Last week, I detailed how the photographer and entrepreneur Richard Niles was turned into a gangster for Christmas on behalf of his best friend, Dwayne Johnson. Niles and Johnson had known each other for years before Niles began his career as a photographer.
According to Niles, Niles’ mother had begun asking him questions about his next project. The still, current employee at BuzzFeed said he did not want his mother reading his questions. But he was in the right place, time and situation. When he met with the Marvel film star, Johnson was wearing a watch with Niles’ own design etched into it. He knew the gold would make Niles’ mother uncomfortable.
Then, the comedian Paul Scheer asked Niles if he knew anyone who liked to paint his own clothes. (“OK, Dwayne Johnson,” Niles said.) Scheer, along with a number of other actors, became aware of Niles’ wonderful ability to find and translate hilarious gifs on Instagram, and have them archived and preserved by some of the hottest cultural brands. They reached out to Niles, and after many meetings, a contract was signed. In mid-November, Scheer told me that Johnson found out about Niles’ painstaking digitalization methods, after her found videos of him getting cozy with his girlfriend.
Jumanji 3: Welcome to the Jungle review – Dwayne Johnson flies solo Read more
So last week I heard from Niles, about being fired in December 2017, followed by being flown to Austria to film Jumanji 3 with Johnson. I asked if Niles had any photos of them on the way to Jumanji 3. He responded with three snaps of himself with Johnson on the jet and an image of the two actors in the air: a moment he could not have imagined as Niles and Johnson’s friendship began and ended the previous December. Niles told me the car ride was about two hours long, from Charlotte to London, with other people on board. The driver’s aim, he told me, was to turn around so they could get into the car with the two A-listers. So the driver met them at London’s Gatwick Airport. They walked outside, got in the car and took off. Johnson told him the night was going to be “amazing”.
The next morning, Johnson, Niles and others were sitting in St Martin’s Lane Gardens, in London, when the coach driver showed up. The driver was a West Indian man. He asked Niles if he had a cigar. Niles asked him what he was smoking. “Er, I don’t smoke,” he said.
“Oh,” said the driver. “I smoke a cigar.”
The driver told Niles that he and a friend were on their way back to London, to meet Johnson and his friends in Hong Kong. Niles said his flight to Hong Kong was not scheduled to depart until 12.30pm. “But they told me that my flight was already late because we didn’t fly with it at the start of the game.” Niles was traveling alone.
“This man told me he was flying into Heathrow and connecting. He was waiting for me at the first hotel he could find,” Niles said. When Niles flew to Los Angeles earlier in the week, the driver told him that he was already on the way back to Europe.
Johnson showed up at the hotel and told Niles he would be driving him back to London. “The driver drove us from Los Angeles to Heathrow, and when we got to Heathrow, it was just crazy. One of the female cast members just stopped to talk to us on the taxi ride over.” The group was loaded onto two different Mercedes vehicles. This time, Niles flew alone. “Once I got on the plane, I was so confused because the plane was so large, so that’s when I got nervous. I wanted to board with my friend but I was freaking out. I couldn’t believe my luck.”
But it all worked out, Niles told me. “There was no late flight or any stress at all. I didn’t get a seat next to Dwayne. It was probably two hours by himself, one of the other cast members was not allowed to sit anywhere near me.”
Jumanji 3 is out now.