Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a movie that Dwayne Johnson is currently working on. Not only is he a producer but he also stars in the same film. The plot goes something like this. Four high-school kids discover an old video game console with a game they’ve never heard of–Jumanji–they are immediately drawn into the game’s jungle setting, literally becoming the avatars they chose: gamer Spencer becomes a brawny adventurer (Dwayne Johnson); football jock Fridge loses (in his words) “the top two feet of his body” and becomes an Einstein (Kevin Hart); popular girl Bethany becomes a middle-aged male professor (Jack Black); and wallflower Martha becomes a badass warrior (Karen Gillan). What they discover is that you don’t just play Jumanji–you must survive it.
Dwayne used some of his breaks from filming to talk to certain media outlets about the project. He explained why he chose to both produce and play a 16-year-old trapped in the adult man’s body. He also spoke about Kevin Hart who is his fellow cast member. Not only was The Rock eager to talk about the movie but he was also quite charming. But that’s what you all expect from The good guy Rock.
The first set of questions concerned the project and his reasons of being both a producer and a star of the movie.
The Rock: ‘Well, when it came to me, it was just really the opportunity to tell a great story. Hopefully, we tell a great story. It was the opportunity to take something that was beloved, that I loved, me and my family loved when we were, years ago, by the way. So, it was that.
You know, and so, it was the opportunity to tell a beloved story to a whole new audience. And the script came around, and when the script came around, it kind of, it really moved very quickly. So, the script came around for me in April. I read it. I really, really liked the script. I was scheduled to make a movie called “Rampage” with Brad Peyton. And we had to push it, and that will be the next movie I shoot after this, I’m sorry, after “Ballers.”
So, I had a window. And as these things happen in Hollywood, I got the script, really enjoyed the script, spoke with Jake our director. We had a great meeting, and things kind of just blossomed from there.
To your point. It’s a great point you bring up, if there was an element about the script that I really liked that took the spirit of the original movie and the spirit of the original story and added this other great layer to it. In this case, as you said, the great layer is that I am decked out, as I’m decked out right now, as this avatar, but in reality, in the real world, I’m a 16-year-old kid, which was a great juxtaposition, I think, just as an actor and then look as a producer and the opportunity to tell that kind of story.
So, in essence, it would be like if you took “The Breakfast Club” and those characters and put them in the world of Jumanji.
A lot of fun, by the way. And a great challenge, right? So, the great challenge of me being who I am as this avatar, it’s Dr. Smolder Bravestone because throughout the film, I just, well, smolder. Right?
But I didn’t. I have no control of it. I just did the smolder.
And then also, the juxtaposition of being a 16-year-old kid, whose extremely uncomfortable to begin with, and not a people person and an epic nerd.’
The interviewer also inquired about the connection between being a performer and an actor. The journalist also asked The Rock how he felt that teenage actor and he are sharing the same role.
The Rock: ‘Yeah, sure. It’s an interesting thing. So, my performance now will help inform how he’s going to play his high school self. So, he’s a … have you guys had a chance to meet him?’
Unfortunately, the answer to Dwayne’s question was negative.
The Rock: ‘A great actor, he’s in [Patriot’s Day] with Pete Berg, a buddy of mine. Like, he’s really, really fantastic. Yeah, so. So, yeah, my performances now will help inform him as he shoots his stuff. He’ll shoot some stuff here, and then he’ll also shoot in Atlanta.’
After the first set of questions, The Rock was asked to share some experience from stunt scenes.
Dwayne: ‘Well, let’s start with the animals, right? So, I don’t know if there’s stunts in this movie that I’ve never done before, but I think it’s the, it’s in how we’re executing them, and the variables that we’re placing around the stunts that would make them different. So, for example, in our world of Junkman, the animals are bigger, they’re meaner, they’re faster, so let’s start with the animals, right?
And then we also start with the fact that we’re pulling off all these stunts, again proficient and able, but as a 16-year-old kid too as well. So, there’s a really cool wish fulfillment factor that happens too. When I was 16 I would’ve loved to become, you know, whoever my favorite characters were, especially in video games.
