Why Vince Vaughn didn't return for Jurassic Park 3
When you look back on the Jurassic Park films, it's surprising just how many big names appeared in them. Samuel Jackson? Check. Julianne Moore? Also, check. And, though you might've forgotten about it, future Wedding Crashers star Vince Vaughn was in 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park, where he played Nick Van Owen, a photographer who ... well, pretty much messes up everything, repeatedly. Remember, not only was the guy who unlocks the dinosaur cages — thereby leading to all the communication gear getting trashed — but his actions also caused other people to be gobbled up by Mama T-Rex.
Needless to say, Nick Van Owen wasn't the most likable character in the series, even if his name (and that of his nemesis, Pete Postlethwaite's hunter, Roland Tembo) is a fun reference to a certain Warren Zevon song, as revealed by screenwriter David Koepp. In fact, Van Owen is so despised that there is even a Change.org petition arguing that Vaughn should return for the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion, purely so audiences can cheer as he gets devoured by dinosaurs.
As it currently stands, though, since Vaughn never returned to the series, his character's fate remains unanswered, and fans have often speculated why.
A dinosaur-sized mystery
Okay, first off, a disclaimer: no one has ever directly asked Vaughn, or the Jurassic Park III crew, about this, so some extrapolation is necessary. The first thing to keep in mind is that when Vaughn appeared in The Lost World, he was a rising star. As JurassicWorld.org explains, director Steven Spielberg snatched him up at just the right time, because Vaughn was "a new movie star – an American icon to be." Vaughn, then, took the role primarily because he wanted to work with Spielberg, as he explained in an interview Vaughn gave at the film's premiere: "What attracted me was working with Steven, of course. I grew up on his movies."
Well, guess what? Spielberg didn't direct Jurassic Park III, which might explain why it's perceived as the awkward middle child of the franchise. The movie went through a troubled production cycle, involving many rewrites (via ComicCon). Meanwhile, Vaughn's star was rising, so even if he'd been offered a role — which it's unclear he ever was — a close look at his calendar demonstrates that scheduling would've been complicated, unless there was a strong desire for his return. Filming for Jurassic Park III launched in autumn of 2000, as reported by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and lasted five months: during that same year, as IMDB records, Vaughn had already filmed The Prime Gig, appeared in Sex and the City, then filmed Zoolander, according to Cinema.com, as well as co-writing, producing, and and starring in Made, alongside his friend Jon Favreau.
Essentially, until Vaughn gives his own account, one can assume that there probably wasn't time, desire, or good reason, to bring him back, particularly since Spielberg wasn't directing. That doesn't mean a future franchise entry can't have him get eaten by velociraptors, though.