" and protagonist Laurie (mid-30s, awkward, earnest) steps forward, a prop veil placed crookedly on her mousy hair, and says "Gee whiz, I sure hope there's someone special out there for me!".....wait, sorry, I've been doing too much screenwriting lately. Let's take this back.
Pretentious? Yes. But also 100% true. I first took to the stage when I was four and had secretly hoped, even at that age, that I would be discovered in my tap class like Shirley Temple. A) Big time talent scouts don't just "hang out" in Brockport and B) This tells you that I spent waaay too much time talking to Grandma as kid. Still, I was determined to go pro. I got headshots done when I was 13 years old (still legally a child, but a senior citizen by Hollywood standards). I sent an embarrassing amount of self tapes to random castings across the country when I was in middle school. I had had two [shitty] agents by the time I was done with college. For me, there was never a single "Aha!" moment. It honestly felt like I had been seamlessly progressing towards this moment - towards this place - since Day 1.
That all being said, I don't think it's any coincidence that Jurassic Park is my favorite movie of all time. I mean, c'mon. You can't get two words into this website and not know that.
Jurassic Park came out when I was six years old (or, in Hollywood terms, "middle-aged"). I remember thinking that it was a real disappointment that Barney did not maim all of the kids on his TV show and that this movie might be a shot at redemption for dinosaurs everywhere. After hearing all the grown ups swap rave reviews, I begged my mom to take me. She obliged, but only after priming me first. She told me scene by scene - line by line (minus some choice words by Jeff Goldblum)- what I was about to see. I am proud to say that, *minus the scene where Newman gets what's coming to him, my eyes were wide open the entire time. I ate it up. I was obsessed.
It wasn't until much later that I realized just how much this movie had shaped my passion for the silver screen. In my eyes, Jurassic Park was (and still is) the epitome of what a cinematic experience should be. The majestic score, the fully developed characters, the realistic CGI - they all worked in tandem to transport the audience into an alternate universe that felt so real at times, it was scary. Everyone who walked into that theater forgot, if only for a second, that dinosaurs were actually extinct. It made the impossible seem possible and, for that, it was truly magical.
From that point on, I wanted to be part of that magic. I wanted to be able to play pretend so convincingly that I could actually lose myself in another person's shoes. I wanted to create an imaginative world so vivid that the audience would leap at the chance to visit it with me. I wanted to tell stories so powerful that the listener would be transformed; that they would have a revelation about themselves, or be moved to tears, or pee their pants because they were laughing too hard. The art of storytelling became intoxicating to me.
Jurassic Park may be a silly action movie about dinosaurs running amok and eating lawyers off toilets, but, to me, it was the beginning of a great love affair with movie-making.
Here we are now and Jurassic World has just hit theaters. Does it live up to the legend of the original? Hell no. The characters are two dimensional at best, the CGI raptors move too smoothly to be believably animalistic, the script is lazy, and that damn heroine somehow has this incredible Herculean ability to outrun a T-Rex in Jimmy Choos. Bitch please. There are flaws galore.
At the same time, I couldn't give a fuck. It might've been a cheap trick, but there were so many moments that referenced the original story, I couldn't help but get nostalgic. It was almost as if I were that six-year-old girl again and this overwhelming feeling of wonder and sentimentality welled up inside of me. In a weird way, Jurassic World was just as magical - if only to remind me that my journey to Hollywood, much like this sequel, has been 22 years in the making.
So, do yourselves a favor: Go see it. Enjoy the ride. And remember...
HOLD ONTO YOUR BUTTS!
*To my credit, my mom told me that he was going to be blinded by a dinosaur. In my disturbing 6 yr old mind, I had imagined something along the lines of the Dilophosaurus viciously stabbing out Newman's eyeballs with a sharp claw and devouring them one at a time like martini olives. Had I known that "blinding" him simply meant projectile vomiting tar onto his face, I would have kept my eyes open. Please. I ain't no sissy.