When we last left off on my Journey 2: The Mysterious Island set visit, we had spoken with actors Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, and Michael Caine. During another setup, we had the chance to chat with Dwayne Johnson, who plays Hank Parsons, the stepfather to Josh Hutcherson's character, Sean Anderson. Dwayne Johnson is no stranger to both action and family fare, and the actor had just come off another big-budget sequel before flying to Hawaii for Journey 2: The Mysterious Island last December. Here's what he had to say below.
Actor Dwayne Johnson:
Did you just come off Fast Five before coming to Hawaii?
With all the movies you have going on, how do you even have time to prepare for this?
Dwayne Johnson: I had months, actually, to prepare for this, as I was shooting Fast Five and doing press for Faster. I got close with our producers and writers and really had some good time, even though my time was split, with the responsibilities of shooting the other movie. We were in Puerto Rico and Atlanta for Fast Five, so I had the script and was able to prepare in my downtime, which wasn't a lot.
With only one returning cast member, you guys are basically making a very different film than the first one. What was it about the script that go you involved?
Dwayne Johnson: Well, I like the idea of making a big fun adventure type of movie. I read the script and liked it. I thought we had the opportunity to elevate it, to make it bigger and better. I enjoyed the first one. I thought there were elements of the first one that were pretty cool and exciting. With the team we have in place for this one, there were a lot of variables that made it easy.
Was Michael Caine already on the project when you came on board?
Dwayne Johnson: He was not. It was Josh, myself, and I think Michael Caine signed on, and then Vanessa. I love Michael. I've enjoyed my time with him. As an actor, it's an honor to work with him. The word legend and icon come up, when you talk about Michael, and he has certainly earned that. He's just a great guy to be around, a great storyteller. He's a guy's guy, and I can appreciate that.
What do you enjoy about shooting a movie here in Hawaii, which I know is big for you?
Dwayne Johnson: It's great. Not only is it great to bring business here for the economy and local businesses, but, personally, for me, to come back to Hawaii, is very satisfying. I've lived here on two occasions, and I did a lot of growing up here. I think those early teenage years I was here, and I was getting in a lot of trouble, but doing a lot of dreaming. To come back and live the dream, so to speak, it's pretty cool.
What are your long-term goals, as far as your career goes. Do you plan that far ahead?
Dwayne Johnson: The goal is to have the opportunity to work in different genres. This is a great, exciting time in my career, where I have the opportunity to work in different genres. I also recognize there are not a lot of actors who have had that opportunity, and I'm grateful for it, so I like the idea of working in different genres, and transcending genres, and hopefully finding success and make movies that people like.
Do you ever worry that you may mix it up so much that people don't know what to expect from you?
Dwayne Johnson: That's a good thing, sure. That's a great thing. I never wanted to just stay in one genre, or defined as an actor who can only work in one genre. For me, it's fun, and that's how I grow as an actor. I think it's fun and interesting to the audience, too. I may throw curveballs to the audience, but I seldom throw change-ups.
I was on the set of Faster, and we were all exciting that you were getting back into the action genre. This one seems that the action and family aspects blend into one. Would that be a fair assessment of this movie?
Dwayne Johnson: I think so. It's a good infusement... is that a word? (Laughs) Yes, it's a great combination of action, fun, and adventure. And, with the 3D platform, that was a big attraction too, because I've never made a movie that was in 3D. I like the idea that it was written and made specifically for 3D. The first movie was the first generation of James Cameron's technology he used for Avatar, and now we're the third generation. It's exciting.
Behind the camera, there is obviously a different approach to things in 3D. As a performer, are you seeing any difference in terms of how you see the camera? Is this a different process for you?
Dwayne Johnson: I'm intrigued by the 3D platform, and not only do I think it's fascinating, when you look at how the shots are set up, why they're set up specifically for the audience. There are certain things you have to look at, that I never understood until now, making this type of movie, just in terms of depth, in terms of where they're placed in a scene. There are cool special effects happening, how things are framed, there are a lot of fascinating details that go into it. I think that's why it's so important to have a great director, with a great vision and a sensibility to 3D.
Can you talk about working with Michael Caine? Was there any intimidation factor in getting to work with him?
Dwayne Johnson: No, to be honest with you. I'm pretty relaxed around everybody. I was very excited to work with him. I had been such a fan for such a long time, that I was just excited to work with him. Every once in a while, you get the opportunity to work with somebody who's really amazing, and can not only help elevate your game, but it's a nice bonus when that person is really wonderful.
After 10 years, are you letting the stuntmen go in and do more of the stunts, or are you getting in there as much as you can?
