Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart have played quite a few roles in their Hollywood careers. Many of them fall in line with expectations from the actors who on one side of the duo typically bring high-intensity action and on the other side perfectly timed comedy. They've become the perfect pairing in films like Central Intelligence, Hobbs & Shaw, and the Jumanji franchise. Now, though, the two are gearing up to release a film which brought them both very far from any role they're familiar with playing. In Jumanji: The Next Level, Johnson's character is embodied by Danny DeVito's Eddie while Hart's in-game avatar is controlled by Danny Glover's Milo. This means the actors have to move and sound similarly to DeVito and Glover -- resulting in many of the film's highlights.
"It was very important for them," Jumanji: The Next Level producer Hiram Garcia told ComicBook.com. Garcia, who teams up with Johnson on almost all of his titles now, serving as production president at their Seven Bucks Productions company, notes that Johnson and the team saw a great opportunity and power in drastically changing the characters who embody the Jumanji avatars.
This is where DeVito came in, serving in a role which is then mimicked by Johnson. "I don't know if you remember in Saturday Night Live, [Johnson] gave an Italian kind of accent," Garcia recalls. "I'm like, 'Man, you did an Italian accent. You're like, this is an evolution into like a Northeastern...' But he just has a natural knack, I think from watching Rocky so many years and all that stuff."
"He's a great mimic," producer Matt Tolmach added.
"He spent some time with Danny [DeVito] and Danny [Glover], you know, kind of read off all his lines with the recording and just get the little nuances," Garcia said.
"The day we did our first read through, our cast read through the first time everybody was in the room and DJ and Danny didn't really know each other and we all met in this hotel," Tolmach recalled. "I'll never forget, I watched, because you're watching these two giant icons come together like that...We sat and talked for a few minutes and DJ was just [watching]. He was like just studying every little thing."
The whole thing made for an interesting experience for DeVito and Glover. "They observed us big time," DeVito recalls. "Watched us, like Danny will tell you about Kevin, but I know that Dwayne was always there. And I would, knowing that he was there, I would give him a little bit more juice. You know, so that he could, you know what I mean? So I'd turn up the burners a little if you can believe it. And that's how we worked together."
Johnson's transformation into a DeVito-like character might have required a bit more heavy lifting but Hart's imitation of Glover's cadence and delivery steals every beat of the film. "Kevin with a character that is so, the pace of everything about that character is totally the opposite of everything that Kevin does and it was so brilliant," Tolmach said.
"Kevin, he's just, he went on his own man," Glover said. "You know, that's what he's gonna... He'll make up his own package of Danny-isms you know and everything else. And he was great man. I mean, we didn't talk at all about it. There was enough people walking around the street, the moment they see me they give me some sort of action that simulates me in some sort of way."
Jumanji: The Next Level hits theaters on December 13.