Disney action-adventure movie, Jungle Cruise, hits cinemas and Disney + premier access this Friday. The film, set in 1917, is an old-fashioned adventure story with plenty of modern twists. Based on the iconic Disneyland ride of the same name, the film has no damsels in distress, a heartwarming coming-out story, and a hero who must admit that muscles aren’t always the key to beating the bad guys.
Ahead of the film’s release, we had the chance to attend the virtual press conference where Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, and Jack Whitehall told the awaiting press what drew them to the film and revealed how much fun they had on set.
Johnson plays Frank Wolff, a dodgy but charming boat owner who gives tours of the Amazon River to tourists. Johnson is also one of the film’s producers. He says he knew immediately that he wanted to be part of Jungle Cruise.
“The script was in a really good place, and I immediately just saw the potential of the opportunity to take a beloved and iconic Disney ride. This was Walt Disney’s baby. 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 into a really great place.”
Johnson also says he went on the Disneyland ride as a child and loved the sense of nostalgia that the script evoked.
He says that Emily Blunt, who plays adventurous scientist Dr Lily Houghton, was the perfect actor for the job and calls her a female Indiana Jones, a moniker Blunt is quick to deflect. “It is too much pressure to be called that,” she says.
Blunt also felt an instant draw to the film, and the nostalgic elements were a big part of that draw.
“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. I mainlined those movies into my veins. I just loved Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone and the African Queen. They are 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 loved as children.”
Blunt says the film’s director, Jaume Collet-Serra, is an innate romantic and a world builder, which is the right combination needed to make this type of movie a success.
Johnson and Blunt have great on-screen chemistry, which spills into real life as they tease each other throughout the press conference. Blunt says their rapport was instantaneous. “We were pals for life immediately. I knew when we met; we had this rapport that ping pongs back and forth so quickly.”
Edgar Ramirez plays Aguirre, a character whose intentions aren’t clear at the start. The Venezuelan actor was to work with snakes and says, although he was delighted to be cast, the snakes were a problem. “I was very happy that those snakes weren’t anywhere near me during the shoot. I am afraid of snakes! We shot in real locations and dressed them to look like the Amazon; it looks incredible. I come from an Amazonian country, and I saw the movie for the first time at the premiere, and I’m so happy. I adore the movie.”
Ramirez points out that Blunt did not have an easy job but says she captured her character perfectly. “[Lily’s] tone – to be witty, romantic, funny, and snide but cute at the same time, that is very difficult. As actors, we know that tone is very difficult to achieve, and you killed it!”
Much of the film takes place on Johnson’s character’s boat. Ramirez says he was jealous when he was watching the movies. “I wish I was on the boat they had so much fun.”
The others agree and say that their shoot on the boat was full of ad libbing – that sometimes went too far with over the top puns. Whitehall says that there is so much footage of them ad-libbing that it would be possible to make another movie. “There is another film in there, but it wouldn’t be PG13!”
This is technically Whitehall’s second time starring in a Disney movie, but the first time he made it to the screen. “I had a line in Frozen, but it was cut. I felt like this was just a case of throwing enough stuff at the wall and something sticking because I was just desperate not to be cut from the film since the Frozen debacle. I’m so excited to actually be in a Disney film. There was a fair amount of improv, the script was amazing, but we were given the space to improvise. These two [Blunt and Johson] created an environment where we were able to do that, and it felt like such a safe space. There were probably a few jokes that ended up on the cutting room floor for the right reasons, but some of the great moments that you see in the film are genuine moments that we came up with in the moment.”
In a first for Disney, the film has a coming-out scene, and without spoiling which character was involved, Johnson has this to say: “I felt that the scene was exactly what it was, which was two men talking about what they loved, and who they loved. It was as simple as that, talking, and we were sharing a drink.”
Johnson adds that the film beat their expectations “The movie is so much more than what I expected. The charm of the ride is the simplicity of it and the education and then the silliness of it, but our movie is anything but simple.” The rest of the cast chime in to say that the silliness and warmth of the film combined with the action and scale make Jungle Cruise a film they not only loved making but really enjoyed watching as well.
Words – Cara O’Doherty
Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” Premieres Friday, July 30th in cinemas and Disney+ with Premier Access.