Dwayne Johnson: I love it. I love doing stunts, as long as it's safe. We have great stunt coordinators, some of the best in the business, and they always provide a safe environment for us to work in. For me personally, if I'm able to do it, and if it adds to the movie, I'll do it.
Do you find there's much that you can't do, though? In terms of stunts?
Dwayne Johnson: Plenty, sure. If they are high-wire work, mixed with green screen or CGI, it's necessary to have your stunt double. I'm very fortunate to have a great stunt double. He's my cousin, and we look like twins. He's been with me since I started.
What's more interesting for you to see in this film in 3D. Huge bumblebees, or Luis Guzmán
Dwayne Johnson: The bumblebees don't hold a candle to Luis Guzmán, I'll tell you that. He's a great guy, very, very funny, and very talented. I've always appreciated diversity in careers, and he has that, with solid powerful dramas, to fantastic comedic timings.
What's it like to work with actors who are on the cusp of huge stardom, like Vanessa and Josh? Is it fun to see them where you were, 10 years ago?
Dwayne Johnson: It's an exciting time for them, and I can appreciate that. I can also appreciate the layers of humility that they have, especially for young actors at that age, who are gracious to the crew, and very appreciative and aware of the position they're in. It's great they're able to remain humble, and I see that in both of them.
Lastly, we were able to speak with director Brad Peyton, who is no stranger to the 3D universe. After writing and directing several short films, Brad Peyton made his feature directorial debut with Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, last year's 3D sequel to Cats and Dogs. Here's what the director had to say below, including his thoughts on which Jules Verne story he'd like to make as a follow-up.
Director Brad Peyton:
What attracted you to a project like this, a sequel with only one returning cast member and a different location, and what did you bring into that room to convince them you were the guy for the job?
Brad Peyton: I really love Jules Verne. I grew up with a mom who only read science-fiction and horror, so there was always that stuff around in my house. All my friends are all sci-fi movie nerds, and we're all into that stuff, so part of it was, when I came into the room, I could talk to them about the difference between H.G. Wells, and how he thought fantasy came from other worlds, and how Jules Verne thought fantasy came from our world. I could talk with that perspective, and I knew Jules Verne had written a couple of entries into the encyclopedia, with all the details and mapping and reality of the world. A big part for me, was not putting the movie on a soundstage, but going to a location where it was real. My attraction to Jules Verne was part of the attraction to the property. I have always wanted to do an adventure story and a survival story. I've always been attracted to an idea of what does it take to get through a bad situation. I guess all of that, and I also had a different visual sensibility when I came into the room. I could talk about things I thought would work in 3D, and how the action could be a lot cooler.
Do you think it was a good idea to come to Hawaii now, with all the rain?
Brad Peyton: It's just a different way of filmmaking. I've always thought of it as, you can either grow a film, or you can design a film. Growing a film, is like you walk into a restaurant and go, 'OK there's movement there, there's light here, this is how I'd block it in this space.' Designing a film is going into a soundstage and saying, 'How big do you want the room? Where should we put the windows?' Part of it was finding a balance between these two things. I wanted to design the shots, but I wanted to grow it from what's given to me. When it rains, you roll with it. Things change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, and if it's for the worse, you try to come up with a new concept.
How have the demands of shooting on location, been with shooting in 3D?
Brad Peyton: Tougher. Definitely tougher. I think the equipment, or any kind of technology is strained by bad weather. I think 3D equipment being kind of newer, it's still getting used to this. What we put cameras through, it's not a pretty site. There's a lot of care going into protecting the gear, and it is definitely tougher than being on a soundstage. It's just not as controlled an environment. I can tell you, from the perspective of converting a film to 3D, to shooting a film in 3D, there's no way you can convert this movie. Get a jungle in 3D? You'd have to cut out every leaf. It would take you six months to do a 30-second shot. To me, there was no option. We'll make it work. It's exciting to play with it, and I was looking forward to designing shots for it, but you also know you're not going to get as many set-ups, it's going to be harder to move the gear, it's a little more taxing on the production. I would definitely say that the pros outweigh the cons, 100%.
Your stars are such an interesting mix of different types of actors. What's it been like to have them mesh together for this?
Brad Peyton: They're very different people, but the commonality they all have is they're very smart and amazing people. They're very kind-hearted people, they respect each other, respect the craft, and I'm incredibly blessed to have them. Everything from Michael Caine's two Academy Awards, to Dwayne Johnson's billion-dollar smile. I started as a technical director. I did stop-motion, I did animation, I was very much on the technical side of it. On this movie, I've completely loved working on the actor side of it, in ways I've never experienced before. I'm being invited into a process with them, in a very intimate way, and there's something very, very rewarding when the people you have in the movie, want to elevate the movie with you and find what's best for the movie. It's been incredibly rewarding, and they have no problem meshing together. They play off each other very, very well. We did a scene where the island is collapsing, and there are two scenes with this big storm, and they're hanging onto this cliff at the edge of the island. There is basically one line in each scene, Michael has one line in each scene, and he just destroyed those lines. I couldn't believe it. That one line is the only line in the scene, but he made it amazing. That's what struck me. He just took that one simple line, which, on the page, is literally five words, but he made it so impacting. It just reminds you that all they need is that one opportunity to make it amazing. That really floored me.
