A movie with the title "Jungle 2 Jungle" obviously needed a
remote, tropical setting in which to film. The search for the ideal rain
forest location involved covering 20,000 miles over 15 days of searching,
from Brazil to Costa Rica and Jamaica before the filmmakers determined their
final location for the film in Canaima, Venezuela.
"We wanted to find a place that was really remote, almost like another world," explains director Pasquin. "We found it in Canaima, Venezuela."
"It was the most beautiful place I've ever been," Tim Allen agrees, "and it was a remarkable experience because we were shooting in a very ancient, almost sacred spot in the world."
With cast and crew in place and locations locked in, the company began a week of rehearsals in Canaima before principal photography commenced. This was clearly a project in which some of the biggest challenges would be logistical. "Lipo Lipo, our jungle village,was on the bend of a river that flowed from the base of a magnificent Tupuy (a flat-topped mountain), in a vast and protected national park," producer Reilly says. "The production had to be completely self-sufficient. We had to get a tremendous number of people and large pieces of equipment into the location, and the only way to do that was either by helicopter or native canoe." Looking back, Reilly says, "Just getting everything into Venezuela was a challenge. But there was never a doubt that it was well worth the extra effort."
"Getting to where we were going to shoot was very problematic," director Pasquin agrees. "And we were also dealing with local Indians and a Venezuelan crew, so there were times when I was directing the natives and someone on the set would have to translate my directions into Spanish and then someone else would have to translate the Spanish to Pinare, and then responses to me would have to be translated to Spanish and then back to me in English. There were times when I felt two or three steps removed."
Production designer Stuart Wurtzel, who built the village where Tim Allen's character Michael Cromwell first meets his son, was also challenged by the fact that the chosen location was within a national park. "There were palm trees and things of that nature that we could use, but we were not allowed to go into the forest and cut anything down," Wurtzel says. "We wanted the plants in the background to be more tropical, but we couldn't remove what was already there, so we ended up bringing in a lot of greens by plane."
Cast and crew experienced numerous other forms of culture shock during their often rigorous location work. "Everything we touched, ate or got near would give us boils, hives or make our limbs fall off within six hours," Tim Allen laughs. "Furthermore, the entire company was faced with the nearly hour-long trek to the location from the hotel each day."
As JoBeth Williams remembers, "We would first take a jeep ride over very rough terrain from the hotel, and then a short ride in a motorized canoe. Then there was another jeep waiting to take us over even rougher terrain, and then another canoe ride to get to the location. And sometimes we had to do this in the pouring rain. It is called the 'rain forest,' so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised," she laughs.
Although the rain proved to be quite an ordeal for cast and crew alike, they all took the hardships in stride. As Sam Huntington recalls, "We were right smack in the middle of the jungle and once, for two days straight, it didn't stop raining. We were out in the middle of the rain forest, trying to do the ceremonial scene where I officially become a man, and the mud was six inches deep. I had to be in my bare feet in all that mud."
"I was down there in Canaima for five days, while the rest of the company was there for five weeks-but I did the most complaining," offers Martin Short with a smile. "My hotel room was not the best I'd ever stayed in. I saw ants slide to their deaths in my sink, and there was a sign on the bathroom door that said, 'Don't spit on the floor-it leaks.'"
For young Sam Huntington, perhaps the most memorable aspect of filming in the tropical jungles of Venezuela was his opportunity to act with the company's eight-legged cast member Myteka-a Goliath bird-eating spider. "That thing was huge!" exclaims the actor who had absolutely no fear or reservations about allowing the largest species of spider in the world to crawl over his bare chest in one especially diverting scene in the film. "It was so big that-this may sound strange-but I thought of it as a little puppy. It actually had pads on its feet."
Well trained by animal wrangler Julian Sylvester to interact with the spider, Sam confirms he wasn't the least bit intimidated. Every precaution was taken to safeguard both the arachnid and the actor. For example, caps were put on the spiders fangs so it couldn't bite. In addition, Sam was educated in the proper way to handle the spider and how not to alarm the creature with sudden movements.
