Making Sarah Harding

Which version of Sarah Harding do you like best? Here are your options:

Option A: The Sarah Harding who survives being thrown from a boat on the open ocean, makes her way alone across a dinosaur-infested island, who understands the danger of kidnapping a baby Tyrannosaurus rex, who chases down a velociraptor on a motorbike while training a pre-teen to use a gun, climbs up the underside of a destroyed trailer while carrying a comatose Ian Malcolm, and then feeds a villain to an adult T. rex?


Option B: The Sarah Harding who foolishly upsets the stegosaurus herd she is observing, who decides to treat a baby tyrannosaurus, relies on Malcolm to survive the trailer attack, and allows him to drive when pursued by a bull T. rex through San Diego?

Sarah Harding, played by Julianne Moore, pats a baby stegosaurus in The Lost World (1997).

Option A is Sarah Harding as presented in The Lost World novel by Michael Crichton. She is a world-renowned, albeit controversial, animal behaviour expert and demonstrates a cool-headed self-assurance no matter the danger. She survives under attack from human villains, velociraptors, and multiple tyrannosaurs. And she teaches Kelly a thing or two about respecting her own intelligence and skill even when underestimated by the men around them.

Option B is Sarah Harding from The Lost World film, played by Julianne More. She too is a well-respected and capable animal behaviourist. After all, she had survived several weeks on Isla Sorna before Malcolm arrived. And she makes it clear that she did not need Malcolm’s intervention. She capably treats the juvenile T. rex even though bringing it to the trailer was a clear mistake. But this Sarah Harding contains barely half the badassery of the novel’s Harding.

When Malcolm is disabled in the rex attack, the novel’s Harding literally carries him up the cliff face. When a velociraptor runs off with a crucial item — the literal key needed to save one of the kids — she mounts a motorbike and sets off after it. When a hungry rex comes across her hiding place, the A-level Harding takes her revenge on the villainous Lewis Dodgson, who had earlier attempted to kill her by pushing her into the ocean. This calculating Sarah Harding, the one who realises it was either Dodgson or herself who would be a tyrannosaurus’ meal, is not quite the same one we see in the film.

Don’t get me wrong: the film Sarah Harding is an icon. Capable. Strong. Wonderfully portrayed by Moore. One of my favourite Jurassic characters. She does an excellent job of carrying the role of female lead in the Jurassic Park franchise off the back of Laura Dern’s Ellie Sattler from the original film. And she does some incredible things. But it is not the Sarah Harding written by Michael Crichton, and it is that one I’d love to see bought to life on screen.

Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing, from Jurassic World, its sequel Fallen Kingdom, and the upcoming Dominion, does have moments that resemble both versions of Sarah Harding. See this badass sacking of an atrociraptor for example:

And the franchise has a good history of continually remixing and reusing elements of Crichton’s books in different films. DeWanda Wise, who plays Kayla Watts in Dominion, also recently said that her character was like the book Harding. So maybe we will see the A-Harding after all.

Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, holds a flare at the end of Jurassic World.
Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, holds a flare at the end of Jurassic World (2015).

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *