Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Wednesday 7th March 2018
In the brand-new adventure Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the game has changed as four teenagers in detention are sucked into the world of Jumanji. When they discover an old video game console with a game they've never heard of, they decide to play and are immediately thrust into the game's jungle setting, in the bodies of the avatar characters they chose (Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan). What they discover is that you don't just play Jumanji - Jumanji plays you. To win, they'll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, or they'll be stuck in the game forever...
Columbia Pictures presents a Matt Tolmach / Seven Bucks production, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale. Directed by Jake Kasdan. Produced by Matt Tolmach and William Teitler. Screenplay by Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers and Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinkner. Screen Story by Chris McKenna. Based on the book Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg. Executive producers are David Householter, Jake Kasdan, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Ted Field, and Mike Weber. Director of Photography is Gyula Pados, HSC. Production Designer is Owen Paterson. Edited by Mark Helfrich, ACE and Steve Edwards. Visual Effects Supervisor is Jerome Chen. Costume Designer is Laura Jean Shannon. Music by Henry Jackman. Music Supervision by Manish Raval and Tom Wolfe.
"The spirit of Jumanji flows through this continuation of the story," says Dwayne Johnson. For the actor/executive producer and so many of his generation, the original Jumanji film captured a spirit of imagination that became the spine of the new film. "We wanted to bring that spirit of wonderment, of overcoming fears and discovering who you are - it's all woven through Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Every once in a while, a movie comes down the road that you just know in your gut, has a special quality to it."
For Johnson, one of the keys to achieving that was to approach the new film as a continuation - another Jumanji adventure in the same universe as the first film. "We all have tremendous love and reverence for the original movie - I've always been a huge fan of Robin Williams and his performance and that movie meant a lot to me and my family at that time," he says. "So, while the jungle came into our world in the original Jumanji, we go into Jumanji in this film. We could also have fun with the idea that the game has evolved into a videogame - what would it mean to have multiple lives? What happens if a character dies and comes back? In a videogame, you have powers - what would those powers be?"
Producer Matt Tolmach is also a longtime fan of the original film and of Chris Van Allsburg's children's fantasy book that inspired the franchise. Upon looking at the 1995 feature with fresh eyes, he says, "I immediately felt there were more Jumanji stories to be told. My first thought was, 'What's the next chapter in that story? What's the next Jumanji adventure?' It was a natural step to continue what began over 20 years ago."
Tolmach and writer Chris McKenna saw a new direction for Jumanji: they would turn the concept on its head. Rather than bringing the jungle into our world, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle would bring the players into the jungle - and not just that. "The game evolves, from a board game to a video game - the game will do what it has to do to be played," Tolmach explains. "And video games are a perfect fit for the world of Jumanji: you get to leave your world behind as you become someone else - an adventurer, a doctor, a hero. This would be a great way to explore classic timeless themes - being yourself and embracing who you are while also challenging yourself to do things you never thought were possible. They have to go and be somebody that seems completely different from who they think they are - except maybe they're not so different after all. It's not a coincidence that you became this character who is seemingly so different than you are - you just need to go on this journey to figure out what you are capable of. You always had it inside you."
"Our lead characters are actually teenagers who are played by adult actors," says Jake Kasdan. Tolmach had previously worked with Kasdan on several films and thought he'd be the perfect choice to direct. "This is a time of self-discovery for them, but it plays out in this fantastical context. So, as they are figuring out who they are in real life, they suddenly find themselves occupying other people's bodies in this game - people who, on the surface, are nothing like them. I thought that was a really funny idea, but also really interesting. What would you discover about yourself, if you could spend a day in somebody else's body.
Still, the movie is a comedy with plenty of kick-ass action. "I love movies like this - I've always wanted to make a big adventure movie," says Kasdan. "So, it's a coming-of-age comedy that we shot on location in Hawaii with big action sequences and a lot of visual effects."
"We wanted to build a classic action adventure movie with really high stakes," says Tolmach. "The stakes are very real; you can die in Jumanji. We knew there would be tons of comedy in the movie, but we wanted it layered within action that was visceral and exciting."
In the film, four teenagers - Spencer, Bethany, Fridge and Martha - who seemingly could not be more different are thrown together in detention, where they are mysteriously pulled into the world of the game. Very quickly, they realise that they will need to figure out how to work together in order to survive. In their new personas, they are each uniquely qualified to do specific tasks - but all of them (well, most of them) are also uniquely hindered by weaknesses that will slow their progress.
An archaeologist and international explorer, Dr. Smolder Bravestone is the consummate action hero: fearless, faster than a speeding bullet, able to climb anything, exceptional skill with weapons - and he does it all with his trademark "smoldering intensity." His weaknesses? None. Who does that sound like? None other than Dwayne Johnson, who plays the role.
But inside Dr. Bravestone is Spencer, a neurotic gamer with a fragile constitution, portrayed by Alex Wolff. Allergic and very nervous, Spencer is everything Dr. Bravestone is not... or so it seems.
