Based on the iconic ride developed in 1955 at Disneyland, Jungle Cruise takes the spirit of the slow and silly riverboat cruise and runs with it! Film cast Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, and Edgar Ramirez talked all about the film during the press conference for Jungle Cruise. They discussed casting for the film, their director Jaume Collet-Serra, adapting the film from the ride, and the various characters from this new action-adventure movie.
Casting the lead for the film was not hard, as Johnson admitted that he agreed to the part immediately. “The script was in a really good place, and I immediately just saw the potential of the opportunity,” he said, adding that he was excited to turn beloved and iconic Disney ride into a film. “There were a lot of elements that I felt comfortable with saying yes, I will come on board, I’ll partner with you guys, and we will develop this thing. And we got it to a really great place.”
Johnson explained that after finding the director, Jaume Collet-Serra, the next step was to find his co-star in Emily Blunt. Johnson recalled that Collet-Serra hand-delivered the script to Blunt with a long video message from Johnson, all in search of his female Indiana Jones, as he says it. After ghosting Johnson for a bit, Blunt finally joined the cast as Lily Houghton, and the chemistry was undeniable between the two stars. “We were pals for life immediately,” Blunt said. “I knew when we met. We had this rapport that, like, ping pong back and forth so quickly.”
Johnson added, “You hope to get lucky with your cast, and you like to have some chemistry.” With Blunt, he said, the chemistry was natural. “Emily and I have been talking a lot about chemistry these past couple of weeks doing press, and a lot of times, you fake it, you know, ’cause you’re acting.”
The comedic chemistry was also off the charts with the combined humor of Johnson, Whitehall, and Blunt. With a script that allowed for improvisation, Whitehall praised the allowance for experimentation when it came to improv. “Some of the great moments that you see in the film are genuine moments that we sort of came up with in the moment, and Jaume was so good at encouraging that as well,” Whitehall said.
An Operatic Villain
For Ramirez, who played the Conquistador Aguirre, becoming the operatic villain of the film meant exploring some of the more fantastical elements of movie-making. “What I love about the Conquistadors, and Aguirre specifically, is that it really puts you in a journey into the past,” Ramirez said. “You have all these fantastical elements, and that’s what I go to the movies for. I want to be on a journey. I want to be disconnected from reality. And be able to dream of fantastical places and fantastical characters and creatures.”
A lot of the work Ramirez had on-screen had to do with special effects due to the nature of his character (and without getting into too many spoilers). Johnson explained that the action choreography and stunts for those scenes were challenging, especially when it comes to their costuming.
Ramirez also had nothing but praise for his fellow castmates. “I mean, to be in a movie that is based on the most iconic attraction from the most iconic entertainment universe in history, such as Disney, it’s so special. And to be with these amazing people, it’s incredible. I love everything you did, and what you did is very difficult. That tone, to be witty and romantic and funny and snide, but cute at the same time. I mean, we as actors, we know that tone is very difficult to achieve, and you guys killed it.”
Developing the Character
Despite Jungle Cruise being a swashbuckling action film, there are still character beat moments, and one of them occurs between Johnson’s Frank and Whitehall’s McGregor, where McGregor reveals his past to Frank and the reason why he has stood so firmly beside his sister. Without spoilers, it is also a significant moment for McGregor’s character development.
“Yeah, I think it was a scene that we really wanted to get right,” said Whitehall. “I think what’s so great about this movie is that all of the characters feel so fleshed out, and all of them have interesting backstories and are fully realized. And, you know, in a lot of movies of this kind of genre sometimes, you’d have characters that are a little bit kinda two-dimensional. But I think it’s so great that we get to understand so much about each of these characters.”
The Adventure Genre
For many new audience members, Jungle Cruise revitalizes the action-adventure genre that has been in a lull for the past few years. “It has been immensely rewarding,” said Blunt. “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. I mainlined 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.”
“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 builder, which you need for those adventure movies. You need it.” Blunt added that when they first met Collet-Serra, they asked him what he felt the film was about, and his reply was, “It’s about love.”
“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 and a world builder, and that’s what you need for this type of movie,” praised Blunt.
Bringing the Ride to Life
Those familiar with the iconic Disney ride will see shades of the actual ride within the scope of the film, although Jungle Cruise quickly takes that and runs deep into the action-adventure genre. But, for Johnson, adapting the film came with a lot of nostalgia for the ride itself. “I had ridden the ride when I was a kid. Many moons later, I went to Disney World for the first time and rode the ride then as well. So, it had a nostalgic element to it when it was first presented to me. But also, you know, really the opportunity that we had that we could create something that was hopefully unique and special.”
He continued, “And when you think about it, these elements that we have here are, you know, you hope to get lucky in a career where you have an opportunity like this where you can make a movie that’s based off an iconic ride that’s beloved, as Edgar was saying, with the most trusted brand in the world when it comes to family and delivering entertainment for families. So there were a lot of those elements that really spoke to me and it started with the script, and it started with our director. As Emily was saying, he is a romantic. He is a worldbuilder.”
Johnson went on to praise Collet-Serra, who is also currently the director for Black Adam, which also stars Johnson as the titular character and is currently in post-production, “We feel like he’s Hollywood’s best-kept secret.”
Comparing the ride with the film, Johnson said, “I think the movie is so much more than what I expected. The charm of the ride is the simplicity of it and the education of it as well. And the silliness of it. And the calmness of it too. You know, you go to the park and there’s so much to do in the Disney parks. Then you get on this ride and it’s almost like you can exhale and really just enjoy the simplicity of the ride. But our movie is anything but simple. You know, with all the elements that we have. So I think we delivered.”
Whitehall added, “I would say that’s the element to the Jungle Cruise ride that I like the most is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I think that that is definitely something that we took over into the movie. And it has such ambition and scale, and it’s beautiful, and the sets are incredible, and the set pieces and the action. 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. It’s got Dwayne Johnson doing a standup comedy routine.”
Jungle Cruise is in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access now!