Dwayne Johnson is everywhere because he wants to be. As a WWE prodigy, the performer is not only one of the few pro wrestlers to make the leap into Hollywood’s heyday, but will stay for 20 years. That could be because Johnson decided in the mid-2010s to use the currency of his fame to start his own production company, Seven Bucks Productions, to help achieve his greatest dreams. One of those dreams was to make your own Pirates of the Caribbean (because, like Polygon, The Rock really loves Pirates of the Caribbean). That’s where Jungle cruise came in.
“DJ always dreamed of making a big Disney movie,” Hiram Garcia, president of Seven Bucks Productions, told Polygon. “He was so in love with pirates. When he first saw the first Pirates trailer and saw this ride come to life and what the ride meant for fans to see this world, he always said, ‘Man, I hope one day I can too get to a point where Disney wants to do something like that to me. ‘”
In the early days, Johnson was always trying to crack the code of what a larger-than-life wrestling-anointed actor was supposed to be doing on the big screen. His big break came from 2001 The mummy returns, with his cameo as Scorpio King, a role that was pepped up with the state-of-the-art technology of the time. (“The Scorpio King came from CG at a really difficult time,” says Garcia with a laugh. “If you ever go back and see that he really was Not involved. “) But Johnson turned a frightening moment into a franchise – his work on the series spin-off The Scorpio King would set the adventurous tone for his career. He got into children’s films, bonded with writers, joined the Fast franchise, but eventually Johnson found himself out. Part of that was starting Seven Bucks Productions to do what he really wanted to do: make giant films that the mass audience wants to see. Some may raise an eyebrow at Johnson’s commerce-meets-art approach, but as Garcia puts it, that’s just PT Barnum’s dream.
“We love storytelling in four quadrants,” says Garcia. “I think for us – Dany [Garcia, Seven Bucks co-founder], Dwayne, myself – we’ve always been fans of four-quad movies like Jurassic Park
The plan translated into everything from Jumanji: Welcome to the jungle to Rampage to Stephen Merchant’s more intimate wrestling comedy Fight with my family. but Jungle cruiseit turns out to be the culmination of a number of Johnson’s interests.
“Ironically, Jungle Cruise was a DJ’s favorite,” says Garcia. “And luckily, Disney was in a place where they were interested in doing something with Jungle Cruise. But DJ had this wish that we didn’t even know had this claim: ‘One day I want, I want to be able to.’ So it all came together. It all came together in a great way just a few years later when we first talked about it. “
While Jungle cruise makes Johnson’s dream come true, a film modeled on Pirates, Indiana Jones and. respectively The Mummy, it also gave him another important employee: The shallows and Non-stop Director Jaume Collet-Serra. The two forged such a bond on the set of the Disney adventure film that Johnson recruited the director to direct his longtime comic book film. Black Adam.
“I think everything that happened has a reason,” says Garcia with utter joy in his voice. “I remember when we were filming Jungle cruise, having lunch with Jaume and saying, ‘Dude, you’d be so perfect for Black AdamLet me introduce you to this film that we have this idea of what we want to do. And luckily, he said, ‘Oh, absolutely’ – it went with whatever he wanted to do. And Jaume, as you can imagine, had such a genre history and knew the virtue and kind of fear we wanted, he was perfect for that Black Adam. But at the same time I watched him make this great world building film with him Jungle cruise. So in Jaume we were able to bring together all the elements that we wanted for it. “
For more on Black Adam and Johnson’s future projects, check out next week for the remainder of our interview with Garcia. Jungle cruise is now in theaters and Disney Plus Premier Access.