Dwayne Johnson & more talk Robin Williams’ influence on new Jumanji
“In the jungle, you must wait, until the dice read 5 or 8.”
That was the little jingle that doomed Robin Williams’ Alan Parrish in the original Jumanji to over twenty years in the jungle, trapped inside a game and fending for himself against the elements. Williams’ performance in the 1995 film has been a fan favorite for many years, standing alongside the likes of Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin‘s Genie, and spawning many a meme even in the modern world. The upcoming new movie, titled Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, takes what happened to Parrish and makes it the main plot of the film, by bringing four unsuspecting kids into the world of Jumanji.
Even though Williams tragically passed away three years ago, the cast and crew for the film are hoping to keep his spirit and energy alive in the new movie. Star Dwayne Johnson, who is also a producer on the film, opened up about it when we visited the set of the film last year.
“That was the number one thing that I just wanted to have open dialogue with Jake (Kasdan, the director) and Matt Tolmach, our producer, and the studio. What is the way that we can pay homage to the original movie, not only to the original movie, but to Robin Williams in a way that felt good and that made people feel good, but yet, as you said, not get bogged down in it? So, I think we came up with some really nice ways to pay homage and yeah, I think the family is going to be very, very happy with it. And without giving too much away, there… Now, I’m biting my tongue right now…”
Johnson takes on the role of “Dr. Smolder Bravestone” in the film, but is in essence playing two characters, as he’s merely the avatar for a nerdy 16-year-old kid. Though in the real world he’s a scrawny gamer, in Jumanji he’s got the muscular prowess of The Rock. In the film, he’s joined by frequent collaborator Kevin Hart, who plays “Moose Finbar,” a zoologist that is the avatar for the star football player “Moose,” (who is about twice the size of Hart himself).
“I’m a fan of Robin Williams,” Hart said on set. “I think that’s an important thing to bring up, because people think that this is a remake of the original Jumanji, and it’s not. It’s a continuation. You don’t touch what’s great and try to redo it… In no way, shape or form are we disrespecting, or reshaping, or reforming the original Jumanji. It’s a continuation.”
Also appearing in the film is Jack Black as “Professor Shelly Oberon,” a portly cartographer that happens to be the avatar for the prettiest girl in the school, Bethany.
“In a weird way, I feel like it was the real life I was born to play,” Black tells us. “It was very easy to tap into my inner 16-year-old girl. I don’t know why, but just to have that power of attraction. It’s subtle, but when you know you’ve got it, you know you’ve got it. And it’s just a look, a subtle gesture, and you know you’ve got it.”
Black hadn’t seen the original film when he was offered the new movie (reuniting him with his Orange County director) but sought it out quickly.
“I thought I should watch the original. Robin Williams kicked so much ass. It’s right up there with my favorite Robin Williams performances because it’s perfectly suited to his strengths in that heightened reality. My favorite Robin Williams are Aladdin, he throws down hard in Aladdin, and Jumanji. Those for me, pound for pound, are the most powerful one-two punch.”
Rounding out the cast comes the self-proclaimed toughest critic for a new Jumanji movie, Karen Gillan as the ass-kicking “Ruby Roundhouse,” the avatar for the shy bookworm, Martha.
“Honestly it’s in my top 3 films of all time,” Gillan says of the original Jumanji. “Of all time. I feel like in your top three you have to have a couple of films that you really respect and then one that’s like that special childhood nostalgia film. That’s what Jumanji is for me. I just loved Robin Williams so much in it and I loved Kirstin Dunst in it. She was so cool. I loved the whole concept, it was really fun. As a kid I thought it was totally magical.”
Gillan went on to say that of everyone involved, and thanks to her passion for the original movie, she’s the toughest customer on making a new one.
“I feel like I’m judging it harder than most people will because I love the original so much, and it passes the test with me. Definitely I was very protective over it as well, because I just loved it so much. I feel like it’s a great continuation and it’s going to live up to everything the first film set for it… Hopefully take it even further.”
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle will arrive in theaters on December 20.