Johnson relished the chance to play against type, a character completely unlike his persona as The Rock or any of the many action hero roles he has brought to life. "Spencer is the most wonderful, insecure, lovable, allergic to everything, fun character I've ever played," says Johnson. "I've never had the opportunity to play a teenage boy. He's not a big physical guy, he's just little Spencer who morphs into me. I'm channeling this scared, little 16-year-old boy and it was a challenge."
A challenge, because the whole movie hinges on audiences believing that Johnson is actually an anxious teenager. But Johnson says that even though today he is a confident, grown man, that wasn't always the case. "Even when I was 16, I looked 46. I was six-foot-four and 245 pounds, and had a thick mustache - but whatever I looked like on the outside, on the inside I was still a teenager, trying to figure out who I was. So, I held onto that spirit of being a teenager - I wanted to make sure that everyone watching this movie was thinking 'That's Spencer' and not 'That's the Rock.'"
"There's truly not another actor in the world that would make this idea as much fun as it is with DJ," says Kasdan. "And he committed himself to the role, fully. He totally embraced the chance to play with - and against - his persona. He absolutely captured this kid.
When Bethany (Madison Iseman), the school's self-obsessed queen bee, is drawn into the game, she chooses to play a "curvy genius," Dr. Shelly Oberon, who will help navigate Jumanji as an expert in cartography, archeology and paleontology. Just one thing: Shelly is a nickname for Sheldon. The image-conscious Bethany is suddenly, in her words, "an overweight middle-aged man" - that is, Jack Black. (And Bethany is not surprised when Shelly's weakness turns out to be endurance.)
For Black, the appeal of the role was twofold. First, he would enjoy channeling his inner teenage girl - and to do it right, he made sure that he and the young woman with whom he shared the role were on the same page. "In my mind, I know how to be a hot babe. It's in my toolbox," says the comedian. "But the teenage girl I know is circa 1980s, so before we started filming I asked Madison Iseman a ton of questions. I had to do my research. 'What are you listening to now? What's your favorite music and what TV shows are you watching?' I watched and listened and got into that headspace. Madison was very helpful."
But not only would he enjoy the role - he'd get to play the role under the direction of Jake Kasdan, one of his favorite collaborators; the director and actor first worked together in 2001 on the comedy Orange County. "Jake Kasdan is one of my favorite directors to work with. Orange County was the funniest film and the best on-set environment. He's super smart and super funny and we had such a good repartee. So, immediately, I was intrigued and wanted to jump in and party with him again. He knows how to tweak my brain to make the best acting happen. He's a good acting scientist."
"Jack is one of my all-time favourite people to work with. I have a thousand percent confidence in his brilliance, always," says Kasdan. "So, when we asked him to play this teenage girl, I wasn't sure exactly what it would look like, but I knew he would be amazing. He is Bethany, every second he's on screen."
Literally the big man on campus is the confident jock Fridge, played by Ser'darius Blain. When he's drawn into Jumanji, his status only grows - sort of. He's now Franklin "Moose" Finbar - an expert in zoology and a weapons valet... but a vertically challenged one - the size of Kevin Hart. And as if that's not bad enough, his weaknesses add to his humiliation: strength, speed... and cake.
"When Fridge is picking his character, of course he picks 'Moose' Finbar. Moose sounds strong, big, tall, just like Fridge is," says Hart. "And he isn't. He ends up being myself, which is a very small, petite man. Everything that he thought he was, suddenly, he's not. He was big and tough in real life, but in the game, he's small. He's not that tough, he can't do all the things that he used to do. And suddenly he's in compromising positions as the complete opposite of himself, which really doesn't sit well with him at all. And it really doesn't sit well that Spencer is now bigger than he is. But he has to take a step back and let Spencer be the leader."
"Kevin is just a ball of fire energy," says Jack Black. "It's kind of awesome to be in a movie with him, although I did feel some pressure to be funnier a little more often. It was like, 'Damn, I've got to pump my game up.
"I think Kevin's one of the funniest people currently residing on Earth and it's incredible to have people like that in your movie," says Kasdan. "As soon as we started, it was instantly clear to me that I was working with somebody with comedy superpowers. He can be funny with a full speech or just a look."
The outspoken but socially awkward Martha, portrayed by Morgan Turner knows that high school years can be bumpy - and life will get better in college and beyond - but that doesn't make her daily existence any easier to bear. Until now, she's coped by blending into the background... but as the powerhouse Ruby Roundhouse, the martial arts master and killer of men, Martha finds herself as a skilled bad-ass who commands everyone's attention. It's unfamiliar territory, to say the least, but she has no choice but to step up and fight for survival.
The Scottish actress Karen Gillan, known for her roles in the BBC series Doctor Who and her role of Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, embodies Martha's warrior persona. Jumanji becomes her proving ground to discover what she is really made of.
"For me, Martha's learning curve is where the fun is," says Gillan. "She is an introverted, socially awkward teenage girl who is forced to inhabit the body and eventually the mindset of someone so utterly different. I'm a little awkward at times, but I've been able to play these strong, bad-ass characters, and I usually have to overcome my own weird awkwardness; with Martha/Ruby, I got to embrace that side and really have some fun."
