Dwayne Johnson: Humor is a critical element in Rampage

Apr 10, 2018, 21:14 IST | mid-day online correspondent

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, talks about his upcoming film Rampage in a candid interview

Dwayne Johnson in Rampage

How does "Big Meets Bigger" define this movie?
Rampage is a big movie – big in scale, big in action and big in heart. It’s epic in every way. We have not just a gigantic, amazing albino gorilla, we have a super-sized mutated grey wolf and a massive crocodile. We destroy a major city. So, what fans can count on is big, intense action that really pushes the envelope and creates a non-stop ride of fun and chaos.

You've done big action films before, but your co-star Naomie Harris, who plays Kate, is less experienced in this realm. Did you give her any advice?
Naomie has serious dramatic chops, as we all saw with her performance in Moonlight. But she's also a badass who has guts. This was her first big action film with scenes of epic calamity and destruction, and she put a lot of trust in me when we filmed those scenes. It was incredibly impressive how she stepped onto the set and said, "I am throwing caution to the wind, bringing my experience to this film, even though I have never been in a helicopter that has crashed or been chased by enormous mutated animals. I'm just going to go for it." And she went for it.

On her first day on set, Naomie was thrown into a big action scene. The city of Chicago is going down. We were in a helicopter, rotating downward from the top of the tower. It involved a lot of destruction and we’re plummeting. There were a lot of marks she had to look at, plus green screen and a lot of, well, all those things that come with making this type of movie. And Naomie did it all. She was amazing. By day three, she was a master at the action. Just like that.

Naomie did a tremendous job with the role of Kate, who's the glue that holds it all together in the story – much like the women in my life hold it all together for me.

What was it like working opposite performance capture artist Jason Liles, who portrays George, an albino gorilla and best friend to your character, Davis?
I've seen performance capture in films and incredible work from people like Andy Serkis. But to actually experience it with Jason in Rampage was invaluable. He breathes life not only into George, but into everybody’s performance. Jason really immersed himself in studying the habits, emotions, vocalizations and personalities of gorillas. He's 6' 9" and would get down on all fours and walk and run like a gorilla. It was amazing to watch, and Jason embodies the emotions, spirit and energy of the animal. He gives a spectacular performance.

I heard that your dog, Hobbs, was an inspiration for the emotional connection Davis makes with George. How did that come into play?
One of the anchors in the movie, amid all the action and destruction, is the bond between Davis and George. I based a lot of that on the relationship I have with my little Frenchie bulldog, Hobbs, aka Bruce Wee. I've been an animal lover since childhood, and have had pets since I can remember, but my interplay with Hobbs is special. It's very rough and tumble, and we have a great time together – like Davis has with George.

It's important to me to balance the film’s action with heart. With San Andreas, the heart came from my character protecting his family. In Rampage, it's about Davis saving his best friend, George. That emotional connection makes the film more special.

This is your third collaboration with director Brad Peyton. How has your working relationship evolved over the years?
I really enjoy working with Brad. He’s a real guy’s guy from a small, working class town in Canada, and he’s all about the work and making sure it's as good as it can be. We don't leave until we get the shot he needs. On Rampage, our motto was, "How is this going to be different?" And he always figured out a way to make a scene or moment different from anything we've done before.

Brad loves movies, especially big movies like Jurassic Park and the Indiana Jones films, and those inform his sensibilities. He preps like a champion athletic coach. Everything is painstakingly detailed. The devil lies in the details and so does success.

When I visited the set of Rampage, you were inside a huge C-17 transport plane, and gigantic machines created what I was told were a hundred miles per hour winds. What was it like to film those scenes?
In the sequence, the C-17 is going down. To simulate that, the C-17 was put on a gimbal, which had to simulate a plane on fire and going down. Much of the time I was in a harness and attached to wires – and was hanging upside down. Those scenes were very complicated and intense because they required a lot of movements from many different directions and from many different department heads. So, the days were very long, but, when you're making a movie like Rampage, you better strap in and pack your lunch, because it’s going to be an all day long ass kicking.

Humor also plays a key role in the film. Why was that important?
Humor is a critical element in Rampage. The Rampage video game had a very simple storyline: three monsters destroy a city. But at the same time, the monsters would do things that would make the gamers laugh. For example, somebody would be taking a shower, and a monster would reach in the building, pull the naked victim out of the shower and eat him or her (laughs). We don't have "naked eating" in Rampage, because that would be a whole different movie that one day we may make, but not today. But we do have fun moments where audiences can take a moment to breathe and laugh. It’s important to bring audiences along on an epic, action-packed journey, but sometimes you also have to let them have some fun. There’s that old saying, and it’s very true, that today’s headlines are going to be tomorrow’s punchlines. There’s a lot of destruction of all kinds of things going on out there, but it's still important to find just a little bit of humor in the crazy stuff that life hands us.

What do you hope audiences experience when they see Rampage in cinemas beginning this April?
They'll experience the ride of a lifetime. Rampage is going to be an experience like they have never had before. They'll be thrown into a battle involving not one, not two, but three giant monsters. And then you have a big, brown, bald, tattooed guy running around trying not to get eaten and get his ass kicked, all while trying to save the life of his best friend.

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