Welcome back to the second part of my sit-down with Andy Nicholson – Production Designer on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
If you missed the first part of our sit-down, you can check it out HERE!
Following the introduction to Andy’s work and how he got into the industry, we then, of course, had to dive into some deep Jurassic World talk. Andy did an incredible job nailing the sets for the film – with lots of intricate details that I really wanted to take the opportunity to pick apart. We talked a little bit about my experience about my visits to the Fallen Kingdom sets in the UK – particularly those at the the MOD (Ministry of Defence) site in Minley and how the logistics of such a location work when getting assets, etc. to where they are needed for filming.
“It’s quite good using a military location as they run the place like clockwork, and they also tend to have quite good infrastructure so vehicles, etc. can access the location for training exercises. I do remember, however, that we turned up for one location scout and found ourselves in the middle of a battle. We were walking through our future exterior Lockwood house when suddenly, fifty infantry emerged from the bushes, charging and screaming, firing blanks at fifty other infantry who were about a hundred and fifty yards away. The Officer who was overseeing the exercise had just told them to ignore us, we all kind of stood there, like lemons, in the middle of a very loud battle exercise...it was memorable!
Minley was a great location. Lockwood House in the film is in Northern California as it made sense for the animals to be transported there from Nublar, they’d have a big country to escape to at the end of the film! The challenge therefore, was finding redwoods and Northern Californian-style nature in the UK. There isn’t a lot of that kind of stuff in the here but much of the property owned by the MOD in Surrey has the Scots pine trees and they work. We also needed to find a building to use as the exterior of Lockwood House. We ended up finding this at Cragside, a National Trust property in Northumberland. Cragside was an amazing location! We had looked at a lot of alternatives but wanted something which could double for Victorian American architecture. Cragside was built in 1863 as a country getaway for industrialist and inventor William Armstrong. An engineer, scientist, and philanthropist, Armstrong is remembered as the father of modern artillery. In 1880 Baron Armstrong called upon architect Richard Norman Shaw to transform his house into a state of the art mansion, an elaborate country house in Tudor style, incorporating a science laboratory and even an astronomical observatory! Armstrong was also a passionate Americanophile. He had visited Northern California, and loved Redwoods, Sequoias and the other flora alongside American architecture. He got his architect to incorporate features of both in the interior and the exterior of the building, and then planted Redwoods and Sequoia around the entire area of his home. So, turning up there one hundred and fifty years later all you can at first see is empty Northumberland moorland but then suddenly it’s as if someone has just dumped a load of Northern California in the valley. It was incredibly surreal & it was perfect!
The next thing we then had to address was the driveway at Lockwood House. The driveway that Cragside had wouldn’t have worked as it was all a little bit too tight, which would have prevented us from getting the camera angles that we really wanted for the scene. So, we then needed to find somewhere which had a large amount of space. Luckily, Minley has a ex-runway (built for Spitfires during WWII) cut through a wood. It was the perfect location for us, it had a slight uphill slope so we could put the portion of the house we built on location at the top of the hill, and then have the road sloping down from there – allowing us to go away and CG in the rest of the house in post production. We were also able to built the back of the house, where you see the dinosaurs being unloaded in the film around the corner from this location which was essential. Currently, if you look on Google Earth at the location, you can see the set going together which is really cool.”
At this point – I mentioned how the stuff which was filmed at Blackbushe Airport in the UK had made it onto Google Maps, which Andy Chuckled at as he mentioned they had only actually filmed there for a day.
“With big builds you do sometimes see them on Google Earth. Minley is great because it currently shows up. You can see both of the sections of Lockwood house that we built and all of the parked film vehicles. It’s been similar with some other productions I worked on – like Band of Brothers – If on GE you go back in time you can see sets some that were built on locations which have now been totally transformed. Its the same in Hawaii where we built the security gates and damaged main street. If you still go to that location and look at the clearing, you can still make out where things were constructed.”
While we were talking about Hawaii, Andy shared some interesting facts about Blue’s Nest with the Ford Explorer.
“Where we built Blue’s Nest is the same location which was used for the sequence where Owen is riding with the Velociraptors on his motorcycle in the first Jurassic World. It’s a jungle, so obviously, it’s very hard to tell that it’s the same location. We cleared back a lot of stuff for the Nest, so we had space for a bit of a clearing for Blue, but when they shot there before in Jurassic World they had brought in a lot more materials to make the location denser with foliage. It’s funny thinking about that location as it’s only about 50M from a main road – but it’s so dense that you really can’t tell. It was also useful, because the other side of the road was the Marina where we had the dock and the sequence with the truck jumping onto the Arcadia ramp. It was all so close to Blue’s Nest – so it was useful in allowing us to move between both locations quite flexibly. By chance I found out while researching the dock that my friend, the Production Designer Rick Heinrichs, had built a full Galleon in the water for one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies!”