"I had been a fan of Karen's for a long time," says Kasdan. "And the way she plays Martha - as this very intelligent, but slightly awkward introvert who is discovering her own power before our eyes - is one of my favourite things about the movie. She plays all the levels of the character so well."
Alex, portrayed by Nick Jonas, is another player in the game who will either help them in their quest - or be a sign of the danger that awaits them.
"Alex's avatar is a pilot - Jefferson 'Seaplane' McDonough," says Jonas. "He's been in the game for a while and has had a bit of a tough time getting through it. As the movie goes on, we find out that the story's a bit more complicated..."
Dr. Bravestone's rival explorer and adventurer, Van Pelt, sets in motion a plan that could keep our heroes in Jumanji forever. The role is played by Bobby Cannavale.
"Van Pelt is obsessed with pursuing something elusive and mythic for the sake of pure discovery," says Cannavale. "It's kind of an old-school idea, being an explorer. We live in an age when most people think we've discovered everything there is to discover, so very few people actually go on these expeditions. There's something really exciting about the idea of stepping into the unknown that we don't see anymore."
One of the ways that Kasdan was able to keep the actors in balance and the comedy flowing was by giving his actors the room to find the funny. As Black recalls, "Karen and I have a great scene where I teach her how to flirt. That day reminded me of the fun Jake and I had back in the old days on Orange County, just riffing it and working it. Our scene was like a living organism - it was just happening in real time. It was exciting."
"It's a dream cast," says Kasdan. "They're all so funny and so completely game - and they worked so well together. And they're all very physical actors, as well- which was important, because there's a ton of action in the movie. And they all embraced that aspect of it fully."
To bring the exotic location of Jumanji to the screen, the cast and crew made the sacrifice of transporting themselves to the dangerous jungle interior of. Oahu, Hawaii. (It's a tough job, but somebody had to do it.)
Both Kasdan and Tolmach felt that securing authentic jungle locales for filming was essential. Besides providing a wealth of production value to the film's overall look, it would inform practically executed stunt sequences and more importantly, cast performances.
"For the audience to believe that our heroes really had been pulled into the jungle, we really had to go to the jungle," says producer Matt Tolmach. "Fortunately, Hawaii had a variety of lush jungle environments that gave us everything we needed. It's a dramatic setting that heightens the tension and provides an incredible contrast with the everyday life of the real world in the film."
The island offered a variety of jungle environments, including Waimea Valley, the North Shore and Kualoa Ranch on the island's lush windward side with sweeping ocean and valley views for miles.
While the jungle locations made for a natural tableau, the creative eye of production designer Owen Paterson would elevate it to a unique landscape befitting the fantastical video game world of Jumanji.
A veteran production designer whose feature films credits include Captain America: Civil War and The Matrix franchise, among numerous others, Paterson and his team of set designers, construction workers and set decorators would build multiple sets on the island, including an enormous transportation warehouse housing an enormous fleet of cars, boats, planes, and a helicopter.
Another impressive set built from the ground up is Alex's tree house, a refuge that was no movie magic - it was an actual treehouse built around a sprawling Banyan tree and hidden in the jungle foliage. The challenge for this set was ensuring the design, construction and décor for the set was comprised of salvaged or repurposed items from around the island.
"The treehouse was really cool. I would spend some vacation time there if I could," says Jonas. "Not only was it a great place to really introduce my character and give the backstory of where he'd been all this time - it also became a way for us to respect the original film."
In addition to the jungles of Jumanji, Paterson would also need to create the real-world setting for the film's bookend scenes, establishing two very distinct visual backdrops. "The exotic fanciful world of Jumanji is such a contrast to the small-town America setting of Brantford," says Paterson. "It was a welcome challenge to be able to experiment and play to develop the world of Jumanji. It was especially satisfying to see our ancient temples, Alex's tree house and other sets layered so seamlessly within the beautiful lush green jungles and waterfalls of Hawaii."
In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the animals run the gamut from oversized mosquitoes, rhinos, hippos, snakes, jaguars, all cursed by the Jewel of Jumanji, so there's a menacing quality to even the most benign animal. But in real life, the cast would have their own encounters with Mother Nature. While Hawaii is well-known for not having snakes on any of its islands, filming within the rain forests, particularly at night, came with its fair share of critters. There were sightings of feral pigs but it was the creepy crawlies that kept cast and crew on edge - including the stinging pinch of centipedes.
The last six weeks of filming would bring the cast and crew back to the mainland, where the city of Atlanta, Georgia would provide the suburban locations for the Brantford scenes as well as sets for various jungle locations: the bazaar scene, the Jaguar statue, and the maze of booby-trapped tunnels.
