Stomping its way into theaters this weekend is Brad Peyton’s Rampage, which adapts the popular ’80s video game (of the same name) and brings a trio of oversized monstrosities into the real world, with our only hope of survival coming via Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) and his ability to handle an oversized gorilla by the name of George. Rampage also co-stars Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, and Joe Manganiello, and during the recent press day for the film, we heard from Peyton and the film’s stars about their experiences collaborating on Rampage and much more.

Brad Peyton on how quickly Rampage came together:

The movie was shot really fast. It was done in 55 days, which is 20 days less than San Andreas. And then we had six weeks less in post, so, for me, I was doing visual effects, the mix, the music, all at the same time, which is not normal. I don't prefer doing everything all at once, but I've learned from Dwayne that I also like working a lot, and so I like to get as much done in my lifetime as possible [laughs].

But it was interesting because at the end of this movie, there were a lot of green screens and it came together so quickly, that even I, for the last 25 minutes of the movie, even though I drew it all, story-boarded it and did previz too, and all that, I had moments of, like, "Holy god, this is bananas.” It got so big, it kept growing, but Weta Digital, Peter Jackson's company, came in with so much great stuff, too. I can't imagine what it's like for these guys who were just like, "Yes, Brad, I'll look at the goddamn tennis ball, what do you want from me?" So, even for me, I was like, "Wow, this is huge.”

Jeffrey Dean Morgan discusses how Rampage made a dream come true for him as a performer:

It’s a dream come true doing a movie like this. With Brad and DJ [Dwayne Johnson], when someone calls and says, "Hey, would you be interested in doing a movie with Dwayne and it's got monsters in it?" it's like an experience that you dream about as a little kid. Even though I'm way older than he is [laughs]. But then Brad, he's so on top of everything and he was so meticulous in his prep too, that he had scenes kind of done on an iPad that we could see, which, thank God! Because when you're talking about monsters and buildings that are supposed to be there, but they’re not, it really helps a lot.

Dwayne Johnson discusses his character’s relationship with his primate co-star:

The relationship with myself and the gorilla, George, was something that we had talked about very early, just in terms of how we were going to produce the movie and make it. We have the calamity of a movie like this, because this idea is an absurd one, where we have three gigantic monsters completely destroying the city of Chicago. And with the original video game, there wasn't a complex storyline like you find in today's video games.

So, it was fairly one-note. We took a lot of swings, a lot of cracks at it, and got it to a really good place where it was viable and believable and, more importantly, fun. But then, when we sat around the table, we thought, “Well, we need an anchor. What's going to anchor this movie in the heart and soul?” That’s how we figured out that it’s going to be a relationship between myself and my best friend, and my best friend happens to be a rare, albino gorilla.

We felt like if we were going to be able to nail that anchor, then we have a shot at making a movie that people really wanna go on the ride with, but also, more importantly, we had a shot at making a movie that kind of stood the test of time. And that was important to us. In the monster genre, there's been a lot of great ones in the past. Your King Kongs, your Godzillas, even Jurassic Park, I include in that. So, we just wanted to, hopefully, try and raise the bar, maybe? Just a little bit. And anchor it in a relationship.

Joe Manganiello on how Dungeons & Dragons Led to his involvement on Rampage:

How did I get the role? Well, I wrote a version of a Dungeons & Dragons film when it was at Warner Bros., and I found out that Brad was also a big fan of the property and was looking to direct the Dungeons & Dragons film. I think they were talking to you [Dwayne] about that as well.

So, I got my agents to connect me to Brad. I said, "I want to talk to Brad, I want to see what his idea is, I want to talk." We got on a Skype call and after a couple minutes, Brad was like, "Hey man, listen, I'm down in Atlanta, I'm getting ready to shoot this movie Rampage. I've got this great role if you want to play in it. Why don't you come down? We'll shoot this movie, we'll talk about Dungeons & Dragons, and then we'll go from there."

Naomie Harris on the challenges of Rampage:

I actually went into it thinking that it was going to be the same kind of deal in terms of the action I’ve done before. But actually, it was completely different, because Bond doesn't really have green screen, we're out in the real world doing those stunts, so we're doing them for real. And this was reacting to tennis balls where you had these tennis balls that were numbered one to seven and then: “Look at three, the building is collapsed!” “Look at five, and then the wolf is flying across at you!”

I was completely out of my mind, because I was absolutely terrified, and this was something completely new to me. I had to really lean on Dwayne, because he was amazing. He's the master of this. This is his world, it's not mine at all, and I felt completely lost in the beginning. But then, the way to get through it is to pretend you're a kid, and just to play and have fun. And that's what I did.

Malin Akerman on Getting to Play the Villain in Rampage:

For us, it's a bit of a mystery to be on something where you're looking at a green screen, and then when you finally see it come to life, it’s so much fun and we get to be the audience as well as the actor in it. As an actor, you're just really grateful that something comes out and it looks okay [laughs].

Getting to be evil was also really easy, too. It's crazy and this character was so juicy, it's so much fun to play something where you get to be the villain, to be the mastermind. To be that intelligent, to conjure all this up, I really loved it. It's always fun to go the other way, as I'd like to think I'm not as power hungry as she was [laughs].

Dwayne Johnson on reteaming with Brad Peyton for a third time on Rampage:

I enjoy working with Brad. It's my third movie with him and there is an ambition there, as he's a very ambitious director. I enjoy working with him creatively, as well. I've come from a love of sports at a very early age, and I enjoy being coached and I enjoy being pushed. And not a lot of directors sometimes feel comfortable in that space, and that's okay, all right? Because I'll find my inspiration, my motivation in some other ways and we make the project work. They all don't have to have a coach's mentality.

But Brad does have that, despite him always underplaying it, and you know, "Well, I'm from Canada and I like to apologize.” He's also a very ambitious guy. He's okay to go right up to the line, he’s okay to step over the line, and if we’re going to get a shot to make a movie, why not take a swing for the fences? Brad is always like, “Let's go for it.”

We're very similar, and our DNA is like that, where we just have to go for it. And, as you guys know, it's hard, it takes many, many months and then months of post and then you promote it like we're doing now. It's a long time, but especially for directors. I'm able to make a movie and even if I'm producing a movie, I can still go on and work on other movies while other movies are in development because I'm not directing. Brad is on the movie for two or three years, and the passion shows. Anybody who's in our business, but specifically a director, you have the responsibility to not only make a good movie, but also I like the DNA that we share, which is: we want to make this movie fun for the audience and want to make sure they're walking home in some way feeling good about what they just saw. That's what movies should be, and are, to us.

Brad Peyton on how Dwayne Johnson continues to push him as a director:

Muscles, yeah, it's his muscles. I just love his muscles [laughs]. I have had the great fortune of working with Dwayne on my second movie [Journey 2: The Mysterious Island] and realized that he was a great human being, a very wise person who would have a lot of success in a bunch of different fields. And I am ambitious, but I've learned so much from him and I continue to learn so much from him as a person, as a business person, and through our creative partnerships. He does take big swings.

And I hope I do that for him as well, but it is that accumulation of ambition, passion, drive, just raw creativity, and as a filmmaker, I love collaborating with someone who's that passionate, driven, creative, and he brings it every single time, and it's just been an awesome experience.

Photos by Heather Wixson:

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.