These Underrated Jurassic Park Performances Aren’t Talked About Nearly Enough
The 1993 classic movie, Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg, stands out from other blockbusters of its time due to its unique cast. Unlike most films of the period, Spielberg chose to steer clear of big-name stars. Sam Neill, who played the lead role of Alan Grant, was not a household name in Hollywood. Prior to this movie, his most notable performance was opposite Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October (1990). Laura Dern, who played Ellie Sattler, had only recently gained recognition for her work in dramas like Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) and Rambling Rose (1991). The supporting cast, with the exception of Richard Attenborough (Hammond) and Jeff Goldblum (Malcolm), were also relatively unknown.
Despite their lack of fame, the performances of three cast members deserve more recognition. The first is Samuel L. Jackson, who played the role of Ray Arnold. Jackson’s career was just starting to take off when he landed the role of Arnold, a chain-smoking computer engineer who held the fate of Jurassic Park in his hands. Jackson’s line delivery was fast and clinical, making the character believable and instilling sympathy in the audience. The character’s death, though off-screen, was still shocking due to the loss of such a dependable character. Following the success of Jurassic Park, Jackson’s career skyrocketed with his role in Pulp Fiction and collaborations with Quentin Tarantino.
Bob Peck, who played Muldoon, was a British actor with an impressive resume. He had worked with famous actors such as Judi Dench and Ian McKellen and had won a BAFTA award for his role in Edge of Darkness (1985). Spielberg cast him as game hunter turned dinosaur warden Muldoon, a character with a no-nonsense attitude who knew the lethality of the animals. Peck’s performance was triumphant, and he delivered one of the best last lines in cinematic history. Unfortunately, Peck passed away from cancer in 1999, never fully experiencing the fruits of stardom.
Martin Ferrero played Gennaro, the face of corporate America, in Jurassic Park. Ferrero’s previous work included bit parts in comedy films and a recurring role on Miami Vice. Despite his limited experience and the character’s role as a corporate shill, Ferrero conveyed likability. Gennaro’s genuine fear during his death scene revealed a character who was just as human as the rest of us.
In conclusion, Jurassic Park’s unique cast made it stand out from other blockbusters of the period. The performances of Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Peck, and Martin Ferrero deserve more recognition. Despite their lack of fame at the time, their pitch-perfect performances turned good scenes into great ones and helped make Jurassic Park the classic movie it is today.
One thing that distinguishes 1993’s Jurassic Park from a host of other Steven Spielberg films from the late 1980s and early 1990s is the cast. Unlike most blockbusters of the period, Spielberg opted to stay away from big names: Sam Neill’s most prominent Hollywood role prior to his outing as Alan Grant had been opposite Sean Connery as the second-in-command of a Soviet submarine in The Hunt for Red October (1990), while Laura Dern – now bona fide Hollywood royalty – had only lately come to prominence with performances in dramas such as Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) and Rambling Rose (1991).
This approach extended to the film’s supporting cast, with only Richard Attenborough (Hammond) and, to a lesser extent, a pre-Independence Day Jeff Goldblum (Malcolm) having big-name recognition. It’s no wonder that three other members of the cast get surprisingly little acknowledgment from audiences – despite the fact that their pitch-perfect work in the movie frequently turns good scenes into great ones. Here are three underrated performances that should get more love.
Samuel L. Jackson as Arnold
Of the rest, Samuel L. Jackson enjoyed the highest profile. A relative latecomer to film – appearances in the Eddie Murphy vehicles Eddie Murphy Raw (1987) and Coming to America (1988) represented only his third and fourth movie roles, the latter premiering in his fortieth year – by 1993, Jackson had come to the attention of film critics, with a celebrated performance as Stacks Edwards in Goodfellas (1990).
Here, Jackson plays the chain-smoking computer engineer Ray Arnold, on whose actions the fate of Jurassic Park rests after the death of Nedry, who rigs the park’s computerized control system and then dies without returning it to normal. After the protagonists land on Hammond’s island and enter the park, it’s hard to find anyone who propels the plot more than Arnold; Spielberg uses the character to deliver crucial lines explaining the complexity of the park’s operations and to reinforce the audience’s dislike of the slobby Nedry.
Jackson’s fast, clinical line readings are faultless. Two speeches stand out: his explanation of the “lysine contingency,” a last-ditch plan that would kill all the animals in the park, and his back-and-forth with Ellie, in which he explains the depth of the problem Nedry has left for them.
In these exchanges, he comes off as a fully believable, ever so slightly uptight IT guy, and, in a role that other actors might well treat as a hospital pass – after all, Arnold is almost a stock character, with very little personality and no backstory – he manages to instill the put-upon character with sympathy.
Even though Arnold’s death appears offscreen, the viewer is still shocked by the loss of one of the most dependable characters in Hammond’s organization. Buoyed by Jurassic Park‘s success, Jackson’s career went stratospheric: a year later came Pulp Fictionand the first of multiple collaborations with Quentin Tarantino that would make Jackson one of Hollywood’s most lauded and recognizable faces.
Bob Peck as Muldoon
British actor Bob Peck was an actor’s actor. By the early 1990s, his impressive CV included stints alongside Judi Dench and Ian McKellen at the Royal Shakespeare Company, a BAFTA win for his work in the BBC political thriller Edge of Darkness (1985), and a solid turn as a British Army captain in Falklands War telemovie An Ungentlemanly Act (1992). Nevertheless, stardom had yet to come knocking, and it was left to Spielberg to give Peck his Hollywood break, casting Peck as game hunter turned dinosaur warden Muldoon.
Peck grasped the opportunity with both hands, turning in a triumphant performance as the no-nonsense Muldoon. Like Jackson, Peck gets some plum lines and essentially operates as Hammond’s foil. Whereas Hammond shows hubris in assuming the animals can be controlled for his purposes, Peck knows their lethality and pushes for hard-line solutions – killing the velociraptors, adopting the “lysine contingency” – with the objective eye of a hunter.
And yet, in a cruel dramatic rhyme, his death comes about as a result of the same hubris Hammond displays. Having assumed he can hunt a raptor, he finds himself becoming the hunted and delivers one of the best last lines in cinematic history. Sadly, Peck never enjoyed the fruits of stardom; after Jurassic Park‘s release, he was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1999.
Martin Ferrero as Gennaro
Another low-profile character actor with limited experience in Hollywood, Martin Ferrero’s work prior to Jurassic Park included bit parts in comedy films such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992); his highest-profile TV work was in a recurring role in Miami Vice. Here, Ferrero is the face of corporate America: the “bloodsucking lawyer” whose role is to sign off on Jurassic Park as a safe, viable attraction.
The closest thing to a villain in the movie, Ferrero does excellent work, subtly conveying the character’s ill-at-ease demeanor in the jungle. Ostensibly present in the interests of all (after all, Gennaro’s role is not to sign off on the park if it turns out to be dangerous), he cedes the moral high ground to Malcolm in the film’s famous dinner scene, in which the moral implications of unrestrained technological innovation are laid bare – an exchange that lands differently in a post-generative AI world.
Yet Ferrero, like Peck and Jackson, achieves likability; the lawyer’s pathetic gratitude for Hammond’s acknowledgment of his support, no less than his genuine fear during his death scene, reveals a character who, despite his position as a corporate shill, is just as human as the rest of us.