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Exclusive Interview with The Star Of Disney+ film “Jungle Cruise”: Philipp Maximillian

Photo Credit: David-Simon Dayan

Starring in the highly anticipated Disney film “Jungle Cruise” alongside Emily Blunt and Dwayne JohnsonPhilipp Maximillian is an emerging actor and producer with classic Hollywood leading male looks. Based on the Walt Disney theme park ride of the same name, “Jungle Cruise” follows a group of riverboat travelers in search of the Tree of Life, believed to have healing powers that could aid modern medicine. During their travels, stars Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson will confront threatening animals and the jungle climate all while competing against a German expedition in search of the same tree lead by Prince Joachim played by Jesse Plemons’ and Philipp’s character Axel, a German close confidant to Prince Joachim.

 The action-adventure comedy will be released on July 30th in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access for $30, similar to Disney’s recent releases including MULAN and CRUELLA. In addition to Dwayne and Emily, the movie also stars veteran actors Édgar Ramírez (HBO’s “The Undoing”, “American Crime Story”) Jack Whitehall (“Bad Education” British TV Series “Bounty Hunters”) and Paul Giamatti (“Billions”). Other projects Philipp has been involved in include “Atlanta” opposite Donald Glover and Brian Tyree Henry, “My Life in Venice Beach” and “One and Only,” a comedy series. He has also starred in and was credited as a producer in “Dr. Wunderkind”, a short film.  

Credit: David-Simon Dayan

So can you tell me what influenced you to pursue a career as an actor? 

I always loved film and got interested in movie making at an early age. Ever since I can remember, I was fascinated by actors and their ability to make characters come to life. My mother always encouraged me to learn about different genres; she let me watch movies that were probably not 100% appropriate for 7-year-olds. I distinctly remember watching The Exorcist. I was petrified, but I loved every second of it. Somehow watching that film made me realize I wanted to become an actor.

How were you discovered?

At 17, I was the understudy for an actor at a local theater in Bavaria, Germany (where I was raised). The director Cordula Trantow -a household name in Germany- saw something in me and cast me as Romeo in her national tour of Romeo and Juliet. The show received a lot of press, with the cast being comprised of well-known German actors. I had never really acted on a professional stage before, and suddenly, I was performing for 1000+ audience members. 

You star in the forthcoming Disney+ film “Jungle Cruise” with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, how did that opportunity come about for you?

I auditioned for Jungle Cruise in the spring of 2018. As an actor, you have to get very good at preparing auditions like it’s the last one you’ll ever get but then letting it all go. But I couldn’t let this one go. I’m such a huge Disney -and especially Disney theme park- fan, and the thought of being in a film based on the iconic Jungle Cruise ride gave me a lot of excitement. But we didn’t hear anything for several months. I was standing outside a campground restroom somewhere in Sequoia National Park when I got a call from my manager telling me I got that part and needed to be in Atlanta the next day. My screams of pure joy definitely scared a few happy campers. 

How did you prepare for your role and what steps did you take to understand the importance of your character to the story?

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The whole project was kept under wraps, and I wasn’t given much info prior to shooting at all. Once I got to set and they took me to get fitted I slowly started to understand where I might fit into the whole story. In the end, I had to do my own digging and create a character for myself that I thought would be fun and interesting to watch. Having Jaume (director) trust me enough to make strong choices for my character gave me the courage to be present and live in the moment.

What was it like working with The Rock and Emily Blunt and what did you learn from them?

In the beginning, I was really taken aback by how much we were able to go off script and just play. I had never been part of such a big movie and was surprised to learn how open Jaume was to suggestions and ideas that would come up just by trying different things. Dwayne, Emily and Jesse (Plemons), who I have most of my scenes with, made me feel at ease to a point where I would forget we were working on a Disney blockbuster. 

 You’ve also starred on stage in theatre productions, which do you prefer starring on stage or screen and which do you think your more suited for?

I started my career on stage in Germany, and I’m very thankful for the experience. Germany has a thriving theater and art scene, and going to acting school in Berlin exposed me to a lot of different approaches to the craft. Acting for the stage is tough because it’s live, there’s no editor, no director to call ‘cut’ and do another take. I’m glad I had that experience and I would definitely go back at some point. For now my main focus is film and TV. 

You also starred in “Atlanta” a great series on Netflix, how was that experience working on that show with actor Donald Glover? 

I loved working with Donald and Zazie (Beetz) on Atlanta. That was another experience where I felt like we were all on eye-level just playing around, with Donald giving me full reign to have authentic reactions in the moment. It was raw and super fun. 

 You’ve also been a producer on a short film called “Dr. Wunderkind”, is producing something you’d like to explore more of in your career and maybe venture into other aspects of film maybe?

Over the years I’ve expanded my interests within the film industry and actually just finished writing my first feature film script, which I’m very excited about. It’s a love story set in Weimar Germany. Producing is something that has come rather natural to me. I’ve always enjoyed seeing projects through completion, especially if I’m involved as an actor.

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Now when you’re not gracing the stage or screen, I read your very active. How do you stay in shape? 

I try to break a sweat every day, but I get bored doing the same thing, so I like to mix it up. Running, boxing, weights, yoga. It’s all about a good balance.

Thanks for stopping by Philipp, it’s been a pleasure, but before you go is there anything you’d like to say to everyone out there in OLC! land?

When you wish upon a star, dreams do come true. I learned that from Pinocchio, and he’s right!

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