The exotic but wildly dangerous bazaar operates as a crossroads for the denizens of Jumanji. It's here where the teens face a host of new challenges that they hope take them to the next level. "From a design standpoint, there are multiple beats that we really had to follow to drive the storytelling - from the characters' entrance, to the placement of a tent for a central sequence, to a spot in the bazaar where we find out what Fridge's cake weakness is all about, and finally to an encounter with Van Pelt's dragoons," says Paterson. "From there we layered in some great textures and elements of a rough-and-tumble marketplace where anything goes. It looked like a real bazaar - Ronald Reiss, the set decorator, layered in food, spices, brass and carpets, just like you'd find in the Middle East, but it's also supposed to be a videogame, where a character would go to find weapons, so we layered those in as well. My intent was to create a real bustling space with an exotic feel that provides a nice visual contrast from the jungle."
Paterson's design for the revered Jaguar statue would end up being a hybrid comprised a practical build of a 120-foot-high section, with Jerome Chen's visual effects team laying in the midsection to the base, which was a massive rock formation at the Hawaii locations where the bulk of the film action was shot. The 40-foot high Jaguar head was made from a combination of sculpted foam and concrete adorned with plaster paint to age the stone look.
To further link the Jumanji board game to the video game version, the filmmaker wanted to mimic some of the iconic imagery in subtle ways to surprise and enchant audiences with some nostalgia. Paterson translated the animal game tokens - an elephant, crocodile, and rhinoceros from the board game and integrate them into the ancient temple designs as large vine-covered statues that lead Bravestone and the others toward the Jaguar statue.
Costume designer Laura Jean Shannon says she had an enormous amount of creative license when conceptualizing her designs for the characters. Armed with a wealth of research and imagery based on everything from contemporary and classic video games to historical events and even classic films, she created entirely new costumes that drew on all of these influences.
With a diverse cast of characters both in and out of the world of Jumanji, Shannon's aim was to give each their own defining look. Shannon and her team came up with their own videogame lexicon that touched upon every type of hero, from the classic adventurer with an enviable video game arsenal of powers and weapons to the archetypal warrior princess, all while weaving in subtle comedic elements.
"My goal for Ruby Roundhouse was to create a stunning poster woman for that iconic female videogame character," says Shannon. "She's got a tactical harness, weapons belt, and some Kevlar elements. We layered it over a highly stylised top with jungle shorts and boots. Karen Gillan creates the comedy by contrasting that costume with her character, a smart young lady who all but hides herself at school yet has been thrown into this badass videogame heroine."
"Ruby's look was a lot of fun," says Gillan. "It was interesting to highlight the familiar trope, particularly from 90s video games, of the way women were portrayed in those games. And then to put a twist on it and inhabit the costume with a girl who would never in a million years dress that way. It allowed for a lot of comedic moments."
"Van Pelt actually has a physical transformation as he becomes cursed," says Shannon. "I wanted there to be an element to the dragoons where they have an affinity, a respect, for the animals around them. We went with everything - gators, snakes, armadillos, bats, ravens, bears, rhinos, and scorpions, to name a few. We couldn't have done any of it without some really amazing craftspeople who created these animal inspired pieces, but all done with synthetics. They all did a fantastic job."
Shannon's design story was so detailed she gave each squad of dragoons - explorers, military and bikers - their own spirit animals, so to speak. As the evil sinks deeper and deeper in Jumanji, each group embodies the essence of their animal more and more. The explorers are identified by jungle animals, while the military are noted by larger game, and the bikers by flying animals. This attention to detail ultimately gave a logical and creative cohesiveness to her overall designs that harmonised nicely with Paterson's production design to fully realise Jumanji.
When it came to executing the full-throttle action to complement the comedic aspects and propel the adventure of the storytelling, Kasdan and Tolmach turned to veteran stunt coordinators Gary M. Hymes and Oakley Lehman as well as second unit director Jack Gill to oversee the film's action.
Key to their approach was to keep the stunts character-driven stunts, highlighting the characters' videogame powers and weaknesses.
For example, in the Albino Rhino sequence, gigantic albino rhinos stampede towards our heroes. Johnson, Black, Hart, Gillan and Jonas would spend days harnessed into a full-size, customized helicopter mounted on a special-effects gimbal rig elevated twenty feet in the air. That rig was able to simulate various flying maneuvers, tilting, spinning, ascending and descending at high speeds.
Taking advantage of the stunning Hawaiian vistas, many of the stunt sequences would be built around the island topography, most notably when dozens of dragoons on motorcycles barrel through the jungle and jump over steep bluffs in pursuit of our heroes.
When it came to filming multiple fight scenes, Hymes and Lehman would use a complex system of customized wirework set up in the often unpredictable jungle environment to capture the highly stylized gaming style fights. Weeks of design, rigging with heavy equipment, and rehearsal would follow to visualize the practically executed beats in each sequence.
Johnson and Hart are known for their intense workout regimens, but it was Gillan - whose character is an expert in various martial arts techniques and "dance fighting" - did the most extensive work with the stunt team to learn the extensive fight choreography for her scenes. The stunt team says that the Brazilian fighting style Capoeira is probably the most comparable to Ruby's special powers, but the stunt team combined several martial arts techniques to create their own moves - part dancing, part lethal fighting.
