Hold Onto Your Butts: The Story Behind Samuel L. Jackson’s Famous Jurassic Park Line
In case a movie about a theme park overrun by dinosaurs wasn't cool enough, 1993's Jurassic Park features a performance from Samuel L. Jackson during his pre-Pulp Fiction days. His role is small compared to fellow cast members Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, and Laura Dern, but the actor managed do a lot with his limited screen time. That includes delivering one of the movie's most memorable lines.
Jackson's character, John "Ray" Arnold, is the chief engineer at Jurassic Park, and he becomes essential when the park's power goes off, allowing the dinosaurs to escape their enclosures and terrorize guests. Before restoring the system, Arnold says, “Hold onto your butts"—a quote that stands out in a film packed with iconic moments.
Jurassic Park screenwriter David Koepp recently revealed on the ReelBlend podcast that he borrowed the line from a filmmaker who had nothing to do with the movie. While writing Jurassic Park, Koepp was pulled in to do last-minute work on 1992's Death Becomes Her, a film he co-wrote with Martin Donovan. During that experience, Death Becomes Her director Robert Zemeckis unknowingly provided him with some inspiration. As Koepp explained:
"We had an ending that was really disastrous at first from one of these horrible test screenings where they almost kill you. So we’d very quickly gone out to shoot a new ending for the movie, but there was little time before the movie came out, so we were in the dailies of the reshoots, and there was gonna be no opportunity to redo the reshoots. So this was it, this really had to work. And we sat down in the dailies, and as the lights were going down, Bob Zemeckis said, 'Hold onto your butts.'"
Koepp loved the phrase and immediately found a place for it during a similarly tense moment in his Jurassic Park script. Zemeckis didn't work on Jurassic Park, but he had collaborated with the film's director in the past. Steven Spielberg executive produced the Zemeckis-directed Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and the Back to the Future trilogy. According to the ReelBlend interview, Koepp never told Zemeckis about the contribution he made to one of Spielberg's biggest hits.