For Dwayne Johnson, making “Rampage” was the culmination of a dream that began when he was a teenager.
“I was a very big fan of the video game growing up, I started playing it in Hawaii when I was 13 years old in a pool hall — in a really dingy s—hole pool hall I had no business being in, especially during school hours — and I would drop quarters in the ‘Rampage’ video game all the time,” Johnson told Variety at the film’s premiere on Wednesday.
The actor, who also served as an executive producer, stars as primatologist Davis Okoye in the film, whose beloved albino gorilla George is turned into a giant monster out to destroy the country. A crocodile and wolf are also infected, leaving Johnson and his team to take down the three mutated animals and save Chicago.
“‘Rampage’ was one of those video games where one would think years later, it’s not the most sought-after intellectual property to remake because the storyline isn’t that complicated,” Johnson said, “so we brought in some great writers and everybody kind of galvanized together and created a backstory.”
The Rock recently took on a similar video game-inspired action hero role in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” but he says that in a fight between the two characters, it would be no contest.
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“My character from ‘Jumanji,’ I don’t know of another character that could ever beat that character because that’s the thing — when you have superhero powers and you’re a terrified teenager, it’s a very dangerous combo, especially with all the hormones,” Johnson said.
The “Rampage” premiere, held at downtown Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater, also welcomed co-stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman and Joe Manganiello, along with Manganiello’s wife, “Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara. Like Johnson, Manganiello said he was an avid fan of the video game growing up, while Morgan joked, “I missed out on the video game, I don’t know what happened there. I think that’s about the time I discovered bars, about that time, because I’m a little bit older. So I remember playing ‘Asteroids’ and ‘Space Invaders’ and then I found beer, it was that kind of deal.”
Director Brad Peyton, who had previously worked with Johnson on “San Andreas” and “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” said that the two are a good team because “we’re always challenging each other with what have we not done, what have we not seen? Half the days I’m like ‘Well, we’ve never done this before, let’s see how this goes,’ but it was a lot of fun ultimately.”
After creating 50-foot monsters and directing hundreds of extras to act as if their city was being destroyed, Peyton said that he was surprised at the size and scope of his film, admitting “even for me, I’m like ‘this is a little crazy.'”
“I designed the movie, I sat down and storyboarded, and even when I got on set I was like ‘this is bigger than I thought it would be,'” the director said. “It’s different when you’re in your office and drawing it, like ‘It would be cool if we do this,’ and you get there and it’s destroyed Chicago and there’s 400 people and Dwayne with a grenade launcher that [you realize] this is bananas, it kind of hits you like this is way bigger.”
Also present at the premiere was actor and restaurateur Danny Trejo, as well as “Rampage” executive producer Dany Garcia, Johnson’s daughter Simone Alexandra Johnson, and Terry Crews. Morgan’s wife and actress Hilarie Burton also made an appearance.
“Rampage” hits theaters April 13.