With Disney releasing Jungle Cruise tonight in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere Access this Friday, we were lucky enough to participate in an invitation-only virtual press conference where we were allowed to ask the cast questions. Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, and Édgar Ramírez attended, and all were very candid about their experience making this film. Before we get into my takeaways from the event, this film is a ton of fun. It evokes memories of Romancing the Stone, The Mummy, and even just enough supernatural elements to keep the tension high throughout. Now that we touched on that, here are some of the highlights from the press conference.
5. The Rock needed Emily Blunt
We learned early on in the press conference that both director Jaume Collet-Serra and Dwayne Johnson that there was only one person who could play Lily in the film. Johnson explained, “So our director, Jaume Collet-Serra, was flying to New York to meet Emily to hand-deliver the Jungle Cruise script.” We learned shortly after his comment that a video accompanied the script that was 25 minutes long. When asked to provide some context behind the video, Johnson added, “I said, “Emily… you are the only one who can do this movie.” Blunt then responded, “I was very touched. Jack attests to this as a British person.” Their instincts told them they need Emily for the film, and anyone who sees the film will most certainly agree.
4. Chemistry is everything
While we all heard about Dwayne’s sell pitch to Emily, it became apparent after seeing the film why he was so hell-bent on getting her to sign on to the project. This type of chemistry is very rare. For two actors to hit it off so quickly after never working once together is certainly unusual. Blunt added, “I knew when we met, we had this rapport that allowed us to ping pong back and forth so quickly.” Johnson followed that up with, “You hope to get lucky with your cast, and you try to have some chemistry, and at times, you fake it, you know, ’cause you’re acting, but this was different.” Genuine chemistry always leads to a better final product which is evident in the film.
3. Improv anyone? How about snakes?
It seems the relaxed atmosphere on set allowed for some improv to occur during the shoot. Jack Whitehall revealed, “I mean, there was a fair amount of improv. The script was amazing, but then also, we were given the space to improvise and add stuff to it, and these two (Dwayne and Emily) created this environment where we were able to do that, and it felt like such a safe space.” When asked about his look (“Iconic,’ says Johnson) in the film, Ramirez said, “I was very happy that those snakes weren’t anywhere near me during the shoot ’cause I’m super-afraid of snakes, and we encountered some of them when we’re shooting in Atlanta.” He continued, “But I loved it. I mean, to be in a movie that is based on the most iconic attraction from the most iconic entertainment universe in history…it’s so special.” There are certainly some moments of frivolity in the film which appear to be just that which didn’t track in any way.
2. Difficult stunts
One thing which did stand out during the film is the number of difficult stunts occurring during various scenes. When Emily and Dwayne were asked which one was the most difficult to shoot, they both agreed. Blunt stated, “The rope swing. It was the most challenging because he would not let me get one straight take in. He was going-he pushed it so far every time to try and make me laugh on that vine swing. We shot that all day. We didn’t get one straight one.” Johnson responded by saying, “It was that heroic vine swing that you think you know where-where the-where the-the hero grabs the lady. You know, with that intention, and takes off and goes to save the day. And then, of course, it just goes to hell because I don’t save the day.” While this wouldn’t have been the stunt I’d have guessed was the most challenging, their response was a nice window into the chemistry these two clearly have.
1. Tone is everything
It seems that everyone associated with the film was hyper focused on making sure the tone of Jungle Cruise was perfect. While the film has many action sequences, Jungle Cruise is a romantic film. Blunt pointed out that Jungle Cruise was made in the spirit of the films we all grew up watching. “I mainline those movies into my veins. I just loved Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone, African Queen. Like, they are just joy bombs, and they’re nostalgic, and I think we just needed to pierce people’s hearts directly with the spirit of those films that we all loved as children. And it just took a lot of tempering and beautiful conducting from Jaume, who was just extraordinarily free-spirited with us in this massive spectacle of a movie.
Blunt continued, “He’s such a world builder which you need for those adventure movies. You need it. But I know when he and I first met Jaume, we both asked him the same question. And we said, ‘Well, what do you feel this movie’s about?’ And I always ask a filmmaker that before I’m about to sign on, ’cause I want to know it’s called what the shows about, what the movie’s about. And he goes, ‘You know, it’s it’s about love.’ And it was so perfect, ’cause you could’ve talked about all the action, the spectacle, and the myths and the legends and all that. But that’s when I knew in Jaume we had an innate romantic.”
Jack Whitehall agreed but also highlighted that it’s a comedy too, through and through. “It’s got all of that. But at the heart of it as well, it’s not a movie that takes itself too seriously. It has wit, it has humor. It’s got some of the best puns I’ve ever heard.” He continued, “it has such ambition and scale, and it’s beautiful, and the sets are incredible, and the set pieces and the action.”
Photo: Frank Masi/Disney Enterprises