Visual Effects Supervisor Jerome Chen, whose film credits include Suicide Squad and The Amazing Spider-Man, would be tasked with visualizing the menagerie of animals in the film as well as the spectacle of eye-popping action sequences.
The Oscar®-nominated VFX artist says that he had two very personal reasons for signing on to the project. "Jumanji has a huge nostalgic place for me," says Chen. "I saw it in the theaters when it came out, and the effects were very unique for its time - the animals and the whole notion of a game that could come alive. So I was excited to be involved for that reason. But it also happens that the visual effects supervisor on that movie was a man named Ken Ralston, who would become one of my mentors. From a professional standpoint, I couldn't resist the opportunity to work on a franchise that one of my mentors supervised."
For Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Chen faced a challenge that he has not yet faced in his career. "I've never done photo-real animals before," he says. "I was really intrigued by that, partially because recent movies have done photo-real animals at a very high level."
It was important for the animals to be photo-real, Chen says, because Kasdan wanted the film's visual effects to have some aspects that were very grounded in order to sell other aspects that would be inspired by the film's videogame setting. "Jake really wanted to ground the effects - the movement, texture, and feeling of them all had to be real. Because of that, we could push their size - the elephants and rhinos are one-and-a-half times the size that they are in real life; the jaguars that guard the peak at the end of the film are twice the size of normal jaguars. They are larger than life, more ferocious."
Also, because the animals are cursed and controlled by the villain in the story, Chen could enhance the animals with unique attributes to make them even more exciting. "That was the really intriguing part: how we would execute the animals, deal with the human interaction, and make the animals fun while at the same time dangerous and believable," he says.
Chen also worked with Second Unit Director Jack Gill and the stunt team to enhance the actors' fighting abilities into a videogame reality. "When Dwayne Johnson punches someone, he can fly 30 feet. Karen Gillan can leap 30 feet with a combination of practical wires assisted by visual effects," he says. "To get Jack's illusion across, I supplemented it by removing wires or adding debris to make sure the stunt is successful."
Finally, visual effects were a key component in selling the idea of Van Pelt as a scary villain who controls the animals around him. "He's actually made up of all the vermin and rodents, the grossest animals you can imagine - they inhabit his body. He even uses animals specifically to punish people who fail him. There's one scene where one of the dragoons lets our heroes escape and Van Pelt punishes him by having a scorpion come out of his mouth!"
With film revenues exceeding 2 billion dollars worldwide, DWAYNE JOHNSON (Spencer / Executive Producer) has solidified himself as a global box-office powerhouse in both film and television.
Always adding to his busy schedule, Johnson shows no sign of slowing down. In 2017, he starred in Paramount's continuation of Baywatch and in Universal Pictures 8th Fast and Furious installment of the successful franchise, The Fate of the Furious this past April. In 2018, he can be seen in the fourth season of the HBO show Ballers directed by Peter Berg. Johnson recently wrapped filming Legendary's Skyscraper, set to release in July 2018 (July 13, 2018) and New Line Cinema's Rampage, set to release April 2018 (April 20, 2018). Also on Johnson's upcoming slate, he is set to star in Disney's Jungle Cruise, based on its hit theme park ride where a small riverboat takes a group of travelers on a journey filled with dangerous animals and reptiles.
Adding to a slew of tent-pole films, Johnson starred opposite Kevin Hart in New Line Cinema's hit comedy Central Intelligence and lent his voice to the widely successful Disney animated film Moana, released last November. Johnson also starred in the 2015 summer blockbuster San Andreas (New Line Cinema in association with Roadshow Pictures), which is set to feature a sequel.
In addition, Johnson's production company, Seven Bucks Productions, recently teamed up with Spike TV to produce a monumental holiday event, "Rock the Troops," a music and entertainment experience created to honor, inspire and captivate the brave men and women of America's armed services. This compelling and modern tribute emanated from the historical Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and brought together A-list headliners from the worlds of music, comedy, and film. Seven Bucks also released a youth prison documentary, "A Rock and a Hard Place," for HBO, which became the network's #1 watched standalone special.
Among Johnson's recent film credits are: Universal's Furious 7, reprising his role as Agent Hobbs, alongside Vin Diesel; Paramount's Hercules, directed by Brett Ratner, where Johnson took on the title role; the dramatic thriller Snitch, about a father who goes undercover for the DEA in order to free his imprisoned son; the comic book action-adventure G.I. Joe: Retaliation, as well as the second installment of the franchise, opposite Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum; the dramatic independent film Empire State with Liam Hemsworth and Emma Roberts; Pain & Gain, alongside Mark Wahlberg; and major roles in the franchise films Fast 5 and Fast and Furious 6, which grossed a combined for $1.4 billion globally. Johnson's previous films include Race to Witch Mountain, The Tooth Fairy, Planet 51, Get Smart, The Game Plan, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, which grossed over $325 million in 2011, Be Cool, MGM's sequel to Get Shorty, alongside John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Vince Vaughn, the 2004 remake Walking Tall, and Universal's The Rundown, a critically acclaimed action/comedy directed by Peter Berg and co-starring Sean William Scott, Rosario Dawson and Christopher Walken. Johnson was cast by Stephen Sommers in The Mummy Returns, which grossed more than $400 million worldwide. His character was so well received by Universal executives during dailies that they immediately planned a film based on his character, The Scorpion King, which broke box office records in 2002, becoming the greatest April opening of all time.
