Interviewing Jake Kasdan and Matt Tolmach of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
When I received my itinerary for the Jumanji press junket in Hawaii, I saw that I would be interviewing Jake Kasdan, the director of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, along with Matt Tolmach, the producer.
It struck me that I had interviewed Jake Kasdan at a press junket for a different movie a few years ago. I had really enjoyed that encounter, and I was hoping for more great information about Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Q: What brought you to this project and what inspired your direction in the storyline?
Matt Tolmach (MT): I had always loved Jumanji. I loved the original movie and I loved the book. I had been reading the book to my son. His preschool asked parents to come in, choose a book and read it to the class. I read Jumanji.
I had been working at Columbia pictures and the original movie was a Sony movie – a Tristar movie.
I watched the reactions of the kids when I was reading it. It was wonder and an incredible sort of fantasy and reaction that we all have to the notion of games: What if games could come to life?
I decided I would venture into trying to figure out another version of the movie. It didn't really take shape until I reached out to Jake, who I had known for a while. We began to figure out what the best version of this movie could be.
Jake Kasdan (JK): I came to it because Matt sent me this script written with Chris McKenna, who's a really smart, hilarious guy who's worked on a bunch of really funny shows.
I had this idea to invert the game, go into the world and take it a long way away from the original movie.
We feel like the mistake that people make sometimes is to take something that everybody loves then do a lesser new version. We didn't want to do that.We loved the original movie, it had it's own sort of magnitude and resonance for people.
What Robin Williams did in that movie so important to so many people and we wanted to honor that but do something different so we wouldn't be retreading the same ground.
Chris McKenna came up with the idea to enter the game in the bodies of these avatar characters. It's a big comedy idea but it also felt like we had this really great opportunity: what would you learn about yourself if you could spend a day in somebody else's skin?
Q: I really enjoy how one female character came out of her cocoon and the other who was self-absorbed became something she never thought of herself.
Where did the idea, the ability to give females of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle their own type of empowerment come from?
JK: That was really important to us. We talked about how we were representing the female characters and what their journeys would be.
In particular we were very focused on how to tell the story. Both female characters experienced this arc and growth on the basis of these diametrically opposed journeys. Karen Gillian did such a spectacular job playing the girl coming out of her shell and discovering that inner badass.
I was very aware that I wanted my daughter to watch this movie. I want to be able to feel really good about what she's seeing.
Q: Casting Jack Black as Bethany was brilliant. Who's idea was that?
JK: I would say that he's so clearly the perfect person for this role that it almost wasn't even an idea anyone had to have.
I've worked with him a lot. We did Orange County together which was an early work for both of us. I'm well-versed in his genius and I think he's just incredible–one of my absolute favorite people to work with. He's the best, and I had a strong sense that he would be brilliant as Bethany.
Q: [To Jake Kasdan] We talked about Chris McKenna and how Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a departure for him. An action movie also seems like a big change for you. How did that come about?
JK: It's something I've always wanted to do, and that was one of the most exciting parts of this. I've mostly made sort of edgy, R-rated comedies, which I love. But I love all kinds of movies and this is a kind of movie that I've always adored and wanted to try.
One of the biggest parts was that it could be this big comedy but we could do real action sequences with real stakes. There's a lot that goes into that and it was a huge learning experience.
Matt and I set out from the beginning to put a team together who could help me figure out how to do the moments while I could talk about the story. We just had a great team.
Q: Is it a secret that Colin Hanks is Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle? I didn't see his name in anything I read.
JK: We're kind of trying to let it be a surprise to people to whatever extent we can. We realize that it's awfully hard to control these things, but we do feel like it's a nice surprise for people.
I see him as such a nice guy, and it's a really sweet way to show his character…
JK: He's got that. We wanted you to be happy to see him.
MT: We love that about [Colin Hanks], too.
Marybeth's note: Are you wondering: What does Colin Hanks do in Jumanji? What part does Colin Hanks play? That's coming up! In the meantime, get your tickets to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle!
Don't miss my Oahu helicopter tour where I saw lots of places Jumanji was filmed!
- Ziplining at the Maui Tropical Plantation for The Angry Birds Movie.
- Four Seasons Maui Yoga: Working out with the Angry Birds.
- The best Polynesian Luau party ideas.
Check out some great Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle gift ideas:
Be sure to watch the Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle trailer here: