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Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler and Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic World Dominion.Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment

If dinosaurs lived on Earth for 165 million years, then the Jurassic Park franchise should eventually hit the half-life of the triceratops. Although this weekend’s Jurassic World Dominion is being marketed as the conclusion to the six-film series that started with Steven Spielberg’s original 1993 blockbuster, life (meaning “box office returns”) will surely find a way.

Whether Sam Neill will be participating in the T. Rex shenanigans beyond today is anyone’s guess – though the veteran New Zealand actor undoubtedly has a lot of love for the series. After starring as crusty paleontologist hero Alan Grant in Spielberg’s first film, Neill has been persuaded to return for not only the 2001 adventure Jurassic Park 3, but also Dominion, where he is reunited with original co-stars Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, B.D. Wong, plus a few hungry prehistoric friends.

Ahead of Dominion’s release, The Globe and Mail spoke with Neill – who apologized off the top of the interview for waxing on about Toronto’s snow and the pleasures of “talking to someone from a proper broadsheet” – about the franchise that might never become extinct.

On the first Jurassic Park film, you weathered a hurricane on-set. On the third, there was no final script in place when shooting, something that co-star William H. Macy was pretty vocal about. And on Dominion, the shoot was right smack in the beginning of the pandemic. Do you consider yourself a cast member, or something of a franchise survivor?

[Laughs] I hadn’t thought of it that way, but there are natural disasters that tend to arrive like a perfect storm every time we start. They do have the effect of bringing us together as a family, though. We’re an unusually close cast for those reasons, and that closeness was of course ramped up during COVID because we were all confined to one hotel and that’s all we had for four or five months. But you know, it wasn’t prison. We weren’t tortured. We enjoyed ourselves, and made sure that we did.

Had you maintained relationships with Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum over the years?

Yes, particularly me and Laura. We’re in touch all the time. Some friendships you make for life, you know. It’s a bizarre thing about what we do. I always think that if you make a good film and you make a good friend or two, that’s a great result. If you make a bad film and make a friend or two, well, that’s a great result as well.

Production on this film set’s been called the ‘gold standard’ for COVID filming protocols. You guys were basically the first movie to shoot during the pandemic. What was the day-to-day like?

Oh, it wasn’t that onerous. We had a gym, we could go for a stroll in a private park. We couldn’t go into [nearby] London, and there was no social life other than each other. If we’d all found each other’s company poison, it would’ve been Hell.

Have you seen Judd Apatow’s The Bubble on Netflix? It was made as a riff on what you guys reportedly went through …

[Laughs] Yes, yes, you could call it a riff. I don’t think he quite kept it as the film that we made. Most of those unfortunate characters in it are making a very tacky film, and we were making an all-out blockbuster. We didn’t have people hanging from rafters in green screens, nothing like that at all …

When you returned for Jurassic Park 3, you said part of your eagerness to do so was because you were unsatisfied with your performance in the first film. What do you think today of your work on part three?

In hindsight, it was a pretty good performance. It mirrored what I was doing in the first movie, where Alan is a harmless paleontologist who gets caught up in some very extreme things and has to cope as best he can. By part three, he’s toughened up. I actually think Jurassic Park 3 is rather undervalued. I know it finishes abruptly, but I think it works very well. What did Bill Macy say about it – ‘grumble grumble?’

It was complaints about having no idea what was being filmed, spending 12-hour days shooting an eighth of a page, that sort of thing.

Mmm, yeah. He wasn’t very happy making it. But here we are.

Part three’s action is relentless. Which reminds me of Dominion. There’s no 45-minute buildup like in Spielberg’s first film. Do you think that audiences’ expectations of action are different today?

I think that’s true. You know, action itself has become so much of a genre, and I’ve never seen anything quite so spectacular as some of the action in this film. The escape from Malta, that took my breath away. But yeah, it is a ride. And these films are of course allied to real rides. I imagine someone is constructing the ride of your life right now in Florida or Burbank.

You’re active on Twitter and Instagram, at a time when, as a recent Washington Post feature put it, celebrities are staying away from social media, convinced any benefit is not worth the potential of a misstep. How do you view your social-media activity, if at all?

Oh, I don’t really. None of those concerns worry me. I’m putting up posts about the movie at the moment, but it’s just to entertain myself. If someone else likes it, that’s a bonus. I’m not pursuing a following. I couldn’t care less!

This interview has been condensed and edited

Jurassic World Dominion opens in theatres June 10

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