When we found out that Rampage would be turned from a video game into a film, we were ecstatic.
We got to talk to Jason Liles recently, who would be taking on the role of George.
In previews, it was easy to see that George was a power player in the film. He was David Okoye’s best friend and the star of the show. He portrayed emotion, laughed, and grabbed our attention.
When we left the theater, we’d fallen in love with George. It’s because of Jason’s talent, dedication, and passion for the role that audiences were so captivated by the character.
We got to talk to Jason about playing George and everything it took to bring the larger than life character to the big screen.
First, you dedicated yourself to 6 months of preparation to play George, what was it like taking the time to dive into the species?
Jason: I absolutely fell in love with gorillas. I watched every doc I could find, went to the zoo, studied behind-the-scenes and interviews. It really taught me a lot about myself, too. We can learn a lot about love, patience, presence, acceptance, and strength from gorillas. Then Terry Notary took all of that and trained me for several weeks in the Santa Monica Mountains. That’s where it all came together. Couldn’t have done it without Terry.
Did you find out anything that blew your mind about the animals?
Jason: Gorillas are like mute humans. They are 100% in there full of loves, fears, and are truly beautiful creatures. They just can’t speak. Bridging that gap with sign language is amazing. It changed my perspective on life and all animals.
If you could pick one thing, what would be the most important thing you learned in your studies that helped you prepare to play George?
Jason: Meditation. I already regularly practiced it, but this went deep. It’s the natural state for a gorilla. Humans use our minds to categorize, judge, and label everything. We think in terms of past and future. Gorilla don’t. They are always listening with their senses and are very much grounded in the here and now. It’s very therapeutic exploring that side of life and learning to turn off the mind and be present.
Not only are you a power player in Rampage, you got to play the role of Dwayne Johnson/David Okoye’s best friend. What was it like working with someone so versed in the business?
Jason: Dwayne is the best. He was so loving, so warm, so supportive from day one. That really meant a lot to me. Gave me the confidence I needed. And he’s the king of Hollywood blockbusters, especially action. Getting to be his Chewbacca was a surreal experience and real dream come true. Can’t say enough about that dude.
Did you play the video game when it was out? If so, who was your go-to character?
Jason: I did! I’ve always been a massive video game nerd. I played the Nintendo 64 game, Rampage: World Tour, when I was a kid. So cool to get to be in a film based on a game I grew up playing.
We have to circle back to the fact that George is a power player in the film. It’s not wrong to think he’s got probably the most important role. How did you deal with the pressure that comes along with that?
Jason: I didn’t really think about it. It actually didn’t click for me that George was the main character until well after filming when I saw Dwayne point it out in a social media post calling him “the true star of Rampage.” I just focused on the work, played my part, and went to set every day to do my best for the rest of team Rampage. And everyone’s support throughout the whole process meant the world.
Overall, your acting credits are exciting. How did you find your niche in motion capture for extreme sized creatures?
Jason: I was told years ago that I was too tall for film. Clearly not lol. Ignore the naysayers. I played aliens in MIB3, started learning from greats like Doug Jones, and figured that that would be my way into Hollywood. I had no idea how quickly it would really start happening though. It’s been amazing that last couple of years and so much fun playing these characters.
George undergoes a rather massive transformation in the film, what did you channel to prepare yourself for the change in his character?
Jason: For the scenes when he’s really scared, I channeled a panic attack. I used to deal with anxiety a lot when I was younger so I know exactly what it feels like. I’d have tears and snot all over my face for hours. And it felt great! Crazy that I used to not be able to stop a panic attack when I was a kid and now I can summon a fake one when I need to. At one point in the film, something happens where George becomes a true monster. That was a lot of fun to play around with, a character who’s basically sociopathic at that point destroying anything and anybody in his way.
Dwayne Johnson spoke in a recent interview that this was one of his most challenging physical films. Aside from the months of studying, how did you prepare for the long hours on set?
Jason: A lot of sleep on my days off. The first day on set was 15 hours followed by a 20 hour day. And it was a truly exhausting scene physically and emotionally. I didn’t leave my apartment for 4 days until I was needed back on set the following Monday. It took my body that long to heal up. Plus I had gotten my body in the best shape of my life before production began. Also, I had experience in practical effects like 8-hour makeups of 160 lb creature suits so I was conditioned and knew what to expect. And my Weta team kept me going every day. Love them to death.
What’s something you took away from ‘Rampage’ that surprised you?
Jason: It was an incredible experience in so many ways and a real dream come true. I came away an even more present person than ever before because I’m basically always meditating on some level when playing George. I also couldn’t believe how lucky I was to get such an incredible role so early in my professional career. If you put in consistent, hard work, then dreams really can come true.
Not only did Jason play George with an incredible amount of talent, he’s certainly inspired us here. You can see him in Rampage, in theaters, now.
‘…but I knew him’