To make a movie is to manage a never-ending list of concerns — especially a big-budget Disney movie poised to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean — but on the set of Jungle Cruise, there is one thing absolutely no one is worried about: Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt’s chemistry.
The movie, based on the beloved Disney attraction, stars Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton, a turn of the century researcher who travels to the Amazon in search of a legendary tree with the ability to cure all known maladies. There, she hires a hapless riverboat skipper named Frank (Johnson), and the two strike up an odd-couple rapport, full of wisecracking wordplay and the possibility of something more.
Sitting side-by-side on a stone wall erected as part of the film’s sprawling Hawaii set, Johnson chivalrously holding an umbrella for his co-star amid the ceaseless rain, it’s clear that dynamic continues even when the cameras stop rolling. The secret to their onscreen chemistry might be that each genuinely seem to enjoy making the other laugh offscreen, playfully bantering back and forth and egging one another on. If you ask them, they are having “too much fun.”
During a break from filming, the duo discuss making the type of movie Hollywood doesn’t make anymore, the reason Blunt’s 7-year-old daughter fell in love with Johnson and why Jungle Cruise remains his all-time favorite ride.
Emily, you’re playing a really badass woman. What does it mean to play this character, not only in this time we’re in now but [in the time period of the movie] when she was so ahead of her time?
Dwayne Johnson: Well–
Emily Blunt: No, Dwayne. That one is so not for you. [Laughs] I look for characters that I have an in with. Like, even if they’re delusional or crazy, if you have some in with them, that’s always the first thing. And there was something about this character — not that she is delusional or crazy — she is just so tenacious, exciting, determined, completely free-spirited, kind of weird and a really interesting character. Not the damsel in distress that you would imagine in this kind of genre or the sort of straight lace British person, which I was not wanting to do either.
Dwayne Johnson: Especially at this time.
Emily Blunt: Oh my God, no. No one wants to play British.
Dwayne Johnson: No, I meant time period! Let me clarify.
Emily Blunt: This is why he doesn’t want to do interviews with me. Dwayne, that is inappropriate. [Laughs] I think she is very unusual for her time. She is a trailblazer, and I think that that determination and tenacity was really exciting for me.
Speaking of this genre, we’ve heard this script isn’t exactly action/adventure, and it has a lot of twists. How does it differentiate itself from the action genre? And what about the script drew you to it?
Emily Blunt: I think there are a lot of films that have tried to emulate films like Romancing the Stone — everyone’s like, “Oh yeah, we’re making Romancing the Stone” — and it never is that. It’s never that film. And I think that this film has those qualities, but it’s got qualities that are sort of supernatural, similar to Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s a huge action-packed film, a lot of practically-shot, big Hollywood–