Disney's Jungle Cruise has just found its latest cast member, as UK stand-up comedian and comic actor Jack Whitehall is tapped to join the Dwayne Johnson film in a pivotal role. Whitehall is set to play a close relative of Emily Blunt's character, as the company's latest attempt to provide a cinematic ride based on a physical one gradually pulls the cast together.
Inspired by the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, at one point Jungle Cruise was due to provide a live-action pairing of Toy Story's Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, although it never got past the development stage. But in 2015 the concept was refreshed and re-written as a vehicle for Dwayne Johnson. Production on the project has been pretty slow since then, but a shooting schedule for 2018 was announced last year. The project also got attention when it was announced that Emily Blunt was confirmed as the female lead opposite Johnson. Further information on the cast pointed to some character details, namely that Johnson is playing a "witty riverboat captain" called Frank (or Francisco), and Blunt would be playing a scientist named Lily Houghton. While obviously based on the Disneyland ride, where a riverboat journeys through a jungle filled with dangerous animatronic beasts, further plot specifics are not yet known.
However, with Variety reporting the addition of Whitehall to the film, the cast list has now grown by 50 percent and could give a hint as to the tone of the movie. He will apparently be playing Lily Houghton's brother, although his movie name has not yet been revealed. It's also suggested that he will have a "key role" in the plot, and will not simply be a comedy foil or merely a background character. It's clever casting to some extent, as both Blunt and Whitehall have similar accents in real life.
Whitehall is a well-known and prolific performer in the UK. His comedy tours usually sell out, and his stand-up special is still streaming on Netflix. Whitehall also has a history in comedy acting, with the long-running comedy show Bad Education being one of his most successful. This was nearly turned into a US adaptation called An American Education by ABC in 2014, which would have transplanted his character (Alfie Wickers) to the States, although it never passed the pilot stage. Since then however, he appeared in Garry Marshall's Mother's Day, is playing Harlequin in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, and will also appear in Amazon's Good Omens.
Jaume Collet-Serra is the director helming the film, with Michael Green (Logan) having scribed the most recent version of the screenplay. Given the presence of Whitehall, it's easy to imagine some one-sided squabbling going on between him and Johnson, and it's fair to say that his character will probably inject some easy humor into the mix. Beyond that, any further thoughts on the plot amount to guesswork. It's based around a jungle expedition, but is it a rescue, treasure/animal hunt, or something else? Johnson had previously teased that the plot was set in the '20s, and continually calls it an "adventure" movie. But we'll have to wait for further announcements before deciding if this is going to kick off yet another franchise for The Rock.
Jungle Cruise is expected to start filming in May. We'll let you know when it has an official release date.