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Interview : Jake Kasdan, director of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

One of 2017’s biggest surprises was “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Rhys Darby and Nick Jonas, among others.  A reboot can go either way, but when you’re tasked with rebooting a Robin Williams film, it’s a risky move. Thankfully, under the masterful direction of Jake Kasdan, the risk payed off and the movie had success not only at the box office, but in the critics reviews as well.

The seasoned director has a number of big titles under his belt, such as “Bad Teacher”, “Sex Tape”, “Orange County” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” as well as a bunch of TV episodes like “Californication”,  “New Girl” and “Freaks and Geeks”.

Katie spoke to Kasdan about “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and got some great insight into the script process, working with the big names and if “Bad Teacher 2” is still on the cards. Have a read below!

KT: Congratulations on “Jumanji”, it was one of my favourite movies of the year. As it’s a little bit different to what you’re used to directing, what made you want to get involved in rebooting essentially a Robin Williams classic?

Jake: You cut out for a second [laughs]. Did you compliment the movie at the beginning there because if so I wanna say “thank you”. If not it’s awkward [laughs].

KT: I did compliment it! 

Jake: Thank you very much, I’m so glad to hear that. It was definitely a step outside anything that I’ve ever done before and that was sort of a big part of the appeal was to make this completely different kind of movie that I’ve never done – but it’s also the kind of movie I’ve always loved. I never imagined I’d be rebooting anything. If you would have told me that 3 years ago I probably wouldn’t have believed it, but I loved this idea – and all of us who made this movie loved the original movie. I would say that what brought me here is that I loved this take on how to bring this story back.

KT: Were you surprised with the box office success of “Jumanji”? Or do you just make movies because you think it’s a good concept?

Jake: Both. I’m never really thinking about – don’t tell anyone – but I’m never really thinking about the box office when I’m deciding what to work on. That said, it’s been completely thrilling and fantastic that the movie’s had this kind of a run. We just couldn’t be happier about it.

KT: Did you find that the script changed over the course of the production under your direction? 

Jake: Well, right when I came aboard I did quite a bit of work to the script. First myself, and then working with some of the writers, and by the time we started shooting a lot of us had really poured over it every carefully in a great sort of collaborative way. By the time we were actually in production, we had a script that we were really excited about and it didn’t really change that much. What did happen is that we had this incredible cast that inform it in different ways, and add and improvise a little bit, and it sounds different when it comes out of their mouths a little bit – and so it adapts to their voices as you’re going but the script didn’t change much as we were shooting.

KT: Speaking of the cast, one of the huge strengths of the film is the big names in it. Were they all good to work with and direct?

Jake: It sounds like hype but you could not ask for a nicer group of people to make a movie with. So that part of it was among the very very lucky aspects of it – it was an absolutely delightful group of actors, many of whom I’d never worked with before. Jack Black and I have worked together a lot and he’s one of the world’s great actors I think and one of the world’s great comedians, and not so secretly one of the best guys around, so that was not a surprise. But it was my first time ever working with DJ, with Kevin, Karen, Nick – and they really could not have been a lovelier group. We really had a good time together, all of us.

KT: Finally, is “Bad Teacher 2” still in the works?

Jake: [laughs] I think it’s probably unlikely at this stage I’m afraid. We could never really figure it out, even though we loved making that movie and I loved working with Cameron but I think it’s probably unlikely that we’d do a “Bad Teacher” sequel.

KT: I wish I could talk to you longer Jake, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you!

Jake: So nice talking to you and thanks for hopping on the phone!

 

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” will be available on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray April 11. 

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