So, there’s this really cool dynamic that I hope we pull off, and we execute properly, just were as I’m in these fight scenes—As I’m in these fight scenes because I’m a video game, like turbo-geek with video games, right? So, as I’m in these fight scenes, there’s a little cool element where I’m actually calling out the moves before I’m doing it. Like you know how a lot of times as we’re playing it’s oh (makes fight noises), if we do it right, it should be very funny.’
Then he was asked if he played a game that prepared him for the movie.
The Rock: ‘That’s a good question. I got to come up with a better answer than I’m going to give you because I think, really, these are just like the video games of the 90s. So, in the spirit of the game itself, of the board game of Jumanji, that was in the 90s, you’ll see in the creative device that we’ve used within the movie it morphs into, it goes on the board game into the video game, but it still has the spirit of the 90s. So, it’s characters like that, that our very stereotypical characters from the 90s.’
Dwayne also spoke about his character’s similarity to Indiana Jones.
The Rock: ‘Yeah. That’s a great question. And so, by the way, I mean this is, Indiana Jones, like a lot of us … one of my top movies of all time. It was literally the movie when I was eight-years-old I thought, “Wow, I want to do that.” Not necessarily I want to be an actor, but I want to be that guy. Like, that guy’s cool. That’s why there’s nods in the movie to Harrison Ford and to that movie, like I have my hat. This is such a dorky thing, but like, this, this is my nod to Harrison in “Star Wars.” So, just this and it’s kind of like slung real low. There’s like little things, little Easter eggs.’
He was then asked to say if there were animals that his character didn’t like or was afraid of.
The Rock: ‘Oh, yes, all of them. Every single one. Literally, every single one. Yeah, because I’m terrified. Completely terrified. Completely out of my element. Video games I’m good at, but all this other stuff? No.’
Then the interviewer focused on The Rock’s claim that he planned to pay homage to the original. However, Dwayne claimed that he respects the original but that he would make this one better.
The Rock: ‘Yeah, sure. So, that was the number one thing that I just wanted to have open dialogue with [Director] Jake [Kasdan] and [Producer] Matt Tolmach, our producers, and the studio. What is the way that we can pay homage to the original movie, not only to the original movie, but to Robin Williams in a way that felt good and that made people feel good, but yet, as you said, not get bogged down in it? So, I think we came up with some really nice ways to pay homage and yeah, I think the family is going to be very, very happy with it. Yeah.
And without giving too much away, there … the … Now, I’m biting my tongue right now.’
The interviewer then asked about new challenges Dwayne had to face when filming this movie.
The Rock: ‘I think it was creating … I think it was creating a movie that can compete with the other movies that come out, where it’s suppose to come out in the summer. And also, if it’s going to be an ensemble cast like this, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really good ensemble casts, great ones in “Fast and the Furious,” “G.I. Joe,” “Baywatch,” now. There is a certain dynamic that the cast has to have and when you think about “Jumanji” and you think about it because it’s a beloved movie, and it became even more beloved in the passing of Robin. So, it’s a great trigger that happens with people that I’ve found is that people are excited about it and hopeful and there’s a tremendous amount of trust. Like, okay. I get that sense. We trust you.
And when you have an ensemble cast like this, who hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to work together, I worked with Kevin in a movie before, and we’ve become really close, so there’s a nice dynamic that we have, but you never know how things are going to gel together. And in this case, we have … the cast just really came together, just in an incredible way. I signed on, Kevin was attached. Jack Black really was the first one to read the script well before us, and it wasn’t in the place that he had liked.
So, the challenge is to take something that’s beloved and present it in a way that is appealing to today’s audience, and also with “Jumanji” there’s a little bit of fantastic, magical element to it. And today’s movie-going audience, the challenge is really to create something special. So, they’re not massive visual effects in this. It’s not massive green screen work. There is some, and there’s some really great visual effects that we’re going to have, but you know, everything is pretty practical out here in the jungle. So, I think there’s going to be a really nice element of fantastical magical in the movie that I think audiences are really going to like.’
