How Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director scared his stars
JUSTICE Smith is living out his childhood dream of playing with dinosaurs.
Hot off the heels of his appearance in Baz Luhrmann's Netflix series The Get Down, the 22-year-old scored a starring role in Fallen Kingdom - the sequel to the film franchise's 2015 reboot Jurassic World.
"I used to go on these road trips with my family all the time. We had this portable DVD player and we would watch all three of the original films," Smith says over the phone from Hawaii.
"My siblings would cower and I would just be transfixed by these dinosaurs. It's a dream come true to be a part of it."
But when it came to filming for the big-budget adventure film, it was Smith's turn to be scared.
The Los Angeles-born actor plays tech whiz Franklin, who has signed on to Claire's (Bryce Dallas Howard) campaign to save the dinosaurs left abandoned on Isla Nublar following the collapse of the Jurassic World theme park.
When the island's dormant volcano comes to life, a global debate rages about whether or not the animals should be saved or left to die from natural causes.
"What attracts people to see these movies is how they relate to our own reality," he says.
"There's the issue of environmental protection and the moral question about the rights of these animals. Does a man-made creation deserve the same rights?"
Claire and her team clearly think so, and they find the support they need to launch a rescue mission in the form of original Jurassic Park co-founder Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) and his right-hand man Eli Mills (Rafe Spall).
Once Claire convinces her ex Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to come along to save his beloved Velociraptor Blue, they return to find Isla Nublar teeming with life and Franklin finally comes face to face with the animals he's fought to protect.
"It was great to work with the (dinosaur) puppets. They were so intricate," Smith says.
"They would sweat and drool and blink and they had pulsing veins; it was so lifelike. I'm glad we had that because it is difficult to act alongside nothing."
But things quickly spiral out of control when Claire's team is betrayed by Mills' men and they are left to fend for themselves as a volcanic eruption sends lava pouring down the mountainside. It's every man, woman and dino for themselves.
"I had to do a lot of the stunts in this movie, which was a whole new challenge for me," he says.
"I fell in love with doing stunts and being physical in that way.
"The whole gyrosphere sequence was a lot of fun. They built this mini roller coaster to shoot it going off the cliff. Bryce and I had to go down it 15 to 20 times. It makes you feel like a kid again, like you're actually at an amusement park."
Director JA Bayona also had a few tricks up his sleeve to ensure he got genuine scares, screams and jumps out of his actors.
"He would play dinosaur roars over the loudspeaker when we weren't expecting it, and he specifically targeted me (laughs)," Smith says. "A lot of my jumps in the movie are me reacting to that.
"When I was playing Franklin I tried to react how I would naturally react but heightened a bit in terms of the vulnerability and the sensitivity. I hope I would be more courageous if I were ever in a situation like that, but it's hard to say. It was fun to play Franklin and be this comedic relief."
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens on Thursday.