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Dern enjoys revisiting ‘Jurassic Park’


After being trapped in the same shorts and shirt for almost the entire “Jurassic Park” shoot, Laura Dern wanted to burn her wardrobe instead of saving it as a souvenir.

But the actress had a far better keepsake from Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster about dinosaurs roaring back to life.

“Steven gave us a model of the raptor that was sort of the template for the raptor that Stan Winston built,” she said of the director’s gift to key cast.

“I remember having it in what had been my office and became my nursery for my first child and when my son was able to look around the room, I remember him pointing to it in terror. So I had to remove it for a while and now, he thinks it’s the coolest thing,” she said in a recent phone call.

Winston, who died in 2008, was the special-effects maestro who orchestrated the teams behind the 20-foot Tyrannosaurus rex, 6-foot Velociraptor, long-necked Brachiosaurus, ailing Triceratops, birdlike runner Gallimimus, Dilophosaurus (known as “the spitter”) and raptor hatchling.

Other experts choreographed and set them into miraculous motion.

“Jurassic Park” returned to theaters Friday, in 3-D, solidifying Dern’s status as a hip mom.

To convincingly play paleobotanist Ellie Sattler, she and co-star Sam Neill were coached by world-famous dinosaur hunter Jack Horner, and that gave her a golden ticket to unexpected places.

“Becoming a parent and traveling the world to go to natural-history museums; ... I don’t know any other movie I could be part of that would give me a back-door invitation like ‘Jurassic Park,’ ” she said. “In London or in New York, when they see me coming, they’re very generous to my son and daughter and we’ve been very lucky to have some up-close experiences.

“And it’s super-fun to be a mom and have your kids think your music references are lame and a lot of other things are lame until the paleontologist mentions something and you actually can comment back and know something about the gestation period of a Brachiosaurus and have your son look up at you like you’re super-cool.”

That extended to her ability to take her 11-year-old son and some of his friends to a theatrical preview of the restored, 3-D version. “They loved it and were completely ready to just be obsessed with it.”

Her daughter lobbied for equal treatment, but Dern, 46, vetoed it. “I would not take my 7-year-old daughter to see the movie,” she said.

“I know she’s upset, but I am also her mom, and I know that seeing your mom in peril is a bad combo, having seen my parents in peril in movies. Still in therapy over it.”

As it turns out, Dern wasn’t the only famous or about-to-be-famous actress in contention to play Ellie.

Helen Hunt and Gwyneth Paltrow auditioned, according to brief footage shown on the “Today” show a week ago. Their readings were among videotapes of auditions featuring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman that had been scheduled for auction.

This was news to Dern, who endowed Ellie with awe and scientific smarts and knew nothing of others auditioning.

“I knew nothing. I was a very lucky person to just be invited to the party by Steven and, you know, that’s a very elusive question, the question of casting and how directors feel like someone’s right for something.”

Nevertheless, Dern said, “Steven was very generous and, luckily for me, he was convinced that I was what he needed for it. I don’t know how he knew that.

“He’d seen me in ’Rambling Rose,’ so he felt like that was the quality he wanted, which I think did have something to making sure she was warm. And to have this understory of her longing to become a mother and pushing (Neill’s) Alan Grant toward that without having the screen time to really tell that story.”