Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Disney’s epic adventure JUNGLE CRUISE is based on the hugely popular theme park ride that opened in Disneyland in 1955. And, while the film makes lots of nods to the premiere attraction in Adventureland, it features an original, hugely entertaining story largely influenced by films like ROMANCING THE STONE and THE AFRICAN QUEEN. Riverboat tour guide Frank Wolff (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is hired by Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) to take her on an Amazonian river cruise to find the elusive, mythological tree whose petals hold the power to heal. Trouble is, this legendary tree is also being pursued by an eccentric German prince (Jesse Plemons) and a cursed conquistador (Edgar Ramirez), whose got some scores to settle.
At the film’s recent virtual press day, the stars shared some fun details about the making of the film with journalists.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson pursued Emily Blunt to take the role – and she ghosted him. For a short time anyways. She clearly took the part after a much dogged pursuit by the former wrestler. “I just wanted to play a little bit hard to get,” she admitted. Her massive co-star added context, “Our director Jaume Collet-Serra was flying to New York to meet Emily and hand-deliver the script. As he went, I said, ‘I’d like you to give her this video from me.’ I said, ‘Emily, you are the only one who can do this movie.’ Blunt, in true fashion to her character, said, “As a British person, if someone comes on too strong, it’s just better to go, ‘Okay. Just tone it down. You need to back it up a little bit.’”
A whole entire other movie wound up on the cutting room floor – one that would’ve assuredly changed the family-friendly rating. Sure to inspire a #ReleaseTheFilthyJungleCruiseCut campaign, or at least a super exclusive gag reel on the future blu-ray, co-star Jack Whitehall let it slip that they did multiple takes of the scene that featured The Rock getting a squiggle-bladed knife pulled out of him. “There was a fair amount of improv. There were probably a few jokes that ended up on the cutting room floor for the right reasons.” Collet-Serra had revealed there’s two other films he could cut just from the actors riffing. “One of them is not PG-13.” Blunt added, “Very red band. Especially the one involves pulling the sword out of Dwayne. We could’ve gone on. You should’ve heard…” The Rock filled in, “…the inuendo. Dark web stuff.”
Edgar Ramirez is afraid of snakes. He said, “I was very happy those snakes weren’t anywhere near me during the shoot. I’m super afraid of snakes and we encountered some of them when we were shooting in Atlanta. We shot in real locations and dressed them to look like the Amazon.”
The most difficult stunt to pull off was the rope swing done by Emily Blunt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It was supposed to be the pair’s tongue-and-cheek take on that classic adventure movie shot where the male hero takes the damsel in his arms and swings out of danger. But what the scene turned into was a goof on their stunt capabilities. Blunt said, “For me it was the most challenging because he would not let me get one straight take in. He pushed it so far to try to get me to laugh on that vine swing. Every time I was like, ‘Just tell me what you’re going to say so I can be prepared.’ I don’t know how many times we shot that.”
The brief story behind MacGregor’s coming out scene. There’s a poignant scene shared between MacGregor and Frank that has the duo that not only showcases the strengths behind male vulnerability, but also LGBTQ inclusivity. The Rock said he connected to the sequence because of the emotional drive. “I felt that the scene was two men talking about what they loved and who they loved, while sharing a drink, and it was as simple as that.” Whitehall augmented, “It was a scene we really wanted to get right. What’s so great about this movie is that all of the characters feel so fleshed out and all of them have interesting and rich backstories and are fully realized. It’s so great we get to understand about each of these characters and it makes you invested in them and own that journey with them.”
JUNGLE CRUISE debuts in theaters and on Disney+ with Premiere Access starting on July 30.