Johnson's love of acting and desire to branch out led him to appear on "Saturday Night Live" four times, continually surprising many with his strength in the comedy.
Johnson has garnered much critical acclaim and recognition for his range and diverse roles, including being named Variety's 2017 Second Highest Paid Actor in Hollywood, NAACP's 2016 Entertainer of the Year, People's Sexiest Man Alive in 2016, USA Today's 2016 Movie Person of the Year, Time Magazine's 2016 Most Influential People, and The Hollywood Reporter's Annual Power 100 List for 2016. Johnson will be receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame in December 2017.
Born in San Francisco and raised in Hawaii, Dwayne Johnson excelled as a high school All-American and subsequently as a star defensive lineman for the University of Miami Hurricanes, helping lead his team to a National Championship. Upon graduating from the University of Miami, Johnson followed in the footsteps of his WWE Hall of Fame father, Rocky Johnson, and grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia, by joining the competitive sports entertainment world of the WWE. Within a seven-year period (1996-2003), his intense passion led to an extraordinarily successful career breaking box office attendance records across the US and setting pay-per-view buy rate records during that period as well. Dwayne Johnson's character creation of "The Rock" became one of the most charismatic and dynamic characters the industry has ever seen. In March 2012, Johnson made a record-breaking return to the WWE where he crushed John Cena at Wrestle Mania XXVIII in Miami.
Not content to simply be in front of the camera, Johnson penned an autobiography, The Rock Says, which reached #1 on The New York Times Bestseller List shortly after its publication in January 2000. Johnson also created The Rock Foundation in 2006, with a mission to educate, empower and motivate children worldwide through health and physical fitness. A dedicated philanthropist, Johnson is the current National spokesperson for the Entertainment Industry Foundation's Diabetes Aware Campaign. He is also a committed Celebrity Cabinet Member for The American Red Cross and serves as a National Celebrity Wish Ambassador for The Make-A-Wish Foundation. In 2008, United States Congress and the United States Joint Leadership Commission recognized Johnson with the prestigious Horizon Award, the U.S. Congressional Award given to an individual in the private sector who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and provided opportunities for youth nationwide.
Jack Black (Bethany) has cemented himself as one of the most versatile and sought-after talents in entertainment with multiple high-profile projects in the works. Black will soon be seen as producer and star of The Polka King, a film based on Joshua Brown and John Mikulak's documentary of the same name, which follows the rise and fall of Jan Lewan, a Pennsylvania polka sensation who unwittingly brought a town to its knees in a Ponzi scheme. The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and will be released on Netflix. Black's additional upcoming projects include the Gus Van Sant drama Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot (opposite Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, and Rooney Mara) and Amblin's The House With a Clock in Its Walls (opposite Cate Blanchett), both of which are slated for release next year.
Most recently, Black could be heard reprising the role of Po for the third installment of DreamWorks Animation's smash franchise Kung Fu Panda. Additionally, he starred as R.L. Stine in Sony Pictures' hit movie Goosebumps, the film adaption based on the popular children's books. He could also be seen as producer and star (opposite James Marsden) of The D Train, which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was later released in theaters. Black garnered praise for his portrayal of Dan Landsman in the film, which was regarded as "what may be the performance of his career" (The Wrap, 05/15).
Previously, Black starred alongside Tim Robbins in HBO's dark comedy series The Brink and starred in the critically-acclaimed independent film Bernie, a role for which he earned a 2013 Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical and a 2013 Independent Spirit Awards nomination for Best Male Lead. Black also topped the box office with Tropic Thunder; School of Rock, which earned Black his first Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical; and the Academy Award®-winning blockbuster film King Kong. Black's additional film credits include Gulliver's Travels, The Big Year, The Muppets, Nacho Libre, Kung Fu Panda, Kung Fu Panda 2, Bob Roberts, High Fidelity, Saving Silverman, Year One, Shallow Hal, Ice Age, Orange County, Envy, Shark Tale, and The Holiday.
Off screen, Black formed his own successful production company Electric Dynamite under which a number of new projects are currently in development, including Madame X, Belles & Whistles, and Wizard's Way. Along with Amanda Lund, Maria Blasucci, and Angela Trimbur, Electric Dynamite recently sold a women's basketball league comedy to Comedy Central. The series is inspired by Pistol Shrimps, the popular real-life recreational basketball league founded by Blasucci. Black will also serve as producer on the project. Electric Dynamite's additional credits include The D Train and the digital series Ghost Ghirls.
