He has become the best Hollywood ally of Catalan Jaume Collet-Serra, in the same way that Liam Neeson was before. It is that in the great film industry Dwayne Johnson has a lot of weight when it comes to big decisions, and as a star and producer of Jungle Cruise, which opens today in Spain, was the one who decided to bet on a director who came from thrillers and horror movies. Renowned enough to launch major blockbusters, the star who used to be The Rock In the world of wrestling, he was so happy with the results in the film of almost 170 million euros that he hired Collet for his next project, Black Adam, the comic book adaptation that originally started at Marvel and was later acquired by DC, and will hit theaters next year.
Why do you think this was the time to tell a story based on that Disneyland attraction?
It all has to do with timing and opportunity, but it is certainly an attraction that was very important to Walt Disney himself. In 1955, when he opened the park, it was his way of bringing the jungle to people who had never been on safari, to people in the United States who were not used to traveling. The truth is that the studio had been thinking for years how to adapt that game to the big screen and when they found a way to tell a story linked to that imaginary walk through the jungle they did. Sometimes that is achieved immediately and in other cases it takes decades.
“When Jaume Collet-Serra presented us with his vision of history, he convinced us”
Why do you think that Jaume was the right director for this movie? It doesn’t exactly come from the world of comedy …
Because we knew that it can be a lot of fun in a very subtle way, and since it has been forged by making thrillers, where you have to be very precise when creating scenes, we were sure that it was going to do this job very well. I admit that there were many directors who were determined to keep this opportunity, but when Jaume presented us with his vision of the story, we were convinced. I remember that in our first meeting I asked him what was the essence of this movie, and he told us that deep down this was a love story. That gave us an idea of the type of movie we wanted to make.
He has done many blockbusters. What was it that distinguished this one in particular?
Dishes. The one they built in Hawaii was one of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen, and probably the biggest ever built in Hollywood. Massive, epic, beautiful. He certainly managed to instill a spirit of adventure in both Emily and me. I love his character. It is inspired by Indiana Jones, because Lilly is always up for anything. This woman is a great adventurer, a researcher who thirsts for discoveries and is in search of wisdom.
Did the chemistry between the actors happen immediately?
Yes, although you never know how things are going to turn out. I have been an admirer of your work for many years. And in the first meeting we shared we felt that there was chemistry between the two. Luckily it worked, because this movie is inspired by The queen of africa, on After the green heart and of course in Indiana Jones.
What was it like to set life in the Amazon?
Fantastic. It is a very special time that is portrayed in our film, because it is 1916, before everything was marketed in that corner of the world. It was very interesting to film in Hawaii as if it were the Amazon, on this boat, The Quila, which hardly works and which looks really bad, but which also transports us to a great adventure like the ones that Hollywood, and particularly Disney, know how to do. In the film we try to honor the attraction that means so much to generations who have enjoyed it in the parks thanks to the wonderful work of Larry Dias, an Oscar-nominated creator who builds simply spectacular sets.
“The film is a tribute to the Disney attraction that brought the Americans on safari”
He has been doing action scenes in the cinema for years. Do you still enjoy them as much as at the beginning of your career?
Of course. They fascinate me. As long as they are unique and can contribute something different, I am always ready to do them. Come on, I really enjoy this job. As you say, I have been in this for several years and I have had the opportunity to make many films. And I’m always trying to switch from one project to the next. Whether it is Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw, Jumanji O Jungle Cruise, each with their own, I always enjoy action scenes.
He has returned to work with Jaume in Black Adam…
That’s how it is. I am very excited about that movie. It is unique. He’s going to up the ante in the DC universe and he’s also going to introduce the Justice Society of America to the world. Jaume always had a very precise vision of what he wanted to tell. And Black Adam is a unique antihero, who is going to revolutionize the world of DC.
Are you amazed at how far you have come in your adventure with cinema?
Of course. I am very proud of the career that I have managed to develop in Hollywood, breaking some molds along the way. When I started there was no model that I could follow, because ultimately I was a half Samoan and half black wrestler who had everything to excel in the world of wrestling, but cinema was something else, and I wanted to have a career like Will Smith’s or George Clooney’s. That is why at a certain point I changed agencies, created my production company and began to invite people who could help me broaden my horizons. I left the world of wrestling when I was at the top and made the transition to cinema but not only did I want to make action films, I was interested in something else. I wanted to have a diverse career because I knew it was going to give me longevity in this industry.
Did part of your strategy involve changing your name?
That’s how it is. When I made my first movies, The scorpion king and The Mummy Returns I was simply The Rock and so it was until I did the fourth or fifth. Then, in a very thoughtful and calculated change, I became Dwayne The Rock Johnson and then I started using just my first and last name. I knew it was a process that was going to take time. On the other hand, I am very proud of my career as a wrestler being The Rock, what I achieved was amazing and it is a name that I love. The truth is that I had to learn everything about Hollywood, because my parents were neither actors nor studio executives. But throughout the process I realized that I didn’t have to worry about my name or my size. I realized that I didn’t have to stick to any rules, and if they wanted to call me The Rock, I didn’t have to bother. And if I decided to do television, I wasn’t going to limit myself either because I was a movie actor. I never followed the rules, and I think that is what has allowed me to remain in force so many years later.
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“I never played by the rules”