How do you gauge the things that come off the screen in 3D?
Brad Peyton: It's story-dependent. In this movie, you want some stuff to come out at you, just because it's fun, but if it makes sense to the story, you do it, if it doesn't, you don't do it. I've been really lucky to be supported by the producers and the studio to just really do what makes sense, and not go, 'OK, every three minutes... blam!' You just have fun with it in places you should, and don't push your luck when you shouldn't. To be honest, I played it a little conservatively, because I want you to feel the environment, so it's about getting a sense of the space.
Do you look at this more as a franchise you could work on forever?
Brad Peyton: I was very selfish, in the sense that the property of going to the moon was also in the Jules Verne stories, and I've always wanted to make a going to the moon story. That was always in the back of my mind, that I would like to make this one good so that I can go to the moon on the next one. We were very careful in picking our cast, to move forward with that. I felt like this movie will pay respect to the first movie, but will also evolve from the first movie, in the sense of what I was telling you about. It was always a long-term thing. I don't really think short-term.
You have all of these really big names, but it seems that Luis Guzmán seems to steal the show in places. What was it like to bring him on board?
Brad Peyton: Yeah, Luis is the comic relief. I don't know if I'd say he steals the show, but yeah. My expectations of Luis are always high, because he's such a great character actor, and I always thought he would carve out his own space. I think other people would've been like, 'Wow, I didn't expect him to grab that moment,' but I saw that coming. Luis is phenomenal. I actually really connect with Luis, as a person, and really respect Luis. I just appreciate watching him act every day. I just see a guy who really knows how to act. He just really rounded out the cast in a really fun way. He definitely brought that fun element to every scene.
Does the comedy stop when the camera stops?
Brad Peyton: Oh, God no. I'm the least funny guy on the set. These people, they prank each other all day long, they make fun of each other all day long, there are just as many laughs off camera, especially with Dwayne. He's such a fun personality. Actually, I can't just say 'especially Dwayne,' because Josh and Vanessa, all of them. It's just like hanging out with a bunch of fun, happy people. It makes it a lot easier on me, because when I'm off sweating in the corner about getting the camera set up, they're off hanging out laughing.
What made you think of Vanessa in the first place?
Brad Peyton: I wanted the character to be an islander, so I immediately started thinking about the complexion and the look. Vanessa was one of the few younger Hollywood actors, that I knew fit it. When I found out her schedule was open, and it started to become a reality, that's when I got really excited. At the beginning, I was like, 'I don't know, we're not going to be able to get her,' but then I got excited really quickly. I just latched onto it and saw if she'd go for it, and it worked. For me, it was the credibility of acting experience, and a look.
What kinds of things have you discovered about Dwayne, just in working with him?
Brad Peyton: Well, I knew I'd get the physicality out of him, I knew that was coming. I underestimated how charismatic he would be. I knew there would be a certain level of charisma, but I didn't understand that he'd be that powerful. I think he's just a very deep person. I know he does a lot of action stuff, but I think Dwayne has a very deep soul. He's been through a lot in his life, and a lot of forming your character is going through ups and downs. Dwayne has done that, and when he shows up, you can reference really high highs, and really low lows, and he's been through those. He's a very honest person, and that allows him to have a very deep well to act from. I think Dwayne is a really good actor. He really surprises people. When Dwayne wants to get somewhere, he gets there. He doesn't really take no for an answer. That surprised me a little bit.
How excited are you to see this all come together?
Brad Peyton: I'm very excited, because there's going to be so much of it that's going to be built in a computer. As a director, you get a sense of relief every day. You go through it and you go, 'That's great. I like what we did here.' When it all comes together, just seeing the visual effects part of it come together will be great, because it's such a long haul to get there. Every day you get excited, but when you're done shooting you go, 'Please put this all together.'
When I left Waimea Falls Park after a long day on the set, I walked away with quite a lot, including extremely muddy shoes and knowledge of Hawaii's bizarre rain patterns. I also walked away knowing Journey 2: The Mysterious Island should be one hell of an adventure, with a huge cast full of stars in every age range, and a 3D story that takes the adventure genre to whole new heights... on the wings of huge, flying bumblebees. That about wraps up my visit to the set of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, which debuts in theaters nationwide February 10.