A true multi-hyphenate, Black continues to tour both domestically and internationally as the lead singer of the rock-folk comedy group Tenacious D, which he created with longtime friend and collaborator Kyle Gass. The duo released their self-titled album with Epic Records in Fall 2001 and was quickly certified at gold-selling status. Their first feature film, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, was released in November 2006 and led to two follow-up documentaries: The Making of 'The Pick of Destiny', which was produced and directed by Black, and D Tour: A Tenacious Documentary, which focused on the band's world tour in support of their film and soundtrack.
In 2013, Black and Gass founded Festival Supreme, an annual music and comedy festival that returned for its fourth year in October 2016.
Kevin Hart (Fridge) has made a name for himself as one of the foremost comedians, entertainers, authors and businessmen in the industry today.
After an electrifying performance at amateur night in a Philadelphia comedy club, Hart quit his shoe salesman job and began performing full time at venues such as the Boston Comedy Club, Caroline's, Stand-Up NY, the Laugh Factory, and the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. However, it was his first appearance at the Montreal Just for Laughs Comedy Festival that led Hart into roles in feature films.
2017 has already been a banner year for Hart. His memoir I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list and has remained on the list for nine consecutive weeks. The book also toped records on the Audible platform, selling over 100,000 copies in the first five weeks. Earlier in the year, Hart voiced a title character in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. In March of 2018, Hart will star alongside Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman in his first dramatic role in The Untouchables. Hart will soon begin shooting the feature comedy Night School for Universal, a film that he co-wrote under the Hartbeat production banner and will also star in. The comedy follows a group of misfits who are forced to attend adult classes in the longshot chance they'll pass the GED exam.
Hart's newest business venture is his digital platform, the LOL NETWORK - Laugh Out Loud, the comedy brand and multi-platform network founded by Hart in partnership global content leader Lionsgate. The streaming video service launched in August, featuring a slate of original scripted and unscripted comedy series, stand-up specials, licensed programming, and live broadcasts. Laugh Out Loud combines Hart's unparalleled social media savvy that earned him 100+ million followers with his vision for the future of comedy - social, mobile, multicultural, and seriously funny. Hart handpicked the boldest comedic voices to create, produce and star in content exclusive to the service. These include digital superstar comedy talents GloZell, King Bach, Emmanuel Hudson, DC Young Fly, Draya Michelle, David So, Timothy DeLaGhetto and Anjelah Johnson (MADtv, viral sensation Bon Qui Qui), among others, who have amassed tens of millions of fans across social media. The Laugh Out Loud service will also feature up and coming comedians curated by Hart through LOL showcases at events, including a partnership with the world's top comedy festival, Just for Laughs.
Hart's recent movie projects include the animated film The Secret Life of Pets (Illumination Entertainment), the hit comedy Central Intelligence (New Line Cinema and Universal Pictures), Universal's Ride Along 2, which grossed over $100 million worldwide, Screen Gems' The Wedding Ringer, and Warner Bros.' Get Hard. The consummate worker, Hart is also a force in television, executive producing the show, Real Husbands of Hollywood which is currently in Season 5. In addition, Comedy Central will launch two standup comedy series, Kevin Hart Presents: Hart of the City and Untitled Kevin Hart Stand-Up Series.
In addition, Hart embarked on the multi-city domestic and international What Now comedy tour. Domestically, he sold out eight tristate area arenas, including Madison Square Garden, Barclays, Prudential Center and Jones Beach, selling over 100,000 tickets in the NY market. He was also the first comedian to sell out an NFL stadium, selling over 50,000 tickets in one show. Internationally, he sold out over a dozen arenas in the European market, selling over 150,000 tickets, and sold out arenas across Australia, selling 100,000 tickets. Hart's hit comedy tour grossed over $100 million worldwide. Universal Pictures released the feature version of his comedy tour What Now in October.
In 2012, Hart was tapped to host the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, garnering much industry praise for his appearance, before his next comedy tour, Let Me Explain took him to 90 American cities along with Europe and Africa, resulting in him becoming the second American in history to sell out London's O2 Arena. Hart spent the fall of 2012 filming two movies back to back: Screen Gems' remake of the film, About Last Night, and Universal's buddy cop movie Ride Along, opposite Ice Cube. Hart continued his incredible run with a starring role in Screen Gems' Think Like a Man, a comedy based on Steve Harvey's bestselling book, which grossed $95 million worldwide, and had a supporting role in the Universal / Nick Stoller comedy The Five-Year Engagement, produced by Judd Apatow.
In September 2011, Hart released Laugh at My Pain the feature film version of his comedy tour of the same name. The movie grossed over $7 million, and was 2011's most successful film of those released in less than 300 theaters. The LAMP tour was so successful, it catapulted Hart to 2011's number one comedian on Ticketmaster, and in February 2011, he sold out the Nokia Theater for two nights in a row, breaking the record previously set by Eddie Murphy. This lead to the LAMP DVD hitting double platinum in February 2012, after being on sale for only a month.
