By Stuart O'Connor
With the Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy now out on Blu-ray, we caught up with actress Ariana Richards, who played young Lex Murphy in the original and first sequel, about her role in the film ...
It's an 18-year-old film, yet there is still a lot of love and affection for it. Are you surprised?
It's amazing, I haven't gotten tired of talking about Jurassic Park yet, after all these years. And it's amazing how this film has captured the imagination of so many people, and it still does to this day. And now I'm noticing the new generation of people that are enjoying Jurassic – that come up to me and compliment me on the role – that are too young to have seen it in theatres when it first came out. Even though I don't see it regularly, having it come out on Blu-ray in HD is going to be a realy good reason to get it out and watch it again.
Lex, in the film, is a bit of a computer geek. At a recent screening of the film, the scene that got the biggest lauch was when Lex jumps into the car and says: "Oh wow, it's got an interactive CD-Rom!" Technology has certainly moved on since then ...
It really has! It was so much fun to play the role of Lex and have so much to do, and the fact that she was so knowledgable about computers lent so much to the role.
Do you keep in touch with Steven Spielberg and the members of the cast?
I'm able to keep in really good touch with Steven, I'm very happy to say. That friendship means a lot to me. As for the cast, I think all of us would like to stay in better touch, but we're always travelling around doing things in different parts of the globe ... I would say it's challenging. But that's what's so special about working on a film together – it becomes like a family, and you go through experiences together and get a chance to all be in the same place at the same time working on a project.
For example, we all went through Hurricane Iniki together, that actually hit on my 13th birthday on the last day that we were supposed to be filming on the [Hawaiian] island of Kaua'i. We needed to film one more day, and we didn't get to. Steven was so kind to actually throw me a birthday party the day before – I have no idea if he had any inkling that this [hurricane] was coming, but it decimated the island, and threw it into absolute disaster conditions. We ended up having to go back to O'ahu, a different island, to complete a few days of filming for the Gallimimus stampede at a later date.
What were some of your more pleasant memories of filming Jurassic Park?
I have a lot of them! Even though we were covered in mud, and rain was pelting down on us, and wind machines were blowing on us – I noticed Sam Neill would often run for some tea! – but I didn't care. Working on a film like that with these [animatronic] dinosaurs that were so incredibly lifelike, to walk onto the set was like stepping into another world – especially for a 12-year-old. I got to experience the full impact of the wonder of this.
There is a great fascination with [dinosaurs]. Steven said that when he was a boy, he always longed to be in a world where he could experience dinosaurs without being eaten. He didn't get to experience that as a child, but then as an adult he created the world of Jurassic, and as kids, Joey [Mazzello] and I got to step onto that movie set and without having to think about anything but our roles, and reacting honestly to the situation of being with the dinosaurs, we got to experience the full impact of being in that world.
There is talk of a fourth Jurassic Park film. Would you like to reprise the role of Lex if the opportunity arose?
I think I'm going to leave that up to Steven!
Your career now focuses more on art – you're a painter now?
I am, I've become a professional portrait artist. In essence I'm bringing a lot from my film work, and being my own director of these images that I'm creating. In fact, I was painting after Jurassic Park as well. Shortly after the filming I created a self-portrait in watercolour, called Raptor Vision [below], of the jello scene where the raptor is about to approach me as I'm at the table about to take a bite of jello. For me, playing the character Lex and working on the set of Jurassic was so rich and multifaceted it's almost more difficult for me put an experience like that into words – that's why I decided to create the painting
Acting is in my blood – I love it, and I could never lose interest in it. So even though I'm very focused on my art right now, if a really interesting role came to my door, I'm sure I would be glad to play it.
• The Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy is out now on Blu-ray