'Jurassic Park' screenwriter David Koepp reveals the origin of the film's most quoted line

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Samuel L Jackson in Jurassic Park (Universal)

Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is one of the most quotable movies of all time. Don’t @ me.

From “life finds a way” and “we spared no expense” to “clever girl” and the elegantly simple “welcome... to Jurassic Park”, there’s a Jurassic Park quote for every occasion, and that’s down to David Koepp and Michael Crichton’s excellent script, adapted from Crichton’s 1990 sci-fi novel of the same name.

Koepp, who recently took part in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) to promote his new novel Cold Storage, says it’s “Hold on to your butts” - a line he wrote for Samuel L Jackson - that he hears “quoted most out in public”.

The oft-repeated line uttered by Jackson’s bespectacled engineer Arnold before he attempts to manually reboot the park’s computer systems, was actually inspired by filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, admits Koepp.

“It was something I heard Robert Zemeckis say, when we were working on Death Becomes Her,” Koepp writes on Reddit, “but I had the good sense to jot it down immediately and use it!”

Director David Koepp attends the UK Premiere of "Mortdecai" at Empire Leicester Square on January 19, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Koepp co-wrote the script for the cult 1992 comedy starring Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn which won an Academy Award and BAFTA for Best Visual Effects in 1993, and it was his work on that film that eventually landed him the Jurassic Park gig.

“For Jurassic Park, I was recommended by Casey Silver, who was the head of production at Universal at the time,” explains Koepp.

Read more: Ian Malcolm was nearly cut from Jurassic Park

“I had been working at Universal in an overall writing deal for a year or two, and my script for Death Becomes Her was in production at that time. Spielberg was looking for a new writer on JP [Jurassic Park], as they'd been through a few and the script wasn't working out. Casey suggested he take a look at me, and he did, and we met, and I pitched him my ideas, and it worked out. Thank heavens.”

American director Steven Spielberg speaks with assistant director David Koepp (left) on the set of Spielberg's film, 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park,' 1997. (Photo by Universal Studios/Getty Images)

Sci-fi author Michael Crichton sold the rights to Jurassic Park to Universal Pictures for $1.5 million and a substantial percentage of the gross earnings before it had even been published.

He was then paid an additional $500,000 to write the screenplay, but Koepp was later brought in to flesh out the story, adding more colour to the script, and changing some of the characterisations of the cast.

Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Satler (Laura Dern), Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) in the film are markedly different to how they’re portrayed in the book, so it’s clear an outside perspective was needed to pep up the script for the screen.

From left to right, actors Martin Ferrero as Gennaro, Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant, Richard Attenborough as John Hammond and Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler in a scene from the film 'Jurassic Park', 1993. (Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images)

“Adapting that book was seriously tough sledding. A bunch of scientists talking at each other for two hours is really hard to make human, funny, informative, and fun. Not to mention scary,” says Koepp.

“But Steven [Spielberg], obviously, handled it all so masterfully, and the performers were just the right people coming together at just the right time, in particular Goldblum, who channeled that character so well.”

Koepp returned as sole screenwriter on The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the 1997 sequel, and has been behind some of the biggest movies of the last few decades including Brian De Palma’s 1996 Mission: Impossible, Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man, and David Fincher’s 2002 Panic Room.

However one title he admits he’d rather forget is 2015’s Mortedecai, the widely-panned comedic farce starring Johnny Depp.

“The jury has been quite clear that I made a COMPLETE MESS OF A MOVIE with Mortdecai. Whoops!”

David Koepp’s Cold Storage is available from Harper Collins from 19 September.