Fun things we did on the "Rampage" set in Atlanta
Writer: Florey DM
Dwayne Johnson looking pretty miniscule next to the gigantic gorilla in "Rampage".
Fans over on this side of the world may not be familiar with the game this sci-fi monster movie is based on but that shouldn't stop anyone from enjoying this colossal greatness on the big screen. What's so great about "Rampage"? Well, there's Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, we know how people around here feel about this wrestler-turned-actor. Then there's those huge monsters fighting each other – where one of them is actually the good guy, he's BFF with The Rock! (Well, his character Davis Okoye's BFF).
In the movie, The Rock plays a primatologist who befriends an albino silverback gorilla called George. The duo hit it off, needing only sign language and jokes to form a BFF bond between each other. An experiment went awry, however, turned the gentle ape into a gigantic raging monster. Even worse, he's not the only one. Another two gigantic creatures are on a rampage and Okoye teams up with Dr. Kate Caldwell, a discredited genetic engineer, to save George and the world from being destroyed by the giant monsters.
George going on a "Rampage".
Warner Bros. owns the rights to make the movie based on the 1986 arcade game of the same name after purchasing Midway Games in 2009. Like in the game, there are three main monsters in the movie. Unlike in the game, they were not formerly humans.
Cinema Online was among the international media who had the chance to travel halfway around the world to visit the "Rampage" movie set in Atlanta on one fine afternoon last June. We did a little tour of the studio and also spoke to The Rock, his co-stars and the director.
So, on the Atlanta set of "Rampage", we got to:
Watch Jeffrey Dean Morgan film an airplane scene
The first star we saw on set was Jeffrey Dean Morgan (a.k.a. JDM). He was also the first star we interviewed there. The filming was done only at Stage 1 on the day of our visit, where the plane structure was set up to film the plane scenes. Stage 2 was not used for filming on that day but since it was the bigger of the two, we got our chance to step foot into the second sound stage during our later interview with Jason Liles, he had more room there to lumber around like a gorilla (more on this later). There were also two outdoor sets but the rain prevented us from setting foot there.
Since we weren't allowed too near the plane set, we could only watch from monitors set up in a tent nearby, where we intently watched JDM do several takes for a scene with George on the plane. After about 20 minutes, the scene wrapped and the actors left the set.
We did an interview with JDM afterwards, conducted in the art room, surrounded by the movie's concept arts. JDM spent some time poring through them, just as amazed as we were since it was his first time seeing them.
We talked to him about his character, his involvement in "The Walking Dead", and his alpacas. Yes, alpacas. There'll be more on these in our upcoming interview article.
Stare at "Rampage" concept arts with Naomie Harris
Remember that art room mentioned up there? Here's a little more on it. (We weren't allowed to snap photos there so you'll have to let your imagination take over here). As mentioned, the room was basically filled with "Rampage" concept arts. There were drawings of not only George but also the other two big monsters in the movie, Ralph the red wolf and Lizzie the crocodile. There were also 3D models of the movie sets. It was interesting seeing a scale replica of the airplane scene that we'd just watched the cast act in.
We weren't the only ones excited, though, English actress Naomie Harris joined in the excitement as she entered the room and exclaimed "Wow! I've never seen these before"; together we stared at everything because she too had never set eyes on them prior to the day. Everything was laid out, on display. (Producers John Rickard and Haram Garcia did mention everything was gathered here for an exhibition of sort so we, the media, would have a clear view of what they were working on).
Naomie laughed when she saw herself in some of the photos from scenes they had already shot, showing her with her co-stars The Rock, Joe Manganiello, JDM and so on. She admitted to us that filming the movie was quite a challenge to her as she hadn't done much work with green screen before and obviously for a movie where there were giant monsters running around in it, pretty much everything was CGI. Still, as evident from the shots we'd seen, the actress adapted herself pretty well to it.
Hear The Rock admit he "giggles" when he does NGs
He was the big star, so it was only about an hour to midnight that we finally got to talk to Dwayne Johnson. Even dressed in just a simple T-shirt and cargo pants combo, the burly actor cuts an intimidating figure. The moment he spoke though, all intimidation gone, especially when he started talking about how he and Jeffrey Dean Morgan just couldn't stop giggling every time they did bad takes. Giggling, The Rock. And JDM. We wish we'd witnessed that.
We did catch The Rock on set prior to the interview. He was rehearsing a scene with Naomie but we unfortunately had to miss the shooting (this was when we had to head to the art room to start our interview with JDM), so we had no idea if he was all giggly then too.
Our interview with The Rock was partly done in the art room and partly outside, as he was just so excited to show us the "Rampage" poster hanging out there. Why? Well, the answer lies in yet another of our upcoming interview article. Keep your eyes peeled for that. (There's something about his thoughts on JDM's alpacas in there too).
Discuss monster movies with Brad Peyton
Brad Peyton, seen in the photo above (from his Instagram) staring lovingly at his "Rampage" figure collections, left the comfort of his director's chair on set to join us at the art room for a half hour chat. Of course, the topic of the day was monster movies as we were, after all, on the set of one.
"They're not just creatures, they're creatures that evolve," said the director of his challenging creative task, having to shoot the gorilla, wolf and crocodile in 3 to 4 scales as their sizes kept changing. Saying that though he did take the core concepts of the eponymous game the movie is based on, he in the end focused on things that have more to do with monster movies than the game. The director watched and studied various monster movies before filming his own, taking note of how those older movies were made and what happened in them and tried to make things bigger and better in his.
For this project, the 39-year-old Canadian helmer once again teamed up with Dwayne. Seeing that this was their third time working together (after "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" and "San Andreas"), the duo had perfected their working rhythm, each understanding what the other would bring to the project. Their collaboration doesn't end with "Rampage" though, both will return for the sequel to their 2015 "San Andreas".
See Jason Liles demonstrate his "George moves"
Jason Liles is in almost every scene in this movie but you won't get to see him in his human form. That's because the 30-year-old is the talented motion capture actor behind George the gorilla. With his 6'9" height, he was already dwarfing nearly everyone on set, so acting as a gigantic monster was pretty much a walk in the park for him.
He explained to us how the pole on his facial capture helmet helped to adjust the actors' eyelines during scenes. Tiny dots were also strategically scattered on his face to capture his facial expressions. So really, don't think this actor's job was just about running around going "roar!", he also had to be aware of how his expressions came across on screen.
Before filming began, Liles trained with Terry Notary, whose Cirque du Soleil background and "Avatar" (James Cameron) experience really helped a lot in perfecting his gorilla posture and movement. He spent months watching gorillas at the LA zoo and behind-the-scenes videos of movies like "King Kong" and "Planet of the Apes", making sure that the way he walked, jumped, stood (and even sounded!), are all as realistic as possible. To elongate his arms and walk using them the way apes do, Liles used a pair of arm extensions. Even without him climbing into a gorilla suit, it was easy to believe him as George. His performance was so convincing that when he began demonstrating his moves to us, we instinctively backed away from the man charging towards us on all four, so realistic was his movements (complete with heavy grunts).
If you're curious to see how Liles looked like on set, here's a snap courtesy of The Rock and his rocking Instagram:
To see how this translates to a realistic gorilla performance on the big screen, catch "Rampage" in cinemas this 12 April!
Cinema Online, 08 April 2018