Ju­manji star Karen Gil­lan talks flirt­ing, The Avengers and un­leash­ing her in­ner ac­tion hero­ine

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If you’re going to be stuck in a jungle with a bunch of guys, it may as well be Dwayne John­son, Kevin Hart and Jack Black, says Karen Gil­lan — who found her­self in that very predica­ment in the wilds of Hawaii film­ing the new ad­ven­ture com­edy Ju­manji: Welcome To the Jungle.

“Hey, there are worse guys you could be stuck with!” says the ris­ing Scot­tish star. “The value of these guys was high, they kept spir­its up with their sheer hi­lar­ity. It was like be­ing stranded in the jungle with the fun­ni­est men on the planet.”

Hav­ing al­ready proven her­self a kick-butt ac­tion hero­ine as com­pan­ion Amy Pond in

Doc­tor Who and the blue­painted Ne­bula in Guardians

of the Gal­axy, the ef­fer­ves­cent Gil­lan, 30, (read ev­ery­thing she says as if she’s laugh­ing while say­ing it, be­cause she usu­ally is) re­veals she’s no slouch in the hu­mour depart­ment, ei­ther, with her per­for­mance op­po­site

Ju­manji’s com­edy heavy­weights. Not so much a re­make or se­quel as it is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Ju­manji uni­verse, Welcome

To the Jungle be­gins with four high school­ers, stuck do­ing de­ten­tion, stum­bling across an old video game.

Sucked into the con­sole, they emerge on the other side as very dif­fer­ent avatars in the game: The nerd be­comes a beefed-up badass (John­son). The jock be­comes the fraidy-cat (Hart). The book­worm be­comes a kung-fu fight­ing “killer of men” (Gil­lan). And the self-ab­sorbed mean girl finds her­self stuck in the body of an over­weight mid­dle aged man (Black).

Given Gil­lan de­scribes her­self as “a deeply gan­gly, awk­ward per­son,” it’s not a great leap to sur­mise the timid teen Martha we meet at the start of the movie is closer to the ac­tor’s per­son­al­ity than the kick-ass Ruby Round­house she be­comes in the game.

“That’s why I was cast in the role!” she al­most roars. “I think the di­rec­tor met me and went, ‘Oh, you ARE this is girl!’ Which is fair.”

Yet Gil­lan has risen to promi­nence play­ing can-do, pow­er­ful women.

“Yeah, it’s in­ter­est­ing,” she pon­ders. “In a weird way Ju­manji is mir­ror­ing my jour­ney be­cause I am an awk­ward, weird per­son and I keep play­ing these kick-ass roles and found my own in­ner kick-ass spirit (by) pre­tend­ing to have it. It’s the same jour­ney for this char­ac­ter.”

Fun­nily enough, Gil­lan kicks more butt than even John­son in this film — “I was con­stantly do­ing all the ac­tion, as far as I re­mem­ber,” she says. But what re­ally stands out is a se­quence in which Martha/Ruby learns to flirt, then uses those new skills to dis­tract two heav­ies.

“That was my favourite thing to do ever,” she raves, “just like the worst flirt­ing, the worst sexy face, then beat the s--- out of them! It’s like my days back in Scot­land,” she says.

For flirt­ing tips, Martha re­lies on the pop­u­lar Bethany, a role em­bod­ied with freak­ish re­al­ism by Black in the game world.

“It’s so funny,” says Gil­lan, think­ing about her “girlie chats” with the School Of Rock star. “Every­one’s like, ‘What does it feel like to be the only fe­male in the cast?’ and I keep for­get­ting. I mean, there are two fe­male char­ac­ters in this movie, it’s just that one of them’s played by a man, but so ac­cu­rately that it makes me for­get that I was the only fe­male.”

Some have been scep­ti­cal of Welcome To the Jungle, wor­ried it will harm the mem­ory of the 1995 Ju­manji, which starred Robin Williams. Gil­lan was one of the first diehards the new pro­duc­tion had to win over — she counts the orig­i­nal among her “Top 3 films of all time” and would never have let any­one ruin it.

“When I first heard they were mak­ing a se­quel, I was like, ‘What the hell are they going to do with it?’ But I read the script and im­me­di­ately re­alised that this was some­thing spe­cial. They weren’t try­ing to recre­ate the orig­i­nal and yet they weren’t ig­nor­ing it. It’s kept all the best el­e­ments of the orig­i­nal and they’ve evolved enough to be rel­e­vant to a new gen­er­a­tion. So I’m re­ally happy with it.”

(For the record, the rest of her Top 3 is all Stan­ley Kubrick: 2001, The Shin­ing ... “Or A Clock­work

Orange. It’s a ridicu­lous com­bi­na­tion of films.”) Gil­lan hopes kids will grab on to the new movie’s mes­sage of “em­brac­ing who you are”. Raised in In­ver­ness, she moved to Ed­in­burgh and then Lon­don as a teen to study act­ing. She has am­bi­tions be­hind the cam­era, too, hav­ing di­rected her first fea­ture last year.

Gil­lan has been to Aus­tralia once, on a kamikaze hol­i­day that lasted only twice as long as the flight over. “So I need to come back and do it prop­erly.” That re­turn trip won’t be hap­pen­ing any time soon, with Gil­lan tied up into the new year film­ing back-to-back Avengers films.

She de­scribes the ex­pe­ri­ence of graft­ing the Guardians Of the Gal­axy

team on to the wider Marvel Cine­matic Uni­verse as akin to hav­ing “your im­me­di­ate fam­ily, then sud­denly meet­ing all of your cousins”. “It’s been amaz­ing to watch how all of the sto­ries and char­ac­ters are in­ter­twin­ing.”

Given the mind­bog­gling num­ber of su­per­heroes con­verg­ing in Avengers: In­fin­ity War, will Ne­bula get her chance to shine?

“Oh, I know she will,” Gil­lan says. “I’m so ex­cited for peo­ple to see how we ex­pand on Ne­bula’s story and her re­la­tion­ships with her fam­ily. It’s gonna come to a big, ex­plo­sive ... ah ... mo­ment.” She laughs. “I’m try­ing to be diplo­matic!”

WATCH JU­MANJI screens in ad­vance pre­views SatMon, then opens Box­ing Day. AVENGERS: IN­FIN­ITY WAR opens April 25



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