Jurassic Park III, directed by Joe Johnston, is the third installment in the Jurassic Park film series. It stars Sam Neill, William H. Macy, and Téa Leoni. It is the first film in the series not to have been directed by Steven Spielberg, nor dedicatedly based on a novel by Michael Crichton. The story takes place on Isla Sorna, the island featured in the second film, where a divorced couple has tricked Dr. Alan Grant into going in order to help them find their son.
Joe Johnston who started working for Spielberg as a visual effects art director on Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), originally wants to direct the sequel to Jurassic Park (1993), but when Spielberg decides to helm The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) by himself, he lets Johnston direct the third film in the series.
In 1999, Craig Rosenberg begins writing the first draft of the script, which involves teenagers who get marooned on Isla Sorna. An aquatic reptile is featured in the draft, but is ultimately removed from the final script. On Spielberg’s request, Pteranodons are included in the film (after they had not made it into the previous films due to budget reasons). After Rosenberg’s draft is rejected, new writers are hired to devise a better story for the film.
The film’s second script involves Pteranodon escaping from Isla Sorna and causing a spate of mysterious killings on the mainland, which was to be investigated by Alan Grant and a number of other characters. Sets, costumes, and props are built for this version.
Five weeks before filming begins, Johnston and Spielberg reject the entire script as they feel the story is too complicated. At that time, $18 million have already been spent on the film. A simpler “rescue mission” plot, suggested by David Koepp, is used for the film instead. Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor rewrite the script, which is never finished during production.
According to Joe Johnston:
“We shot pages that eventually went into the final script but we didn’t have a document”.
Principal photography begins on August 30, 2000, at Dillingham Airfield in Mokuleia, Hawaii, continuing on Oahu and Kauai, until production moves to California. Special effects used for the dinosaurs are a mixture of animatronics and CGI as in the film’s predecessors. New discoveries and theories in the field of paleontology prompt the addition of quill-like structures on the head and neck of the males in the film.
Since John Williams is busy writing the music for Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Don Davis steps in to write the Jurassic Park III score.
Despite mixed reviews from critics, the film is successful at the box office, grossing $368 million worldwide (against a budget of $93 million).