Dwayne Johnson is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, and he chooses his projects carefully, taking the responsibility of his massive following of fans extremely seriously.
Next up? Rampage, a big-budget Warner Bros./New Line Cinema production loosely based on the arcade game of the same name. In the film, Johnson plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist who is better with primates than people. When his best friend, an albino gorilla named George, is affected by a genetic experiment gone rogue, Davis sets out to help save the world, and his friend, from the mutated apex predators now threatening North America.
Collider was part of a group of reporters who visited the Rampage set in Atlanta last June. We talked to Johnson about why he chose this project, working with director Brad Peyton for the third time, and what it might take to break the video game movie curse. Check out the full interview below and click here for 44 things we learned from our set visit.
DWAYNE JOHNSON: Well I can only speak for me, personally. So I just know from my taste and my experiences in playing the game—I loved the game when I was a kid. When I got a little older I had it on Nintendo; loved it then. 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.
I think we’ve been doing some good stuff on set here that might lend itself to a pretty good movie. And you know, again, there are just some really cool elements that, if you do it right, hopefully it can turn into something that’s really cool. Because you’ve got three gigantic monsters who’ve been mutated through genetic editing and you have a hero in Naomie Harris’ character, and then you have some big bald brown guy running around, shooting shit, and trying to look and trying not to get killed. [Laughs]
You did an amazing description of this movie’s plot on Instagram in which you described the friendship between your character and George. “George mad, you mad.” What is it like to have to genuinely establish that rapport onscreen?
JOHNSON: Sure, I think there’s layers to it. I’m an animal lover, 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 I have a little Frenchie named Hobbs, named after the character from Fast and Furious. And apply that, and also the idea amidst the calamity, amidst of 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.
Because the element and the anchor of the relationship between man and his best friend, and his best friend happens to be an albino gorilla, that was the final anchor that sealed the deal for me, because I was thinking, “Okay, we have these cool elements, great CGI, a great director who I’ve worked with twice already in Brad Peyton, who I know can deliver on a big massive scale, but what’s like the anchor, what is the heart?” And the heart is in this relationship. So the A-side of everything got me excited, [but] that was the part, the B-side, that got me really super-excited.
So you and Brad have done the big destruction movie before with San Andreas, so what is the difference between making a disaster movie and a giant monster movie?
JOHNSON: That’s a good question. Well, let me take a stab at this: I think probably from my experience, the difference between a disaster movie and a monster movie is one, you’re dealing with mother nature, very unpredictable; the other side, you’re dealing with mutated monsters, which are unpredictable, but at the same time, one was a best friend of mine, someone who I treated like my brother or my kid … I think what I’m finding with—and it’s funny you ask that, because I could only answer that now after we’ve shot for a couple of months and putting everything on its feet… but what I’m finding as we move along and we’re shooting these scenes is that, unlike 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. 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, by the way, 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. And then the fighting for territory, and then trying to get to the beacon; there’s a whole bunch of things happening.
With the game, you’re playing as the monsters, your goal is to destroy everything. So when we see the movie, are we the audience rooting for you to defeat them or are we rooting for them to destroy everything?
JOHNSON: I think it’s a combination. It all depends on what you like! [Laughs] Because everyone is going to get satisfied. But also, I think what you’re going to be doing, the goal here is you’re going to be rooting for—look, 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. There are some easter eggs in here too that I think people are going to like.