"But every time I touched the spider I had to wash my hands immediately afterward because it had microscopic hairs that are like fiberglass on your skin," Sam says. "It would itch like crazy. So the only aspect of working with the spider that was uncomfortable was those little hairs."
After three weeks of location work in Venezuela, the "Jungle 2 Jungle"
company happily traded jungles, leaving the rain forest and moving to New
"It was essential for us to contrast the romance of Mimi-Siku's early life in the primitive world to his reaction when he comes to New York," explains director John Pasquin. "There are two parts to the story: it's about a young Indian in his own village and then the Indian goes to New York City. Manhattan is really another jungle."
With the perspective of facing these two distinct settings, Tim Allen raises the similarities. "People who have always lived in the rain forest would have just as much trouble adapting to an urban environment as the city dweller would have in the jungle. When my son in the story comes to New York the boy has to learn how to live in my jungle which-although it's very different-posed dangers that were just as threatening to him as the snakes and beasts of the jungle were to me when I was in his village."
The company's ambitious shooting schedule incorporated a wide variety of New York locations, with a distinct emphasis on a "downtown" look that reflected the fashion and business world inhabited by Michael and his fiancee Charlotte. Locations included numerous Wall Street exteriors (where blue-collar construction workers invariably urged Tim Allen to give them his trademark "grunt"), a spectacular loft on Rector Street with imposing views of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty that proves so important to Mimi-Siku in his quest to become a man; the World Trade Center, the CNA building, and the actual trading floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Real-life stock traders were used as extras in the film giving the scenes a quality of crackling realism.
Elsewhere in Manhattan, "Jungle 2 Jungle" utilized locations such as Washington Square Park, Times Square, the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park and a spectacular penthouse apartment that occupied the entire 26th floor of an Upper West Side building on Broadway.
In addition to the extensive location work in the city, the company also shot for 10 days in rural Pound Ridge, an affluent community 50 miles north of Manhattan, where they found the perfect house for Martin Short's character and his family. It was situated on seven acres that even offered the fish pond required by the film's script.
Tim Allen is his comical self when he observes the unexpected fact that virtually no one on the crew took ill from the food they ate in Venezuela, but "Most of the crew got sick when we returned to New York," he laughs. "There weren't many intestinal problems down in South America, but after eating cabbage and tomatoes for two months they couldn't wait to get some New York pizza or bratwurst."
The upbeat, encouraging tone established by the director, supporting his actors and encouraging their input, was pervasive and infectious, despite the often long hours and difficult locations. Overall everybody agreed the shoot was characterized by much laughter.
Director Pasquin attributes the upbeat mood on the set to the star Tim Allen. "We've worked together for almost five years," Pasquin says, "and I think a lot of the spirit on set comes from Tim. He likes to be casual, he gets along with the crew, and he likes to have a good time, and that's very infectious."
"Every time I was playing a really serious scene, he would try to make me laugh and break character," Sam Huntington fondly recalls of his opportunity to work with one of America's most beloved stars. "He's a great, great guy, and really wonderful to work with. But it was hard to keep a straight face because he's so funny."
JoBeth Williams adds, "When you've got Tim Allen and Martin Short in the same room, chances are you're going to laugh a lot. When we were in Canaima, there was no television, no movies, not even really any music. It was pretty stark, but with Tim and Martin to entertain, what more could you want?"
For his part, Sam Huntington adds enormous personal and professional praise for Martin Short, saying, "He's what I want to be like. He is a wonderful, wonderful guy. He's such a great, enthusiastic person to be around. I really want to try to be like Martin Short."
"I'm a strong believer that the only way to do comedy and to do a comedy film is that it has to come from complete joy and looseness on the set," says Martin Short. "The crew should be laughing. And from that laughter and that mood comes more contagious laughter."
"Making this movie has been a lot of fun," Tim Allen concludes. "We're all in for a big ride, because it is as much fun to watch."
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