“Jungle Cruise’s” Emily Blunt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Talk Chemistry and Love of The Disneyland Ride
Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” takes audiences on a thrilling action-adventure through the heart of the Amazon jungle where there are dangerous animals that want and can kill you, legends and curses waiting to be unleashed, and horrible but hilarious puns. Based on the Disneyland ride of the same name, the film centers on Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her brother McGregor (Jack Whitehall) looking for the mythical Tears of the Moon, a magical flower with healing properties that could cure any illness. Though many have sought it out, no one has obtained it. Fortunately for them, they meet up with Frank (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a charming and roguish skipper who runs a scam with his jungle cruise. Though his motives are questionable, he is the perfect person to take Lily and McGregor on this perilous quest.
That’s It LA had the chance to join their fellow journalists to talk about “Jungle Crew” with Blunt, Johnson, Whitehall, and Edgar Ramirez, who plays the film’s tragic villain Aguirre, a conquistador who also searched for the flower but became cursed because of his impatience. During the virtual press conference, the four talked about their characters, how Jaume Collet-Serra flipped the action-adventure genre, representation in film, and more. Check out what they had to say.
One of the first people to jump aboard “Jungle Cruise” was Johnson, who says he immediately saw the “potential of opportunity” the film had. “That opportunity was to take a beloved and iconic Disney ride since 1955. When the park opened, this was Walt Disney’s baby. And there were a lot of elements that I felt comfortable with saying yes,” Johnson said.
A film that is based on a ride like “Jungle Cruise” lives or dies by the comedy of the script, and there’s plenty of that and improv comedy in the film. “We were given the space to kind of improvise and add stuff to it, and these to create this environment where we were able to do that, and it felt like such a safe space,” Whitehall said. “There were probably a few jokes that ended up on the cutting room floor for the right reasons. Some really great moments that you see in the film are like genuine moments that we sort of came up within the moment, and Jaume was so good at encouraging that as well.”
Of course, there’s more than enough riffing to make a couple of films, but according to Blunt, there was one particular that was too dark because of its innuendo involving a sword impaling Johnson’s Frank.
But “Jungle Cruise” has more than just nostalgia and memorable scenes from the ride and those silly puns. It’s a world that’s filled with characters with emotional depth. That idea comes full steam ahead during one of the calmer moments between Frank and McGregor, where the latter comes out as gay. This would be the first time a Disney film has ever addressed this in their signature blockbuster films, as previous ones played coy. But in “Jungle Cruise,” it couldn’t be any more honest.
“I felt that the scene was really exactly what it was, which was two men talking about what they loved and who they loved. And it was as simple as that. And we were sharing a drink,” Johnson said about the scene.
“I think it was a scene that we wanted to get right. I think what’s so great about this movie is that all of the characters feel so fleshed out. And all of them have, you know, interesting backstories,” Whitehall added. “In a lot of movies of this kind of genre. Sometimes, you’d have characters that are a little bit kind of two-dimensional. But I think it’s so great that we get to understand so much about each of these characters, and they all have reasons for being where they are. Their interesting and rich, textured backstories make you invested in them, and it makes you care about them.”
While Johnson, Blunt, and Whitehall have their history working with Disney, “Jungle Cruise” marks Ramirez’s first time working under the Mouse House banner. Though he plays the tragic rock opera villain, he is just happy that one particular trait wasn’t real. “I was very happy that those snakes weren’t anywhere near me during the shoot because I’m super afraid of snakes,” he said. And that fear of snake must run in the family because Ramirez’s mother told him she missed half of his performance because she covered her eyes whenever they appeared on his face.
“It’s very special to be in a movie like this,” Ramirez continued. “What I love about the movie, in general, is that it has so many beautiful and great characters that allow you to be on a journey. And what I love about the Conquistadores, Aguirre specifically, is that it puts you on a journey into the past. So you have all these fantastical elements, and that’s what we that’s what I go to the movies for. I want to be on a journey. I want to be disconnected from reality to dream of fantastical places and fantastical characters and creatures.”
But the one thing that Ramirez is most proud of when it comes to being a part of the film is that he gets to be a part of a diverse cast that reflects the world that we live in now. “I mean representation of the art is very important to us. And yeah, I’m very happy. I think that it’s that a beautiful reflection of the world that we live in,” he said.
Though the supporting cast participating in the press conference helps keep “Jungle Cruise” stay afloat, the film belongs to Blunt and Johnson, for it is their chemistry that helps keep everything on course. And that chemistry was an instant the moment the two met. “We were pals for life, immediately,” Blunt said. “It was like, I knew when we met, we had this rapport that like ping pong back and forth so quickly. And I just thought we’re gonna have a good time. I knew it.”
“It’s very true,” Johnson chimed back. But you hope to get lucky. You know, your cast and you’d like to try to have some chemistry, as Emily and I’ve been talking a lot about chemistry these past couple of weeks during press. And a lot of times, you at times you fake it, you know because you’re acting.”
“He’s been faking it for years,” Blunt joked.
“I will continue to fake it too,” Johnson added.
That chemistry is prevalent throughout the film. But as we all know, Johnson is pretty much like his Disney characters when it comes to that charm and physique. But Blunt sees herself leaning towards being more like Lily than Mary Poppins. “I feel like Lily is sort of more of a mess, and Poppins is so pulled together and perfected, and I don’t feel I walk through life that way,” Blunt said.
But the one thing that cannot be faked is how director Jaume Collet-Serra understood the script’s vision and how it’s a love letter to classic action-adventure films. “It has been immensely rewarding. To Edgar was talking about tonally, we just needed to strike a chord that was really well crafted and that we curated with so much love and was made in the spirit of the films that we all grew up watching,” Blunt said. “I just loved ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Romancing the Stone,’ and ‘African Queen’ like they are just joy bombs, and then nostalgic. And I think we just needed to pick people’s hearts directly with the spirit of those films that we all loved as children.”
“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 such a world-building, which you need for those adventure movies. You need it,” Blunt added. “But I know when he (Johnson) and I first met Jaume, we both asked him the same question. And we asked, what do you feel this movie is about? And I always ask a filmmaker that before I’m about to sign on because I want to know his call what the show is about what the movie is about. And he goes, ‘this about love.’ And it was so perfect because you could have talked about all the action of the spectacle and the myths and the legends and all that. But that’s when I knew in Jaume, we had an innate romantic and a world builder and that’s what you need for this type of movie.”
Jungle Cruise opens in theaters and launches on Disney+’s Premier Acess on July 30, 2021.