Director Colin Trevorrow certainly doesn't shy from extremes. His debut feature, 2012's love and time travel romp "Safety Not Guaranteed," was an odd little indie with fast, sharp humor and a touching heart. His next, "Jurassic World," was 2015's monster hit. He revived Steven Spielberg's dinosaur saga with record-shattering success, helming the third-highest-grossing movie ever. His next writing/directing gig, scheduled for release in 2019, is a little whatnot that lacks an official title at present. It's currently known as "Star Wars IX."
Amid all this commotion, Trevorrow (rhymes with tomorrow) found time to make an additional film a far cry from the others. "The Book of Henry" stars Naomi Watts as a single mother raising two exceptional sons in a small East Coast town. Eight-year-old Peter (Jacob Tremblay, "Room") is an elf protected by his big brother. Henry (Jaeden Lieberher of "Midnight Special") is 12 and a textbook example of intellectual genius. Shifting sleekly between tones of 24-karat uplift, youthful humor and bona fide fear, the story follows the family through a season of tragic loss and gutsy courage, catching viewers off guard every step along the path.
It's a far cry from the typical summer escapism, but while visiting the Twin Cities last week, Trevorrow said he campaigned for "Henry" to run in the competitive, action-heavy season. It's a period when "we're seeing so many stories that may not be satisfying certain emotional needs that we require out of movies," he said. "To provide something like that at this time is important. I think movies like this should come out year-round. Not just the end."
The script had been in development purgatory for 20 years before Trevorrow read and fell in love with it five years ago. "I found it to be exactly the sort of story I wanted to tell. It just moved me in so many ways." He put it on hold when he was given the reins for "Jurassic World" because he felt that making a success of the ambitious film would give him the opportunity "to make more films like this for quite some time." Plus, "I'm married and have two children and I want to provide for my family in a very lunch pail kind of way. This provides us some security in an extremely volatile business. You can't take anything for granted."
He even had a backup career at the ready, having studied culinary arts alongside filmmaking at New York University. "I would be totally happy if I could have a restaurant. Maybe I'll still do it. I'll shift gears" and cook oddball dishes like his favorite creation, pizza with peanut butter, shrimp, tomatoes, bacon and mozzarella. He served it a lot while cooking at a restaurant in Northern California, "and the people loved it. It was delicious."
Trevorrow declined an offer to immediately direct the next "Jurassic" sequel to tackle "Henry," whose $10 million budget, small-town Vermont location and five-week shooting schedule were minuscule by comparison. Despite the differences, he considers "Jurassic" and "Henry" to be kindred spirits.
"They're both films that no one will expect, and I've applied the same kind of bold story decisions to each film as well." Transforming "Henry" from its original status as a dark comedy to a Hitchcock-style childhood thriller mixing hilarity and deep anxiety was a long process requiring numerous and extensive editorial changes, Trevorrow said.
"Star Wars," on the other hand, is to him almost holy writ. As much as he loves deconstructing familiar genre material, it is banned in that galaxy far, far away.
"It was both my childhood film and my belief system," he said. " 'Star Wars' kind of teaches you how to be. If you're a kid, 'Star Wars' teaches you how to control your anger and treat other people with respect. The way of the Jedi is something that, if you follow it, you can become a good person. I can understand why so many people have gravitated to that mythology. When you look back at the history of beliefs people have followed, at their foundation are really elemental human stories that we feel can be guiding lights for us."
Trevorrow fantasized that after finishing that film, he might run a restaurant for a while to channel his creative impulses in the kitchen. "Coppola does that with wine," he said. "The great thing about being a chef is getting to dismantle and reinterpret everything. A tomato is never just a tomato."