I Was That Little Jerk Kid At The Beginning Of 'Jurassic Park'
Since 1993, Jurassic Park has been one of my favorite movies, but for a number of years now, I’ve had a bone to pick with one of the very first scenes. It’s during the part in the desert, where Alan Grant and Ellie Satler are unearthing the velociraptor skeleton. After the scan of the velociraptor generates on the computer, Grant proceeds to tell the group of volunteers about how dinosaurs are more closely related to birds than reptiles. Then some little asshole kid speaks up and says, “That doesn’t look very scary. More like a six-foot turkey.” From there, Dr. Grant proceeds to pull out a raptor claw and scare the crap out of this kid — who is like, 13-years-old — by explaining just how a pack of velociraptors would disembowel him.
Here’s my issue. Not only is Grant unnecessarily mean to a child who is a volunteer at his dig site, but that kid is the only one in that crowd that is actually agreeing with him. The adult volunteers are literally laughing at Grant when he says dinosaurs are more like birds than reptiles. Then, out pops this kid who says the raptor looks like a six-foot kind of bird! Sure he’s kind of an asshole about it, but he’s a kid! If anything, Grant should be praising this kid for being far more perceptive than the adults in the crowd.
Anyway, that’s my take on that scene — Grant is the asshole, not the kid. And so, with the release of Jurassic World: Dominion — even if it did suck — on digital this week, I figured it’s as good a time as any to reach out to actor Whit Hertford, who played that little kid, and run my theory by him, while also seeing if he has any other memories from the set of Jurassic Park.
How did you come to be in Jurassic Park?
I’d been a child actor for years at that point and I was doing okay. I had a recurring role on Full House and I’d done Nightmare on Elm Street 5 as Freddy’s son, which was massive. I was auditioning a lot and my mom had read the Jurassic Park book. Then, when they announced the film, she thought I’d be perfect for it because I was 13 and, in the book, Tim was older than Lex.
But, when the breakdown came, the ages for the main kids were switched. But, I got an audition anyway and I remember when I went in there was no script. A guy just read to me a story about dinosaurs and just filmed my reactions. After that, legend has it that Spielberg saw that VHS and he hand-picked me.
Where was the dig site scene filmed?
We shot that in the Mojave Desert and it was the hottest two days of my life. I only had like, two lines and Spielberg didn’t do a lot of takes, so there was a lot of waiting around and I spent a lot of time in the trailer because it was so f*cking hot. The worst thing about it though was that my step dad brought me and I hated him. He kept trying to talk to Spielberg. It was so embarrassing.
I read that you shot another scene that was cut. Is that correct?
I did, yeah. It was a scene where it was my introduction and I’m walking along the fossil like an asshole and Sam Neill shouts at me. Then I walked past the camera and said “asshole” under my breath. That was the coolest thing to me because I was raised Mormon and it was this awesome little moment for a 13-year-old to have. They cut the scene though, which is a bummer.
Any memories of Sam Neill and Laura Dern?
Sam Neill was very intimidating. I didn’t take it personally, because he just seemed intense with everyone. Laura Dern was rad. We had a two-hour shuttle ride from Universal to the desert and, at the time, I was very emo. I had headphones on and my discman. At one point, she taps on my shoulder and asks what I’m listening to and I said, “It’s just this band from Seattle named Pearl Jam.” She’d never heard of them and she listened to Pearl Jam for the first time from me. And, I was 13, so I instantly had a crush on her.
What about Steven Spielberg?
Oh man, he was great. He was so normal. I met him for the first time on the day of filming and he was just the best. He didn’t talk to me like a kid. I was on his team — I was an equal. I only had like, two lines, but on my final day, he said to the group, “That’s a wrap on Whit!” Then everybody clapped, then he whispers in my ear, “I’m going to use you again.” I’m still waiting on that phone call, but he was just so cool and he had a real impact on me.
I mean, a lot of people have Spielberg stories but those are people who worked with him for months. I was with him for 48 hours and he was just lovely. I still carry that with me and it’s now 30 years later.
Do you ever get recognized for this role?
Yeah, I do conventions and they’re a lot of fun, but I’ll also have people come up to me and, I get asked all the time, “Did you go to whatever high school?” Of course, I say “No.” I don’t like saying where they know me from, but I don’t want to be a douche and make a game out of it, so I usually just tell them. It’s so funny though, when people meet me, they instantly go back to that emotional memory of hating me. Once I tell them who I am, their eyes light up and they go, “Oh my god! I fucking hated you!” It’s so funny.
Back in 2015, there was an internet theory that Chris Pratt’s character in Jurassic World was a grown up version of you. Were you aware of that?
Oh yeah! I woke up one morning to a thousand mentions on Twitter, which has never happened before, and it was this fan theory that said Chris Pratt’s character is my character 20 years later.
What did you think of it?
I was annoyed! Eddie — that’s the volunteer’s boy’s name that was on my contract — is my character! So I went on Twitter and refuted it. Plus, there’s just no way that my weird face would grow up to be this blonde matinee idol. There’s just no way.
Would you want to come back for another Jurassic movie if they called you?
Of course! I’d be such a good antagonist for them. Plus, I’d love to get eaten by a dinosaur.
What’s your favorite dinosaur?
I think the spitters are really interesting. What’s their technical name?
Dilophosaurus, I like those guys. They seem scarier than anything. You can see a T-Rex coming from a mile away, but the spitters will creep up on you.
Finally, I’m curious what you think about my take on your scene. Sure, the kid you’re playing is a jerk, but he’s the only one in the crowd who was agreeing with Grant about dinosaurs looking like birds. I kind of think Grant is the jerk there, not you.
I love that and I totally agree! No one’s ever said that to me. I appreciate that. Yeah, my character’s a dick, but he’s 13. All 13-year-olds are dicks.
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