By Zach Johnson
Two days after making a splash at the world premiere of Disney’s Jungle Cruise, four of the film’s stars—Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Édgar Ramírez, and Jack Whitehall—returned to Disneyland on Monday for a virtual press conference with media from all over the world.
Releasing simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on July 30, Disney’s Jungle Cruise stars Johnson as Frank Wolff, a charismatic skipper and head of the Jungle Navigation Company; Blunt as Lily Houghton, a strongminded scientist and explorer; Ramírez as Captain Aguirre, fearsome leader of the cutthroat conquistadors; and Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton, a proper English gent who’s simply along for the ride.
Disney’s Jungle Cruise “was made in the spirit of films that we all grew up watching,” explained Blunt, who cited Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone, and The African Queen among her favorite films. “They’re just joy bombs. They’re nostalgic, and we wanted to pierce people’s hearts directly with the spirit of those films that we all loved as children.”
Here’s what else the cast had to say during the virtual press conference:
1. Dwayne Johnson went overboard to convince Emily Blunt to be his co-star.
Johnson said he signed on to the project “immediately,” whereas Blunt required a little more convincing. “Our director, Jaume Collet-Serra, was flying to New York to meet Emily to hand deliver the Jungle Cruise script,” Johnson said. “Before he went, I said, ‘Listen, I’m gonna send you a video. Just give it to her, from me.’ I said, ‘Emily, you are the only one who can do this movie.’” Blunt said she was “very touched” by the gesture, adding, “I really loved it!” Once she was on board, the co-stars “became pals for life” instantaneously, and their natural chemistry is apparent onscreen. “I knew when we met,” Blunt said. “We had this rapport that ping-ponged back and forth so quickly. I thought, ‘This is going to be fun.’”
2. “How many of you are on the Jungle Cruise for the first time? Good! So am I!”
Johnson and Whitehall first experienced the pun-fueled riverboat adventure ride as children. Blunt and Ramírez, however, didn’t board the world-famous Jungle Cruise until the night of the premiere. “I loved it,” said Blunt. “I thought it was very whimsical and sweet, and I could see the elements from the ride that have made it into the film.” Ramírez said he experienced the attraction with his family and friends after the screening, “and I loved it for the same reasons that Emily just described, because it was simple, it was cute, it was tender, and it was silly.” The movie draws inspiration from its namesake attraction and brings it to the “next level,” he added. “It [has] that delicious silliness that is so refreshing.”
3. Jack Whitehall’s character isn’t as superficial as he first appears.
In one scene, MacGregor reveals to Frank that he previously broke off three engagements to women because his “interests happily lay elsewhere.” He then explains that he would do anything for his sister, Lily—including following her into the Amazon—as she was the only person who stood by him after he came out. “I think it was a scene that we really wanted to get right,” said Whitehall. “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 they’re fully realized.”
4. Édgar Ramírez’s character adds a supernatural element to the film.
Captain Aguirre causes major problems for Frank, Lily, and McGregor as they cruise through the Amazon… but Ramírez doesn’t see him as a bad guy. “Is he a villain? He’s misunderstood,” Ramírez argued. “It comes from pain. I feel for him.” What he loves about the conquistadors—and Aguirre, specifically—is that they take the audience on a journey into the past. “You have all these fantastical elements, and that’s what I go to the movies for. I want to be disconnected from reality and go on a journey and be able to dream of fantastical places, and fantastical characters, and fantastical creatures. So, I’m very happy.”
5. Jaume Collet-Serra literally created a fun environment for the cast and crew.
The film had an expert stunt team that designed incredible sequences for the actors, but Collet-Serra insisted that they always be character-driven. Some of the stunts, it turned out, would be easier to execute than others. “The vine swing, for me, was the most challenging because [Johnson] would not let me get one straight take! He pushed it so far—every time—to try and make me laugh on that vine swing,” Blunt recalled. “I was like, ‘Just tell me what you’re going to say this time so I can be prepared!’ And every time he’d throw in some awful improv that would make me laugh. I don’t know how many times we must have shot that.” According to Whitehall, Collet-Serra created a playful environment. “The script was amazing, but we were given the space to improvise. He really encouraged that. There were probably a few jokes that ended up on the cutting room floor… for the right reasons!”