Moviemaking is an amazing thing, especially when trying to make a film like director Trent O’Donnell’s Ride The Eagle during the COVID-19 pandemic. Written by and starring New Girl and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse star Jake Johnson, this story of a man trying to live the life his mother would have wanted him to have is a wide open affair, with nature playing a huge part in the tale. It was apparently so wide open that not only was it safe to film during 2020’s unpredictable events, Jake Johnson and most of his co-stars, including on-screen mother Susan Sarandon, never even met each other.
Our own Jeff McCobb sat down with chat with Jake Johnson on behalf of the press day for Ride The Eagle. Sure enough, the star-studded cast became a talking point, as in addition to Susan Sarandon, there’s also stars like Commissioner Gordon himself, J.K. Simmons, and The Good Place’s D’Arcy Carden included in the mix. With an impressive roster like that, it’s even more amazing that only some of them actually got to meet with Johnson. However, that meant that an important collaborator had to step in and bridge the chemistry gap between the film’s cast:
I wasn’t with either of them, no. … Susan did her stuff in New York with the director, and D’Arcy did her stuff with the director.
In the case of Susan Sarandon’s character Honey, it kind of made sense. As she appears to her son Leif (Jake Johnson) in a series of videotaped instructions, Ride The Eagle’s distance between Johnson and Sarandon only enhances the moment. However, when it came to the plotline involving Leif reconnecting with ex-girlfriend Audrey (D’Arcy Carden), Trent O’Donnell’s role as in-between presented some challenges.
Perhaps the largest obstacle was the fact that there’s a phone sex scene in Ride The Eagle, and Jake Johnson had no one to act against except his own director. Normally, as Johson himself pointed out, you’d have a chance for leads like himself and D’Arcy Carden to sort of build chemistry while in the moment. But since this was a more compartmentalized, pandemic-fueled production, situations such as the following arose:
It’s way less cute and charming, and he is not an actor, and didn’t want to phone it in. So he’s reading his lines like, ‘Really. Why’d you do that’? And then I have to fake laugh like he’s being so charming. That was kind of the game with those.
If Jake Johnson was still slated to appear in Jurassic World: Dominion, which sadly isn’t the case, he could have put those skills to the test with all of the digital dinosaurs that will be added to the final product. But at least Ride The Eagle has prepared him for even more encounters with roles that see him using his imagination. Though maybe he’ll still get to meet Susan Sarandon someday, if only to have a talk about how they did on their cinematic family ties.