If you’re watching English comedian and actor Jack Whitehall in Disney adventure movie Jungle Cruise, and thinking what he’s doing is very familiar, you’re not wrong.
As a fancy Englishman in the early 20th century, Whitehall’s character McGregor cuts a stylish figure with his three-piece suits and upright posture. But there is also a disdain that is unmistakeable – Whitehall may as well have been playing his now-famous father Michael.
“There is definitely an element of Michael Whitehall in my character, this well-heeled English gentleman that has complete contempt for having to travel and doesn’t like the rusticity of some of the surroundings that he finds himself in, and that sartorial elegance as well, the sense of humour,” Whitehall confessed to news.com.au over Zoom.
If you haven’t seen Whitehall’s Netflix travel series, Travels With My Father, you’re missing the joke – and also a really enjoyable show.
In the series, Whitehall, bit of a cheekster, gallivants around the world with his toffy dad, a former theatre producer and agent whose sensibilities and fashion choices are much more conservative than his Gen Y, shorts-wearing son.
The magic in the series is the good-hearted conflict between Whitehall, who’s up for sitting on a stool by the side of the road in Thailand eating street food, and his father, who is more comfortable in the airconditioned surrounds of a silver-service five-star hotel meal.
McGregor is classic Michael Whitehall.
“Jaume [Collet-Serra], the director, had seen Travels With My Father and we both spoke about it.
“McGregor has a classic upper-class, slightly snooty, deadpan wit, and that’s definitely something my father has. There are a couple of lines in the movie that are literally things that I heard my dad say when we were travelling around the world.
“The line that McGregor says when he walks into that bar and looks at all the drunk patrons and says, ‘Oh, classy clientele,’ that is literally a thing my father has said to me, when we walked into a pub, and he’s looked around and looked down his nose at the people that are drinking there.
“He was definitely part of the inspiration for McGregor. I think there’s a lot of me in McGregor as well. It was not hard to find inspiration for the character.”
Part of the fun of the comparison between McGregor and Whitehall’s father is that Jungle Cruise is set more than a century ago, in the months leading up to World War I, and it often feels as if Michael Whitehall is an anachronistic time traveller from that era.
Jungle Cruise is centred on Emily Blunt’s Lily Houghton, a botanist who is on a quest to discover a mythical tree whose leaves are said to cure any illness and break any curse. She dragoons her brother McGregor along for the adventure to the Amazon, where they hire Frank (Dwayne Johnson) a riverboat captain to take them deep into the jungle.