From director Jake Kasdan, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle revisits the game from the original 1995 film while creating a brand-new adventure, as four teenagers in detention are sucked into a wild world. Transformed from a board game into a video game console, these unsuspecting players find themselves trapped in the jungle setting, in the bodies of the avatar characters they chose (hilariously played by Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan), and they have to figure out how to use their characters’ strengths in order to win or they’ll be stuck in the game forever.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Karen Gillan talked about having been a huge fan of the original movie, why the sequel won her over, getting to do extensive improvisation, what she most enjoyed about working with her co-stars, just how intense The Rock’s smolder is, in real life, doing the fight sequences, and the controversy over her costume. She also talked about how much fun she’s had being a part of the huge production for the upcoming Avengers movies and what’s most impressed her about it all, along with why she wanted to get into directing and how she’s been finding the experience of transitioning from shorts to feature films.
Collider: You’ve said that you were a fan of the original Jumanji movie, so when the idea for this sequel was presented to you, were you immediately intrigued and want to sign on, or were you hesitant about it, at all?
KAREN GILLAN: It was the latter, actually. I am such a huge fan of the original, so when I first got the email saying, “You have an audition for the new Jumanji film?,” I was like, “What?! What are the gonna do with my precious Jumanji?!” And then, I read the script and realized that it was brilliant. It was in safe hands. They were not trying to recreate the original, but honor the original and create a new film, in its own right, which I think is really important. Then, I needed to somehow get this role.
I think this movie proves that you can do a remake, reboot or sequel to a movie and have it be really original.
GILLAN: Oh, absolutely, yeah! In these times, we’re inundated with reboots, remakes and sequels, so everybody is feeling a little like, “Where is the original content?” But every once in awhile, you get something like this, that is original while still being a sequel, which is quite rare.
From the first script you read to the finished product of the film, were a lot of changes made, or is this pretty close to what you initially read?
GILLAN: It’s fairly close. There weren’t any huge, major shifts. There’s a ton of improvised dialogue in the film. Jake [Kasdan], the director, is extremely collaborative, so we got to sit down with the writers, all in a room, to talk about our thoughts on everything, and I definitely think some improvements were made there. But overall, the general shape was the same.
Was it ever scary to do comedy and to do improvisation when you’re working with people like Jack Black and Kevin Hart, who are so good at it?
GILLAN: Yes! There’s definitely a level of intimidation that comes with just working with people who are at the top of their field and you’re relatively new. But also, what you get when people are that good at it, is that it’s easier for you because they know how to support you and set you up for things. So, it’s slightly intimidating, but also easier.
One of my favorite things about this movie is just how much fun it is to watch the group of you guys together. What most surprised you about working with Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Nick Jonas?
GILLAN: It was just the most fun, ever! It really was. That’s not surprising, though. That’s not a shocker. It was just constant laughter, which I thought was really fun. And I was just amazed to watch Dwayne and Kevin work, as actors who also run empires, on the side. They’re businessmen, as well as being great actors, and I thought that was extremely impressive.
It seems hard to not feel like a slacker when you’re around Dwayne Johnson.
GILLAN: I know! Seriously! I feel like I’ve started working harder, since I’ve worked with him. [His work ethic] is second to none. It’s incredible!
So, just how intense is The Rock’s smolder, in real life?
GILLAN: Oh, it’s intense! It’s very intense! I feel like you should see him do it in real life sometime. It’s this involuntary smolder.
Because you get to do so much in this movie, what were you most excited about getting to do, as this character, and what were you most nervous about pulling off?
GILLAN: I was excited to do all of the fight sequences, just because it’s a challenge. I’m an actress, so delivering dialogue is my territory. I know how to do that. But to fight loads of men and take them all out is not something I do every day. That was a challenge for me, and I was so excited to see if I could pull it off and see if it could be as epic as they could make it. I’m really pleased with the finished product. I had a lot of help from my stunt double, as well.
What was the most challenging stunt that you got to do yourself, and was there a stunt that you wished you could do, but they wouldn’t let you?
GILLAN: There was a ton that they wouldn’t let me do, and I did not wish I could do them, at all. Jumping off of a waterfall is not something I need to do. At the end of the dance fight sequence I did with the two guys, there was a moment when I lunge at full speed toward one of the guys, put my foot onto his thigh, leap up, jump onto his shoulders to snap his neck, and I did it. I did it once or twice. The rest were failures, but we finally got it.
When the initial set photo came out, the outfit you had on became this big controversy. Were you prepared for that reaction, or did that take you by surprise?
GILLAN: I didn’t expect that level of controversy, but I have to say that it makes a lot of sense. When you look at that picture out of context, it’s ridiculous. If I looked at that picture out of context, I probably would have had the same reaction, so it’s understandable. But, that’s exactly what we intended with the costume. We wanted to make fun of this ‘90s video game trope, with the Lara Croft style male fantasy, where all the women are dressed like that. In a way, it was exactly what we intended. And I think it’s probably a good thing to open up any conversation about gender equality, so I didn’t really see it as a bad thing that people were debating it.
If that outfit hadn’t actually been a story point and a very funny one, at that, do you think you still would have agreed to wear it?
GILLAN: I would have had a hard time with that. I don’t know if I would have agreed to wear that version of it. There would have been some negotiations with the director.
This is a huge movie with big action, big stunts, big laughs and a lot of heart, which is a hard balance to pull off. How did you find the experience of working and collaborating with Jake Kasdan? What most impressed you about how he pulled everything together?