We then proceeded to touch on the photos which Andy has been uploading to his Instagram of the production, and Andy wanted to say the following before we explored them:
“I’d like to say a big thanks to Universal for letting me share these photos. I’ve seen a fantastic response from fans, and it’s nice getting to highlight some of the smaller details that weren’t necessarily as prominent on screen.
“I wrote Universal a formal letter asking what I could show, and they were receptive of me doing this which was nice. They really want to keep the interest in these movies going as much as is possible.”
It was quite funny as well, as at one point we were talking about requests for photos, and Andy mentioned how us Jurassic fans are notorious for asking for the smallest and most intricate details which won’t mean much to anyone unless they are a massive fan of the franchise and want to know every little intricacy. We then proceeded to talk about one of Andy’s most nostalgic touches – the model of Jurassic Park which features in Lockwood’s room.
“The room that was Lockwood’s Bedroom was also used for Mill’s Office, so it was a really big room to transform into a bedroom which suddenly had a lot of space. We had lots of discussions on set about small details which we could fill the space with – and I then suggested a model of Jurassic Park. It was partly inspired by the model of the Sanctuary Island which was in the Diorama room, but also partly inspired by the fact that at one point in the script, Maisie was playing with a model of the original Jurassic Park in her bedroom. It kind of got moved and changed from that, which eventually came to him having it in his room. It was nice, as we were then able to get these old photocopies of the original blueprints from the first film. So, we used the original blueprints of the Visitors Centre and Raptor Pen which were built in Hawaii. Everything from the layout of the lake and the other detail were based on this Blueprints as well.
It was a shame that some of the background of the stuff we built in Hawaii isn’t there anymore, as we originally had a lot of set dressing for the entire way down to the log they hide behind in the stampede sequence which is barely glimpsed in the background of the shots in the final film. The idea was that there were service tunnels across Isla Nublar – so I really wanted to play with the ideas of those. We also had a Gyrosphere Service Bay right by the treeline, and we then destroyed about ten Gyrospheres to add to the backdrop – showing some of the chaos which had occurred since Jurassic World. It was interesting as originally, we also had a lot of carcasses – like the carcass Owen passes in the River. We really wanted to show the progression of time on Isla Nublar – so we made sure to hint at the natural order of things which had been occurring on the island since the dinosaurs broke free. There was a massive skeleton of an Apatosaurus laid next to the bunkers on the set as well, which you barely see in the film, but which hinted again at the passage of time. A lot of this was trimmed down for running time – but we really tried to place carcasses and other details which would help to tell the story of what had happened to the location since the events of Jurassic World. I think it’s nice as you have the people who pause when they have the Blu Ray, and go through scene by scene, so hopefully there’s a lot of little smaller details which people will notice as the film ages. Part of the justification for leaving small details in is that there is always something which someone will notice.”
I then touched briefly on the carcasses – in particular, the skeleton Owen walks past in the Behind the Scenes footage, which is believed to be a Deinosuchus. Andy touched on it:
“It was one of many skeletons we hired which we added into the film. Being able to add dinosaurs which hadn’t been seen before was the reason why I enjoyed working on the diorama room so much. I mean – if you were into dinosaurs, wouldn’t you recreate scenes and have these sculpted things made for you? There was some talk about them being taxidermy dinosaurs at one point I think, but that wasn’t the idea behind them. The idea was that they were fake recreations. The Concavenator, which is my favourite, came from when I was doing some research and discovered that the only fossil had been discovered near Barcelona, so it was a Catalonian dinosaur. With JA being from Spain and being Catalonian, I thought it would be a nice touch to add to the film as a nice tribute to him. That’s why this dinosaur really became the focus of the display. It’s a cool dinosaur – and I’m glad that we managed to get that one in.
“There was some talk about them being taxidermy dinosaurs at one point I think, but that wasn’t the idea behind them.”
There’s a couple of other species which we were glad we could get in – one of which is the Dimetrodon. When my supervising art director and myself were discussing what other dinosaurs we wanted, we knew that the Dimetrodon must be one of the ones in there as it’s a favourite – especially with Jurassic fans. The one with the Dilophosaurus and the Velociraptor was more down to my creativity, as it was originally scripted as a Dilophosaurus skeleton. Over time, this gradually evolved into different dioramas. While we were creating dioramas, the writers were still finalising the sequences at the manor – so gradually, what we constructed changed to accommodate the final sequence where the characters run through the back of the display. This, of course, influenced how much space we needed in the displays – and it explains how we went from two Dilophosaurs, to one, and then the final diorama that you see on screen. We originally had three Dilophosaurs and one Velociraptor, but we had to get rid of one as soon as we knew about the stunt, as we knew we would need more space in the diorama. When the stunt happens, we ended with one Dilophosaur as we needed the extra space to facilitate the stunt.”