Dwayne John­son re­turns for a new take on a fam­ily clas­sic

Empire (Australasia) - - Preview - WORDS JOHN NU­GENT

LONG BE­FORE HE be­came The Rock — when he was merely The Peb­ble, per­haps — Dwayne John­son was a fresh­man at Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Mckin­ley High in Honolulu, Hawaii’s state cap­i­tal. Fast for­ward 30 years, and John­son is driv­ing a flame-throw­ing mo­tor­cy­cle through a jun­gle half an hour north of his old school, film­ing the new Ju­manji movie as the high­est-paid ac­tor in Hol­ly­wood. “To be able to come back like this,” he beams, “on a movie of this size, to put a lot of good peo­ple to work, it’s very cool.”

John­son is speak­ing from Kualoa Ranch, Hol­ly­wood’s ‘Hawaii back­lot’ (it’s re­cently played host to Godzilla, Kong: Skull Is­land and Juras­sic World). This is the jun­gle we’ll be wel­comed to for Ju­manji: Wel­come To The Jun­gle, the fol­low-up to 1995’s Robin Wil­liams ad­ven­ture movie. This time the board game has been up­graded to a video game, with John­son as the lead in-game avatar of a new set of hap­less high-school kids (Jack

Black, Karen Gil­lan and Kevin Hart).

Later that night, Em­pire ven­tures on set. Sur­rounded by mon­key pod trees, flam­ing torches, in-game hench­men known as ‘dra­goons’, and the base of what will be­come (in post­pro­duc­tion) a gi­ant jaguar statue, we see the 5’4” Hart try and fail to fight his 6’2” co-star, Bobby Can­navale. “It’s be­cause he’s so small,” notes John­son, never miss­ing a chance to rib his co-star.

De­spite pun­ish­ing days, the cast are hav­ing a blast. In­deed, at the mere men­tion of his char­ac­ter name, the de­lec­ta­ble Dr Smol­der Brave­stone (“the best name of any char­ac­ter I’ve ever played!”), John­son bursts into a hearty laugh.

In fact, one of the cast won­ders if they’re not hav­ing too much fun. “Some of the best movies ever made were fuck­ing hor­ri­ble sets, filled with tur­moil and strife,” jokes Black. “Maybe I’ll cause some strife, to make sure it’s one of the best films of all time.”

Clock­wise from above: Game on: Ruby Round­house (Karen Gil­lan) and Moose Fin­bar (Kevin Hart) ac­com­pany Dr Smol­der Brave­stone (Dwayne John­son) into the jun­gle; Ruby makes a de­ci­sive move; A Moose has a close en­counter with some rhi­nos; Di­rec­tor Jake...

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