Rampage set visit: Dwayne Johnson says it’s okay to root for the monsters
Right off of Interstate 285 in Atlanta sits Third Rail Studios, a brand new sound stage in the every-growing production city, but it’s not the things inside the studio that we’re watching today, it’s the things outside. Adjacent to the studio is an extensive backlot that’s pure concrete. On every side are giant green screens, some canopies hang over to protect us all from the harsh summer sun, but just ahead is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and he’s talking to a giant invisible gorilla.
We’re on the set of Rampage, a feature film adaptation of the fan-favorite video game and though we may technically be in Atlanta, we’re standing in the ruins of what will be Chicago when you see the movie on screen. Also, Dwayne Johnson is still speaking to the invisible gorilla. He asks him if he’s ready to kick some ass. We assume the gorilla roars in reply.
The gorilla, a 35” tall albino ape named George, is only invisible because we’re here on the day. Movie magic will bring him, his roars, and his punches to life. In the film, Johnson plays primatologist Davis Okoye, who rescued George as a baby and has cared for him all these years. Their relationship is not only a big change from the video game itself, but the thing that made Johnson interested in the movie.
“I’m an animal lover,” Johnson reveals to us on set. “I have a lot of dogs and horses up in Virginia, and I raise fish, so the idea with the first part about it was what great relationship with an animal in my life that I could apply to it. And also the idea amidst the calamity, amidst the science going wrong in the wrong hands, it still comes down to this core relationship, and that’s one of the reasons that really attracted me to begin with to the movie and to the script.”
Nostalgia also played a slight factor of course as Johnson tells us he loved the Rampage game as a kid and continued playing it years later when it was released on the NES.
“It’s such a simple premise, so the challenge was to take this fun simple premise and try to build out and hopefully make a cool movie out of it.”
For the film, Johnson reunites with director Brad Peyton, with whom he has collaborated on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and 2015’s San Andreas. Given their history and Johnson’s proclivity for starring in disaster movies (the upcoming Skyscraper arrives in July), we asked him what was the difference in making a big-budget disaster movie and making a big-budget monster movie.
“With ‘San Andreas,’ we had time between earthquakes. We have a sense that something was coming, that something else was coming, the big one was going to happen. We had a little bit of time. In this, with three gigantic monsters, especially at their height of the serum taking effect, there’s no time and everything happens very quickly, and everything’s happening from different angles. Not only are you dealing with the destruction and the collapsing of buildings in all of Chicago, but then you’re dealing with alpha animals who are trying to do everything they can to kill everything around them.”
On the note of destruction, the entire point of the original Rampage video games was getting to play as the giant monsters themselves and smashing cities into smithereens. We asked Johnson, for those of us that want to root for the monsters in the movie, can we?
“It all depends on what you like! (Laughs) Because everyone is going to get satisfied… I know when I watch a movie I’m going to be rooting for the monsters, because I love the monsters. I’m also rooting for the relationship and just taking myself out and watching as a fan, but I think everybody’s going to be satisfied. There’s something for everybody, but the fun of the destruction of ‘Rampage,’ which is completely destroying everything, that’s in here.”
Though there are some pretty dramatic changes from the game, which you can read about by clicking here, Johnson says keep your eyes peeled when watching the movie.
“There are some Easter eggs in here too that I think people are going to like.”
Rampage storms theaters worldwide on April 13.