Karen Gillan Trained Even Harder for 'Jumanji' Than Her Marvel Movies

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Still 2 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Sony Pictures
Being in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is tough, but this project tested her unlike any before it.

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.]

As Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle's male-centric cast, including Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale, dominate screen time in the comedic action flick, the overload of male testosterone is also dominating some of the conversations around it. 

Yes, it's receiving mostly solid reviews, including The Hollywood Reporter's, but audiences are asking the question of why actress Karen Gillan is the only female lead in the film (Madison Iseman and Morgan Turner bookend the film as two of the high school students sucked into the game). They're not too pleased with her costume either. But that's just it. The film makes fun of itself in more ways than one and uses Gillan's kick ass (and stereotypical) video game character to do so.

"As an actor, I thought, 'This is an interesting take on the obligatory female role in movies,'” Gillan tells Heat Vision about taking on the role. Adding, "And so I was like, 'This is making me happy, because I feel like it’s a twist on something that we’re very familiar with.'”

She also points out that with Jack Black's character actually being a teenage girl, she didn't feel entirely alone. Says the actress, "I don’t look at it that way because Jack Black is so accurate. I just feel like there were two women in the movie."

The actress also reveals that her distinctive dance-fighting scenes were even harder than her memorable fight scenes as Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

"I’ve never done for any movie, any Marvel movie, anything, she says. "For this I had to get through that whole thing in one take. It required so much rehearsal and I had a lot of help from my stunt double too."

Below, Gillan speaks with Heat Vision further about the film, the happily-ever-after ending and teases (as much as she can) what fans can expect in Avengers: Infinity War.

How old were you when you watched the first Jumanji? Where did you watch it, who were you with and what was your reaction?

I'm the biggest fan of the original. It's in my top three films of all time. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first watched it, because I watched that movie a lot when I was a kid, so I just remember being, like, a large stretch of my childhood rather than just like a one-time thing.

What did you love about it?

I was a big Robin Williams fan. I loved all his characters. I thought that he was a character actor who was extremely funny, but also so heartfelt and can break your heart as well as making you cry with laughter. As a kid, I was like, “That’s quite a range of skills there.” I also just loved the animals and I loved the Kirsten Dunst character so much, and like when she takes on an English accent in the film and she was like, “Oh, sorry you have the wrong number.” I remember laughing my head off at that as a child. And there was, like, a scary lion in it and all of those animals. 

Yeah, while being funny and a classic it was also frightening at times.

I thought the lion was legitimately terrifying!

What were the conversations like on set about respecting the original?

It was such a smart move not trying to re-create the original because it’s a precious part of people’s childhood and we’re all very protective over it. If you had come in and try to recreate it, that's just the wrong move. However, to create a movie in its own right that honors the original and pays enough homage to the legacy of Jumanji, but also is a stand-alone movie was just absolutely the right move. Also in a world of reboots and remakes, it’s nice to have something that is a little original. 

Which nod stuck out for you personally?

The Alan Parrish references were really nice to have those little touches in there. 

Obviously you filmed a lot with Kevin, The Rock and Jack, but did you get to film a lot with the characters that you’re playing?

No, we had no scenes together actually. Not at all. So at the beginning, as we were sort of preparing to start filming, we all went to Hawaii and the kids came out. And I spent a lot of time with my girl, Morgan [Turner,] and we would just get breakfast together to try and get a feel for each other’s vibe. And then I filmed all of my stuff first and had free reign with the character.

As she came in to shoot all of her stuff, I told her the choices that I made and the physicalities and basically said, “You can take or leave these, the character is yours now. But this is what I did.” And she has to get the credit for the consistency because I thought she did such a fantastic job because she filmed her stuff after me. It was on her to make sure it was accurate as a character.

Now your love interest technically is The Rock in the movie. What was that like?

Brilliant. He’s so inspiring. I’ve never met anyone that works harder than him. I mean he is one of the biggest actors in the world while running this empire and he has a family and maintains his body. I’m just like, “How do you do that?” We had a great relationship. We were laughing a lot. I just think he’s one of my favorite comedic actors now, like I love his dry delivery. It’s, like, crazy. 

Each character has quirks and comedic attributes. Was that all pre-planned or anything created during filming?

Oh, those were all scripted actually, so the credit should definitely go to the writers for that.

Now how much training did you do for the dance-fighting scenes?

So much training. I’ve never done more for any movie, any Marvel movie, anything. For this I had to get through that whole thing in one take. It required so much rehearsal and I had a lot of help from my stunt double too.

What surprised you most about your character and the way she stands for feminism while poking fun at her appearance, video-game sexism and cliches?

What I loved about this character so much was when you look at her you’d think that she was a very self-confident, badass girl, but to then inhabit her with the opposite of that. I mean for me just as an actor, I thought “This is an interesting take on the obligatory female role in movies.” And so I was like, “This is making me happy because I feel like it’s a twist on something that we’re very familiar with.”

You’re playing the sole female lead in the film.

Yeah, which is funny because I don’t look at it that way because Jack Black is so accurate. I just feel like there were two women in the movie.

If you could switch bodies with anyone in the world, living or dead who would it be? 

Elvis Presley in his prime. I don’t know why I chose that or where that came from.

What would you do in a day as Elvis?

I would run down the street and see what happens. I just want to go to a concert and have people screaming at me.

Now the end of the film is kind of happily ever after. Would you agree with that?

Yeah. I think it definitely wraps up in a fairly upbeat manner. 

What was your reaction to that ending?

I was happy with that. I think the overall message of the film is to embrace who you are. And none of these kids are able to do that really until they inhabit the bodies of other people, and then it’s finding their way back to themselves. And to see them realize that, I think, is satisfying and it wraps up. And it also it’s just nice to see Martha and Spencer have a kiss.

The Rock contemplates staying in the game. If one of the characters could get stuck in the game, who do you think would make the most sense?

Maybe Spencer because he sort of wants it a little bit. I mean, in fact, in previous versions there was more of that where he wanted to stay in the game with Martha. We made way more of that.


Yeah. And then it got cut, so it was just that scene at the end, but we were definitely toying at that.

Do you think that ending would have worked well too?

I mean, it definitely could be interesting and would definitely leave it open to a sequel. I mean, yeah sure. It’s nice to see him embrace his own self at the end though. Maybe he’ll go back in. You never know. 

Do you see there being a sequel?

We sort of know that there is a place for Jumanji sequels and I would love that just because I love the world of Jumanji so much. It would be cool to see different kids play the game and see who we end up having to play because I wouldn’t mind playing a man.

What can you tease about Infinity War?

I mean, this is so vague but genuinely this is going to be more than a movie, it’s going to be like a cinematic event. Anyone who is a Marvel fan and knows stuff from 10 years ago will see it become relevant in this. It’s like everything that you’ve known about Marvel is building to this movie.

What's the best part of working in these ensemble casts? 

You up your game and you really learn so much.