Director Colin Trevorrow was supposed to work on the film “The Book of Henry” after he finished his first feature film, “Safety Not Guaranteed,” but something massive got in his way
“I read the script and immediately knew I wanted it to be my next film,” Trevorrow says. “And so I was on my way to signing up to do this, when I got a phone call from Frank Marshall about a dinosaur movie that they were doing, and it was something that I couldn’t resist because that’s certainly another part of my life, being a lover of all things dinosaurs.”
That dinosaur movie was “Jurassic World,” the international blockbuster. But Trevorrow reassured the people working on “The Book of Henry” that he would make the film when he was done with that. He promised.
“Nobody believed me,” he says. “They said, ‘Of course you won’t. You’re going to never call us again.’ ”
But he did call, and now, on Friday, the film hits theaters starring Oscar nominee Naomi Watts as the single mother of prodigy Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) and Peter (Jacob Tremblay). Henry, with his genius-level intellect, suspects their neighbor (played by Dean Norris) is mistreating his stepdaughter (Maddie Ziegler).
amNewYork spoke with Trevorrow about the film.
What attracted you to this script?
Well, it’s a 20-year-old script and usually those are the ones that never see the light of day. But there was something in this character that I just couldn’t get out of my head. He captured this righteousness that we all have as children, where we just know that the world is black and white, good and evil. Apathy is the worst possible thing. I felt like that was a character for this moment. And I wanted to realize Henry’s journey, which I think we’re all going through right now. We have this anger, this fury that we’re feeling as we look out at the world burning down around us, and we wish we could do something and we feel like we can’t. I thought it would be the right movie for the time.
So the budget on this is probably the budget of two minutes of “Jurassic World.”
Was that more freeing? What was it like working with a smaller budget?
It was a little liberating in that we just went back to the basics. There’s a scene that we would reference all the time, (cinematographer) John Schwartzman and I. John who shot “Jurassic World” and who is also going to shoot [the ninth] “Star Wars.” He’s used to massive, massive budgets. We would always refer to that movie “Tin Cup.” The scene where he plays a round of golf with a shovel. That’s all we had. We had some track and a dolly. That was about it. No Technocranes on this movie. None of the toys. And we had to figure out if we could do it.
How was it working with Naomi?
Well, look, Naomi is one of the best actors that we have. Working with someone of that caliber is really about having conversations. We always will make sure that we understand what just happened to the character in the scene before and what’s going to happen after. But she’s so attuned to that already.
So was there any kind of specific lessons you learned from working on “Jurassic World” you were able to apply to this?
I mean, like everything. Every day is a lesson. Keep in mind when I went to direct “Jurassic World,” I had been on set a total of six weeks in my life. So the amount of learning on the job that went on over the course of that movie, I had to just absorb every day from all of the professionals that were around me. And I was just a sponge. And by the time I got to the end, I knew how to do it. Yet there’s a certain amount of just firing off of instinct that goes with any movie. Really what I learned is just trusting my instincts because that was going to be the truest thing I could do. So when we got onto this film, I just trusted what I wanted to feel in every given moment and it tended to take me where I wanted to go.
You’re slated to direct “Star Wars: Episode IX,” due out in 2019. Is there anything you can tell me about it?
I would tell you the whole story, but you only have a minute left. There’s no way I’m going to be able to get through it all, but I was going to tell you. We’re just in a moment right now when we’re all just waiting to see [“Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi”]. And that’s what we’re all going to watch together and we can start this conversation afterward. But this is [director Rian Johnson’s] moment. It’s Rian’s moment, and I know everyone is going to be thrilled with what he’s done.