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Long before following in Robin Williams’ footsteps with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Dwayne Johnson had an embarrassing run-in with the original film’s star.
For EW’s new cover story, Johnson sat down to talk about the upcoming sequel, which picks up more than two decades after Williams’ character, Alan Parrish, first emerged from the jungle. When Johnson first made the switch from wrestling to acting, Williams was one of the actors he most admired and wanted to meet — and he got his chance one year at CinemaCon, an annual theater owners’ event in Las Vegas. And, as Johnson puts it, it was “a disaster.”
The two actors were both backstage at the event, and after awkwardly standing around, Johnson finally worked up the courage to approach Williams.
“I finally see him and catch his eye, and I’m like, ‘Hey, I just want to say, you are my biggest fan,’” Johnson said.
There was a pause.
“I was like, ‘Ah, s—! I meant the opposite!’” Johnson recalled. “And he just laughed and said, ‘It’s so good to meet you,’ and gave me a big hug. So that was it. I made an idiot out of myself when I first met Robin.”
Johnson’s Jumanji is a sequel to the 1995 original, not a remake, but it was still important to him to try to capture the spirit of the first film — and pay tribute to Williams’ legacy.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking at first because there’s such a tremendous amount of love and reverence that people have for Robin,” Johnson admitted. “Anything you touch of his can be very polarizing at first. So I felt like the best thing that I could do for our movie was to try to get out in front of any narrative and let everybody know that we’re making this as a continuation. We cannot fill Robin Williams’ shoes. That’s impossible to do.”
Johnson stars in the new Jumanji alongside Karen Gillan, Jack Black, and Kevin Hart, and the film follows four teenagers who stumble upon the video game Jumanji — only to find themselves sucked into the game’s treacherous jungle world. Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher) directs.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle will hit theaters Dec. 20.