Other film credits include Little Fockers with Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller, Death at a Funeral, Fool's Gold and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
In 2009, Hart's one-hour Comedy Central special I'm A Grown Little Man became one of the highest rated specials for the network, and in 2010, Hart's DVD Seriously...Funny was one of the fastest selling DVDs, going triple Platinum, aided by the Comedy Central special of the same name, which was the highest rated comedy special of 2010.
Hart's other television credits include hosting BET's classic stand-up comedy series Comic View: One Mic Stand, ABC's The Big House, which he also executive produced and wrote, and recurring roles on Love, Inc, Barbershop, and Undeclared. He will soon begin production on Night School, the first comedic piece he wrote, which will be produced by HartBeat.
Scottish born actress Karen Gillan (Martha) quickly made her mark in Hollywood as a young talent who can do both comedy and drama, big budget films and quirky indies as demonstrated by her diverse resume.
In May 2017, Gillan reprised her memorable role of Nebula in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, written and directed by James Gunn. The film boasts an all-star cast that includes Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has thus far grossed over $774,000,000.
Recently, she co-starred opposite Emma Watson and Tom Hanks in STX's The Circle, adapted from Dave Eggers' bestselling novel of the same name.
Gillan just completed production on her feature film directorial debut, The Party's Just Beginning, which she also co-wrote and stars. Filmed in her hometown of Inverness, Scotland, the film follows the story of Lucy, who is dealing with the suicide of her best friend. The film is co-produced by Mt. Hollywood Films. Gillan's producing partner Mali Elfman, Tien Huei, Grace Yeh and Claire Mundell also are producing.
In 2016, Gillan appeared in the revenge Western film In a Valley of Violence, produced by Blumhouse Productions and written and directed by Ti West. In 2015, she also appeared in a cameo role in Paramount's Academy Award®-nominated film The Big Short.
In Fall 2014, Gillan starred in the role of Eliza Dooley in the new ABC comedy Selfie from creator Emily Kapneck. The sitcom took a modern twist on the classic My Fair Lady.
In May 2009, Gillan was cast in the iconic role of Amy Pond, the Doctor's companion, in the long-running hit British science-fiction television series Doctor Who. Gillan played the role for three seasons, garnering several awards for her portrayal, including Cosmopolitan's Woman of the Year Award for Best Actress in 2010; the SFX Award for Best Actress; the TV Choice Award for Best Actress; and the Scream Award for Best Sci-Fi. The award-winning show has a huge following globally and it is broadcast on BBC America in the U.S.
Gillan's other credits include the BBC drama We'll Take Manhattan and the romantic lead in John McKay's romantic comedy Not Another Happy Ending. She was also seen in the hit thriller film Oculus, which was written and directed by Mike Flanagan and was released by Relativity Media in April 2014.
Growing up in Inverness, Scotland as an only child, Gillan caught the acting bug at a young age and set the bar high by joining several local youth theatre groups and taking part in a wide range of productions at Charleston Academy. Gillan pursued acting at Edinburgh's Telford College and at Performing Arts Studio Scotland, studying under renowned theater director Scott Johnston. She later moved to London, at the age of 18, to study drama at the prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts. The 5'11" actress briefly fell into the world of modeling while she continued to pursue her acting career.
Multi-platinum and Grammy-nominated recording artist, actor, and award-winning songwriter Nick Jonas (Alex) released his self-titled debut album in November 2014. The critically-acclaimed album included the double-platinum and #1 U.S. radio hit Jealous and his sultry chart-climbing radio single Chains.
A recipient of the Songwriters Hall of Fame's prestigious Hal David Starlight Award, Jonas released his sophomore solo album Last Year Was Complicated in June 2016. The album, which included the platinum him Close featuring Tove Lo, debuted as the #1 selling album of the week. In 2017, Jonas released a new single Find You off of his upcoming album. Jonas also wrote an original song titled Home for the movie Ferdinand, released by FOX Animation. As an actor, Jonas garnered unanimous critical praise for his lead role in the 2016 Sundance Film Festival favorite Goat, which was produced by and featured James Franco. He also appeared in a guest-starring role in Fox's horror-comedy series Scream Queens. Jonas starred in the gritty television show Kingdom, a mixed martial arts drama that premiered in the fall of 2014.
Jonas is currently in production on Lionsgate's post-apocalyptic thriller Chaos Walking, which also stars Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland, and is scheduled for release in March 2019.
Bobby Cannavale's (Van Pelt) recent films include Ant-Man, Daddy's Home, Spy, Danny Collins, and Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine. He can be seen later this year in I, Tonya. Upcoming films include Going Places, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Martin Scorsese's The Irishman.
On television, Cannavale can be seen currently on Mr. Robot. Other television appearances include Master of None, Vinyl, Boardwalk Empire (Emmy Award), Nurse Jackie (Emmy nomination, SAG nomination) and Will and Grace (Emmy Award).
On Broadway, Cannavale has starred in Mauritius (Tony nomination), The Motherf**ker With the Hat (Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination) and Glengarry Glen Ross opposite Al Pacino.