Dwayne Johnson on channeling Danny DeVito in Jumanji: The Next Level: “It was the wildest f**king thing”

(Image credit: Getty images)

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle introduced body-swapping dynamics to the franchise; whilst Jack Black may have appeared as Jack Black, the actor was acting as an avatar for a teenage girl. Meanwhile, the brooding Dwayne Johnson portrayed a shy boy – a million miles away from the actor's confident public persona.

For the sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level, though, Johnson's set to channel someone completely different: Danny DeVito. Yep, the 6ft 5in former wrestler is playing a character controlled by the 4ft 10in septuagenarian. 

“It was the most surreal and wildest fucking thing to channel Danny DeVito,” exclaims Johnson, roaring with laughter as he speaks to our sister publication Total Film magazine. “When we decided to take a crack at a sequel, we sat around the table, and thought, ‘Well, one of the greatest joys of Jumanji is this idea that we have created these videogame avatars that, really, anyone can become.’ We could bring in any actor. So I told Jake [Kasdan], our director, ‘What if we took the idea of Cocoon with older people, and we apply that here?’ And from there, the ideas just really started coming out.” 

(Image credit: Sony)

Johnson says Alan Arkin was one of the first people in the mix, before the eureka moment. “All of a sudden, Jake Kasdan said, ‘What about Danny DeVito?’” continues Johnson. “And I said, ‘I’m in 100 percent.’ So then I spent time with Danny, and got to know him, and his innuendoes, and how he is. He has a certain speech. And there’s some roughness to him.”

Having action man Johnson playing against type was one of Welcome To The Jungle’s great pleasures, and The Next Level is taking that to… you get the idea. “I feel there’s never been anyone exactly like him,” beams Kasdan. “[No action hero] who’s come before him has the genuine comedy chops that DJ does. A big part of our idea is that somebody who looks like that, and has that persona, might be anything inside.” 

The cast spoke at length with Total Film magazine about the movie for the latest issue's cover feature. The new issue reaches store shelves on October 18. Meanwhile, Jumanji: The Next Level reaches cinemas December 13.

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Matt Maytum
Deputy Editor, Total Film

I'm the Deputy Editor at Total Film magazine, looking after the long-form features there, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.