Of course, Dwayne also talked about working with Kevin Hart. From what we gathered, they like each other a lot.
The Rock: ‘Yeah. I love Kevin, right? We’ve become really, really close. He’s like a brother to me, and we love fu*king with each other. Excuse my language, but it’s the thing that we do. So, you know, with Kevin, Kevin is an ambitious guy. He likes to accomplish things. He’s a very busy guy. He believes in hardcore work ethic, which is great, but also, Kevin is one of the biggest stars in the world, certainly the biggest comedy star in the world.
And also, brings an element of self-deprecating humor to this movie and to movies that he’s in, which often times, over the years, I think when it … We’ve seen it in the past, where comedians rise to become a big star in Hollywood, sometimes it’s important to always be cool, and to look cool, and in Kevin’s case, I think he’s really done a great job, I think of checking that at the door. And just thinking about what’s going to make the movie funny. So, look, Kevin’s great. And also, again, the idea that we’re all 16-year-old teenagers is just a great element for us to tap into. Even Kevin. You know, Kevin starts out in the movie, he’s a massive teenager. He’s captain of the football team, he’s 6’5″, he’s a handsome guy, you know, All-American. He’s the man. And then, he turns into Kevin. Yeah.’
The interviewer also inquired about the Instagram post about eating Doritos on the set.
The Rock: ‘Oh my God. It’s … I would say this is the most fun I’ve ever had on a set, especially with an ensemble group like this because the energy is really just so awesome, and everyone is really just great. And you guys know this, you’ve been in business, doing this a long time. You know, oh this actor is little touchy, or you can’t say this, you can’t say that, but this group is like so good.
So, yeah, Kevin angrily eats Doritos. You know. And the reason why he gets angry eating Doritos is because he prides himself on being a fitness fanatic, you know, right? So the moment he (makes eating sounds) and he’ll start eating, I’ll just look at him and he goes, “Go f*ck yourself. Everyone go f*ck themselves.” And Jack will just break out in beautiful song, great voice, right? He’s got that like Broadway voice, and Karen, if you guys didn’t know, she’s got pipes.
So literally, Jack starts writing a song, he starts singing a song, making it up on set that’s going to be … it’s just Broadway theme of “Jumanji” that he starts singing and he includes all us characters and then Karen starts singing, and Kevin eats his Doritos, and I’m calling it now, they’re going to sing it at the MTV Movie Awards. Very entertaining.
But yeah, the group is great. I mean, this is a really, really a great group. And Jake Kasdan has a great handle on the movie too. Oh, and by the way, back to your question, that’s another thing too, well whose …. because with a movie like this … with movies, directors are everything of course, it’s the ship that they run, but some movies, like you really have to have a very specific vision, especially when it relates to something like this, that’s on this scale, and that is the intention is to make a four-quadrant movie, which is not always that easy, but especially when you have to deliver the comedy. And Jake, has that right amount of edge that the film needs, which is great.’
Dwayne also talked about his character and his special abilities.
The Rock: ‘Yeah! Awesome! So, and this is the scene you’re going to see today, by the way. So, our special abilities come up, and special abilities are speed, let me get this right. I got it. My skills, my strengths are fearless, I’m fearless, speed, boomerangs, climbing, smoldering intensity. This is the funniest part. My weaknesses – none. It’s awful. It’s awful.
And then, Kevin, as you’ll see, like his strengths are carrying my backpack. Literally, he’s the backpack valet, the weapons valet. And he has another strength, but his weaknesses are cake and his weakness is strength. It’s very, very funny. So, you can imagine, you know when I read the script in April, I read it and I was like, “Wow, this is, this is really come along. This is awesome.’
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle opens on December 20th. We can’t wait to see The Rock and his gang wandering about in a jungle. Jumanji is a part of our childhoods, so they better make a good movie!