The Rock walks — and runs — with the animals in ‘ Rampage’
Dwayne Johnson has finally found a co- star who’s bigger than “The Rock.”
In the action- adventure Rampage ( in theaters April 20), the largerthanlife Johnson plays a heroic primatologist whose best friend is a 7foot- tall, 500- pound rare albino silverback gorilla named George. “I’m pretty sure on paper he’s smarter than me as well,” Johnson quips.
Thanks to an experimental serum gone wrong, George and other creatures grow enormous and go on a path of destruction in Rampage, an adaptation of the 1980s video game that’s also grounded in real gene- editing science.
“Like with anything that powerful, you have to really be careful that you’re utilizing it wisely and not for the wrong reasons,” Johnson says. The former pro wrestler and Fast
and Furious regular stars as Davis Okoye, a guy who gets along with animals way better than with people. “When animals like you, they lick you. When they don’t like you, they eat you,” Johnson says. “That’s his philosophy, which has gotten him far in life.”
Davis notices George getting bigger and consequently more uncontrollable, and as he tries to help, it soon becomes clear the gorilla’s not the only beast affected: By the end of the movie, Davis is trying to keep George, a 30- foot wolf named Ralph, and Lizzie, a crocodile the size of a football field, from wrecking Chicago while also attempting to save his friend. ( George is played via performancecapture by 6- foot- 9 actor Jason Liles, and all three are romping, stomping CGI creatures created by effects house Weta Digital.)
Director Brad Peyton and Johnson last teamed for San Andreas two years ago, and as intense a disaster film as that was, “you have to ratchet up the dial 10 times with Rampage,” Johnson says.
Growing up in Hawaii, Johnson plunked a lot of quarters into Rampage arcade machines “when I was a teenager spending way too much time at pool halls, especially when school was actually in session,” he says, laughing. He also fostered a fascination for things of gargantuan size, from King Kong and Godzilla to Ultraman and Voltron.
Johnson spent time with folks from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund aswell as experts and animals at the Atlanta Zoo to understand a silverback gorilla’s psychology, energy and behavior.
“That was really eye- opening for me in terms of how dangerously close we are to having these beautiful animals extinct,” says Johnson, who adopted a baby silverback at the zoo. “There is a much greater level of empathy and care and consideration that we have to have.
“I was an animal lover before, but after this my love has become boundless.”
Dwayne Johnson has some big mutant critters on his hands after an experiment gone wrong.