11 Things We Learned on the Set of 'Rampage'
In less than a month, "Rampage" will smash into theaters.
In the Summer of 2017, Moviefone got to visit the set of the monster movie (based on the 80s arcade game) and talked to stars Dwayne Johnson and Naomie Harris, director Brad Peyton, and producers John Rickard and Hirame Garcia. Johnson plays Davis, an ex-military type who has a skyscraper-sized, genetically-engineered albino ape for a best friend. Naturally.
Things get real complicated when super-sized monsters -- in the form of a wolf and alligator -- join the city-smashing melee and Johnson and his furry pal get caught in the middle. Here's everything we learned!
1. They aren't too worried about being lumped in with other video game movies.
"It's a great opportunity because the game is so old that, at the time, it was just 'you drink a potion and become big,'" producer Hirame Garcia said. "So it gave us a lot of opportunity to really root it in science and something that's really happening, and get to the rampaging monsters in the most realistic and authentic way."
2. The action is intense. And we mean intense.
We'll let Naomie Harris explain: "I mean, from, like, being in a helicopter -- you know, they actually created a helicopter on a rig so that when we were crashing, it actually feels like you're crashing -- to creating this huge government plane inside, where we're on harnesses and pretending that the back of the plane is blown out, and we're being strung up from the ceiling."
3. They used WETA for the special effects.
When asked why they decided to use the effects house that also worked on films like "Lord of the Rings," Dwayne Johnson said: "Find those filmmakers who really did it right, those department heads and those companies who did it right, see if they responded to the script, which they did."
4. The plot of "Rampage" could actually happen! Well... kind of.
"So, everything that's happening in this movie is actually real," producer John Rickard revealed. "There's one piece of it that is science fiction, that may become real in the next five to ten years, that they're working on now. So, Crispr is real. It's the ability to take attributes -- like, it's really unzipping DNA, pulling out bad attributes, putting the good ones in. And also, if you wanted to, you could take attributes from other animals and plug those into them."5. Dwayne Johnson really cares about delivering for his fans.
When asked what would surprise people about her co-star, Harris answered: "He has such a level of passion and an understanding of what his fans love and what they need, and he's really careful about that. So many stages in the movie, he'll say, 'Okay, I don't think the audience will really like this, or they're not gonna be moved by this, or they're gonna love this particular moment.' He's really in-tune with what his audience wants. I've never seen anybody as in-tune as that."
6. They got a lot of weird pitches.
"Let's just say I said no to 'Rock-zilla,'" Brad Peyton said with a laugh. "It was presented in a room much like [the one we're in], and I was like, 'That's a hard pass from me.' That sounds really not grounded at all. It's like a 'Saturday Night Live' skit a little bit."
7. They decided to change George's color from the video games to set him apart from other famous primates.
"We're very aware of the landscape. You have 'King Kong,' you have 'Planet of the Apes,' but the fact is, in a story like this, George does have the greatest capacity, the mental capacity, of any of those creatures," Garcia revealed. "One of the things we wanted to do is, even being aware of the dynamics out there, [with] a story like this, is to try and separate it from the others as rooted in a real heart connection between Davis and George. They're essentially best friends."
"In that attempt of how do we make this feel fresh from what's happening in 'Apes,' and what's happening in 'Kong,' what about an albino gorilla? On paper, it's kind of daunting at first. You're like, 'Oh, is he going to look fluffy?' But when we started to get mock ups, and you see how badass he looks and get in it, you're like, 'Wow, this is striking, I've never seen this.' We felt like it was a great opportunity."
8. Jason Liles, who wears a motion capture suit to play George, is the real deal.
"When he comes on set, he comes on as George -- with his emotions and with his facial expressions, and with his grunts -- and there are modulating grunts that gorillas have for different meanings," Johnson told us.
"His sign language, when he's in pain, especially when the serum is taking effect, and he knows that something's wrong with him. I was really blown away, and really captivated, by his performance -- which really reminded me of how remarkable motion-capture acting is. And now, after being on set with Jason, someone's who's committed to the role, months and months of studying gorillas and being on these apparatuses where he's a silverback for weeks and weeks and weeks, running up and down the Santa Monica stairs. It's really just spectacular."
9. Brad Peyton really, really wanted Naomie Harris in the movie.
"Look, I just wanted her in the biggest way," Peyton said. "You get pressure from all different places to look at different actors and different things, and my goal is to make the best movie with the best acting possible. And she is a fantastic actor and really wanted to do it, and I was not gonna get off the phone until thought I heard a 'yes.'"
The director went on to say: "I just thought this is really like a... she's really intelligent as a person. She's really intelligent, she's really sweet, she's really passionate, and that's exactly what the characters need to be. I thought this is the way to go. I haven't seen an actress like this do this character, in this type of movie, ever. And she's so honest and hardworking, and I was like: 'That's the type of person I want on my set. That's the type of person I want to work with.' That's the kind of person I am, so I really related to just talking to her. That's when it becomes fun and easier, and I knew she was right, and, so, I kind of pushed everything aside and was like, 'I gotta get her on the phone! I gotta talk to her!' And yes, it was a long call on her way to, like, a "Moonlight" Q&A, so I could hear the cabbie in the background -- in London -- talking to her the whole time. Yeah, I just really, really wanted to work with her, so I held her hostage on the phone."
10. You might end up rooting for the monsters.
"Davis [Johnson's character] was the head of an anti-poaching unit for a military unit in Rwanda, so he's coming from a place where he's an animal lover," Garcia told us. "He's actually not a big fan of humans. He has a hard time trusting them, because he's seen what they can do. Part of his arc is really learning through Kate that he can start to trust people again. But George is his family and his best friend. We wanted to make sure that we're sensitive to the fact that all the animals are victims in this."
11. Unlike most monster movies, this one isn't all about "taking out the monster."
The Rock went on to say: "One of the things that we like about our [movie's] dynamic is, even though they're trying to stop these creatures, our heroes, it's always about killing the monster, stopping the monster. Here, we're actually trying to save the monster. Our story is essentially about a man trying to save his best friend. That's our journey and, ultimately, Davis is doing everything he can while everyone's freaking out and, unfortunately, these creatures are being triggered to rampage out of their control. To that end, Davis is trying to save them. And he's still trying to save the world, but, ultimately, he just wants to save his friend and bring his friend back -- because his friend never asked for this."
"Rampage" hits theaters everywhere April 13.