Daniel Radcliffe wants to make one thing clear, there are much tougher things in life than shooting Jungle. Primarily, the three weeks the real-life Yossi Ghinsberg miraculously survived being stranded in an uncharted part of the Bolivian Amazon jungle.
“I don’t want to be, ‘It was so hard. It was really tough.’ Because Yossi actually lived through this,” Radcliffe insists.
“Jungle” was undoubtedly Daniel Radcliffe’s hardest shoot to date, though, as some sets were a three-mile hike in the Amazon jungle. Something that Radcliffe is quick to insist was much worse for the crew of around 30 or 40, who had to carry camera and lighting equipment to their perilous destinations. Conditions were so treacherous that part of the set was even destroyed by a river, too.
“Jungle” marks yet another audacious and impressive turn in the 28-year-old’s post-Harry Potter career, and it was clear from my discussions with both Radcliffe and Yossi Ghinsberg himself that it was a role and challenge the actor immediately knew he had to take.
Talk about the journey of “Jungle” to the big screen.
Yossi Ghinsberg: “Years ago I came to Hollywood and I had a dream to turn my story into a movie. People were in awe of the story, but studios wouldn’t touch it. Israeli protagonist? No way. People disappearing halfway through? Can’t have that. One man alone on screen for half of the movie? Before “Cast Away” it was unheard of. They’d all want to make changes. Once you do that it stops being my story. So I refused. It seemed impossible. It never passed the stage of treatment. Then about 12 years ago I met a producer who was so determined, but 5 years ago it collapsed due to financing. Finally Greg McLean made it happen and thankfully he was so passionate to tell the true story. It was a long time coming.”
Daniel, what was your first reaction to the script?
DR: “I got the script and I was like, ‘Holy sh**. This is a true story? I just couldn’t believe it. That’s the first thing that was astonishing. I wanted to be a part of bringing this story forward and letting more people know this story. That’s always an exciting thing with a film, when you go, ‘People should know about this. This is insane.’ For me there’s something very powerful and moving about the fact that it is so hard for a person to give up their life. Who knows how any of us would react in this situation. But Yossi had no training in this, and wasn’t set up to be a survival expert. His pure instinct and drive to not die actually worked. He kept himself alive in an unbelievably adverse situation and there was something so powerful about that.”
How involved was Yossi?
DR: “Yeah, he was very involved. I probably had four and half hours worth of conversation on Skype where I picked his brains about the whole ordeal. That’s one of the cool things about being an actor, is that you get to speak to these incredible people. In the 20 or so years since he has had plenty of time to think about it and he is incredibly articulate about what he went through when he looks back. He was on set, too, and he came out to Columbia and Australia. He was really good about the whole thing, because he would be well within his rights to be like, ‘I didn’t do it that way.’ Or, ‘I never said that.’ You could literally just turn around to him and ask, ‘Dude, did you do it like this?’ He was incredibly helpful.”
Yossi, what was your reaction to Daniel being cast as you?
YG: “I was like, ‘Wow! No way.’ He is so charming, polite, and dedicated. He has definitely broken the spell of Harry Potter. No one thinks Harry Potter when they see this movie.”
Feel pressure to do an impression of Yossi?
DR: “I very early on said, ‘I am not an impressionist. I won’t be doing a perfect Yossi Ghinsberg in this movie.’ I think it’s about capturing the tone. There are many moments in the film that we had to pull back from the actual events. Because there’s something about sitting in a cinema and looking at a screen where you become suspicious of real-life stories. There’s a scene where I cut the worm out of my head. But in reality he actually cut 20. We realized that an audience couldn’t be subjected to 20 worms being cut out of his body, because an audience would quickly become desensitized to it. They might have each questioned if it was true.”
Have you ever gone travelling?
DR: “No, not really. It’s one of those things that I have always wanted. I am obviously really lucky because I get to travel for work a lot. My holiday is always get back to England or New York and hang out with friends. I feel like I have missed out on that gap year thing, and going around south east Asia. I just have to hope that I get a film job that takes me out there.”
Would you ever pick a role based on where it is shot?
DR: “Not particularly. I read a piece of trivia the other day that the reason Jon Voight did ‘Anaconda’ was that he wanted to go to Brazil and they convinced him by flying his mother out there, too. It’s a nice bonus, but I would never go, ‘I get to film in Hawaii for three weeks, but the script is sh**.’ But if it is a good script and I’ll get to film in a cool place that’s something that’s an attraction as well, yeah.”
Yossi, what is it like to finally see your story on the big-screen?
YG: “I was in awe of the movie on the big screen and it was certainly emotional. On a personal level it is amazing, and people are engaged. They take something away from that. It provides a period of introspection. People think of their own lives and issues. That was the biggest aspiration I had. It is a dream come true. I gave the story to the world a long time ago. I’ve been looking to give it to more people, and now with the movie coming out we can hopefully find the biggest audience yet.”
"Jungle" will be in theaters and On Demand / Digital HD on Friday, Oct 20.