Earlier this week, Vital Thrills attended the Jungle Cruise movie press conference with Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall and Edgar Ramirez. Read on to find out what they had to say about the Disney film based on the theme park ride.
Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s Jungle Cruise is an adventure-filled, rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton.
Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila—his ramshackle-but-charming boat.
Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities – possessing the power to change the future of medicine.
Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest.
But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate — and mankind’s — hangs in the balance.
Blunt told us that she sort of “ghosted” Johnson at the beginning of the casting process. Johnson said, “So our director, Jaume Collet-Serra, was flying to New York to meet, uh, Emily to hand-deliver the Jungle Cruise script.” He said that along with the script was a video that Johnson recorded for her that said, “Emily, you are the only one who can do this movie.”
Blunt explained that “as a British person,” which she asked Whitehall to attest to, “If someone comes on too strong… just tone it down.” She laughed through the story, but said she wanted to read the script first. She added, “I did love your video.”
Of the film, Johnson said, “Well, the script was in a really good place, and I immediately just saw the potential of the opportunity. And that opportunity was to take a beloved and iconic Disney ride since 1955 when the park opened. 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 it to a really great place. And again, to bring it back around to Emily, the next step after Jaume, finding our director was finding my co-star. The female Indiana Jones over here.”
Whitehall was asked about all his one-liners in the film, and he said, “I mean, like, post the Frozen experience of having my one line cut from Frozen, I felt like this was just the case of throwing enough stuff at the wall and something sticking… ’cause I was just desperate to not be cut from it completely,” he joked.
“The fact that there’s even a single line is an improvement on the Frozen debacle, and I’m so excited to actually be a speaking part in a Disney film.” He also said there was a “fair amount of improv” in Jungle Cruise. “The script was amazing, but then also, we were given the space to kind of improvise and add stuff to it, and these two [Blunt and Johnson] created this environment where we were able to do that and it felt like such a safe space.”
Ramirez plays a character that has a bit of CGI snake-i-ness, which is all we’ll say without spoiling anything, and he said of seeing the finished film, “I was very happy that those snakes weren’t anywhere near me during the shoot… because I’m super afraid of snakes, and we encountered some of them when we were shooting in Atlanta, you know.”
Ramirez said it meant a lot to him to be a part of the Jungle Cruise movie, saying, “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.”
Of the most difficult thing to film, Blunt said it was the rope swing. “For me, 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 added, “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.”
Blunt also said she feels closer to her Jungle Cruise movie character Lily than her earlier role of Mary Poppins because, “I feel like Lily’s sort of more of a mess. Like, Poppins is so pulled together and perfected, and I don’t feel I walk through life that way.”
If you’ve been reading the news, you may know about the scene where Whitehall’s character implies his sexuality. Whitehall said, “I think it was a scene that we really 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 interesting backstories and are fully realized.
“And, 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, and they all have reasons for being where they are, and interesting and rich textured backstories.”
Disney+ subscribers can pre-order Premier Access to the Jungle Cruise movie from July 14 to July 29 for $29.99 in the U.S. and Canada. Once subscribers get Premier Access to the movie, they can watch it as many times as they want on any platform where Disney+ is available, with an active Disney+ subscription.
Jenna Busch has written and spoken about movies, TV, video games and comics all over the Internet for over 15 years, co-hosted a series with Stan Lee, appeared on multiple episodes of “Tabletop,” written comic books, and is a contributing author for the 13 books in the “PsychGeeks” series including “Star Wars Psychology.” She founded the site Legion of Leia and hosted the “Legion” podcast.