USA TODAY International Edition

‘ Jungle’ stars keep barbs in ‘ Cruise’ mode

- Bryan Alexander

ANAHEIM, Calif. – WWE phenom, movie smackdown champ and “Jungle Cruise” star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson did not grasp what he was getting into after relentless­ly pursuing very British “Mary Poppins Returns” star Emily Blunt to co- lead the Disney action adventure. ● When the two disparate movie forces finally met at a Beverly Hills dinner in 2018, the magical sparring began immediatel­y. ● “You were more gentlemanl­y at first,” says Blunt, eyeing a concurring Johnson just yards away from the Disneyland Jungle Cruise ride that serves as the movie’s inspiratio­n. “But the moment he sat down, I went straight for the jugular.”

The playfully ( we’re pretty sure) savage barbs and cutting chemistry sizzled when the 6- foot- 5 Johnson filmed as Amazon riverboat captain Frank Wolff with the 5- foot- 7 Blunt as scientist passenger Lily Houghton in “Jungle Cruise” ( in theaters and on Disney+ via Premier Access on Friday).

The zingers still fly today. Even before cameras roll for a USA TODAY interview, the two broadly bicker over Blunt’s blanket that is shedding on Johnson’s perfect pants.

“Not sure why you’re doing this now,” Blunt quips to Johnson. “I’m keeping the blanket. Talk about Captain Anal.”

“Really, that’s how it’s going to be?” Johnson retorts. “OK, be ready my friend. Here it comes.”

We unleashed the duo for a final wicked voyage revisiting what it

took to board their “Jungle Cruise.”

Question: Mr. Rock, as a producer on ‘ Jungle Cruise,’ you made a personal video and sent letters from Disney execs to convince Blunt. Have you ever pursued a costar like this?

Emily Blunt: It got stalker- ish. Dwayne Johnson: It was only borderline stalker- ish. I’m going to get arrested. Chris Hansen is waiting outside.

Blunt ( laughing): The “Catch a Predator” host? Seriously? But really it was the script. That’s all I needed.

Johnson: ( Director) Jaume Collet- Serra flew to Brooklyn to handdelive­r the script. And I said to him, show her this video I made. I can be very charming when I want to be. So I said –

Blunt interrupts: Your video didn’t do anything. It made me want to run.

Q: Ms. Blunt, did you really ghost The Rock after that personal entreaty?

Blunt: Everyone says it’s ghosting ( to Johnson). I’ll say now, I was very touched by your lovely video. It was clearly an impassione­d plea.

Johnson: It wasn’t really an impassione­d plea. It was, ‘ I admire your work. You and I together onscreen will be phenomenal.’

Blunt: It was begging.

Johnson: I have to say this: She didn’t respond, which is fine. She needed to read the script. But what you do, if you’re just a human being with a shred of emotion or decency, is respond.

Q: The movie incorporat­es tour guide pun- filled humor made infamous on the original Jungle Cruise ride. Ms. Blunt, how did you hold back real laughter?

Blunt: It was very easy. I’m not a fan of puns.

Q; There’s clearly a lot of improv in the movie. What off- the- rails scene didn’t make it?

Blunt: Oh god. It made it in the movie, but the scene where I pull the sword out of him. We shot innuendo after innuendo. There’s a whole movie there. We were seeing how far we could push Disney with innuendos. There’s now just enough for the adults to laugh and the kids to ask why they’re laughing.

Johnson: To Disney’s credit, they let us push it just enough.

Blunt: They did truncate it.

Question: What was ultimately cut?

Johnson: Nearly all of it. Think of my dirty sense of humor and ( multiply) that by 1,000. Then you get her sense of humor. So you can imagine what that scene looked like.

Q: There’s an epic kiss that turns into a group hug with co- star Jack Whitehall ( playing Lily’s brother MacGregor) – and no doubt an actor playing a computer- generated screen leopard. How awkward was that?

Blunt: It was two takes. Jack was horrified. He said it was like watching his parents kiss at that point. It was at the end of the shoot, which made it all the more awkward.

And yes, there was a leopard. He was played by a man named Ben, who had very beautiful eyes.

Johnson: It all just reminded me of those crazy times when you get really high at three in the morning. Those are the thoughts you have.

Q: And the scene where Frank gives Lily, trapped underwater, mouth- to- mouth oxygen. How was that to shoot?

Blunt: It’s such a beautiful scene. But on the day, we couldn’t even see each other. It was very murky in the water.

So I could have been kissing anyone. It might have been one of your stunt doubles.

Johnson: It was probably my foot. So that would be my foot in your mouth.

Q: Might you two overcome your differences and get the band back together for “Jungle Cruise 2”?

Blunt: We’ve had really great conversati­ons; Jaume has some really exciting ideas. We all have such an investment in this; Disney does as well. Hopefully, people want to see the journey continue.

 ?? PROVIDED BY FRANK MASI/ DISNEY ?? Why so serious? Frank Wolff ( Johnson) and Lily Houghton ( Blunt) encounter dangers in Disney’s “Jungle Cruise.”
PROVIDED BY FRANK MASI/ DISNEY Why so serious? Frank Wolff ( Johnson) and Lily Houghton ( Blunt) encounter dangers in Disney’s “Jungle Cruise.”
 ?? PROVIDED BY MARCO GROB ?? Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt team up and sometimes play nice in “Jungle Cruise,” in theaters and on Disney+ Friday.
PROVIDED BY MARCO GROB Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt team up and sometimes play nice in “Jungle Cruise,” in theaters and on Disney+ Friday.
 ?? PROVIDED BY FRANK MASI/ DISNEY ?? It's only acting. Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson check out their latest scene with director Jaume Collet- Serra on the set of “Jungle Cruise.”
PROVIDED BY FRANK MASI/ DISNEY It's only acting. Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson check out their latest scene with director Jaume Collet- Serra on the set of “Jungle Cruise.”

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