Award-winning character actor Paul Giamatti has been announced as the latest person to join the crew of Disney's Jungle Cruise. It marks a reunion of sorts as it will see him share the screen with Dwayne Johnson again, who both appeared in the 2015 disaster movie San Andreas. With Giamatti's role confirmed, a number of details regarding the plot have also been reported.
Inspired by the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Jungle Cruise has been in development for a substantial length of time. The ride upon which it's based opened in Disneyland in 1955 and has remained largely unchanged apart from a few technical advancements. The long-gestating project was linked to Johnson in 2015, and while progress has been slow, the production and casting announcements have ramped up in recent months. Johnson is now known to be playing a river-boat captain called Frank/Francisco, and Emily Blunt is playing a scientist named Lily Houghton. UK comedian and actor Jack Whitehall is playing Lily's brother, with Edgar Ramirez and Jesse Plemons having also joined the supporting cast as the villains of the story.
THR now reports that Paul Giamatti has officially been signed for the part of a "crusty harbormaster." It's not yet known as to his relationship with Johnson's character, but given his past roles, it's likely to be a lively and pivotal one with plenty of opportunities for witty banter with the rest of the cast. The actor currently stars as attorney Chuck Rhoades in Billions, and has won acclaim for his performances in past films like Sideways and 12 Years a Slave, among other films. He is also rumored to be reprising his role of Dr. Lawrence Hayes in San Andreas 2.
Some further plot details have also been revealed and confirmed with the casting announcement. As Johnson had already hinted, Jungle Cruise is set in the early 20th century and mostly takes place in the Amazon jungle. The hook for the adventure is that a tree believed to possess healing powers lies in the deepest part of the jungle, and Blunt's desire to find that plant is what drives her to hire Johnson's captain. A rival German expedition - presumably consisting of Ramirez and Plemons - are the antagonists trying to stop them and reach the prize first. The crew will also be hampered by the many beasts of the jungle, calling back to it's theme park origins.
The plot is said to be partially inspired by The African Queen, and has been compared to an Indiana Jones movie. The Shallows director Jaume Collet-Serra is helming the production, which should start principal photography later this month and shoot throughout the summer. Given the talented group of character actors involved and the pulp-adventure feel to the storyline, Jungle Cruise could be a seriously fun ride if given the right treatment.