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Dwayne Johnson vs. San Andreas

May 26, 2015

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By: Lynn Barker

If anybody is going to rescue us after a huge earthquake destroys our world, we’d want it to be Dwayne Johnson. He respects Mother Nature and he’d get the job done!

In the mega-disaster flick San Andreas (referring to the huge fault line that runs through California) Dwayne plays Ray, an L.A. Fire Dept. rescue chopper pilot who is used to being a first responder to many a messy and dangerous event. This time after a huge quake, it’s family at stake as Ray and his ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino) make their way to San Francisco to rescue their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario of the Percy Jackson movies).

Ray with L.A. Fire Rescue buddiesRay with L.A. Fire Rescue buddiesCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: How did this movie come to you?

  • Dwayne: Actually, we were in Budapest shooting Hercules at that time and I read the script then. I loved it, read it all the way through. 3:30 in the morning, I texted (the producer) and I said “I’m in.” It all came together fairly quickly in terms of the amazing actors who had their hands up, who wanted to come in and play in this sandbox and really hopefully  redefine a genre that has been around for such a long period of time. And also I think collectively, the group wanted to create something special.

Ray and Blake (Alexandra Daddario) before the quakeRay and Blake (Alexandra Daddario) before the quakeCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: How do you think the recent huge earthquake in Nepal will affect the reception of this movie?

  • Dwayne: The world we live in, the life we have today, these things happen. It was so incredibly unfortunate. Prayers and thoughts continue to go out to everybody in Nepal and everybody who was affected by that. The truth is, you go into a project like this with everything you got, your heart and your soul and you just want to make a good movie. Again, you understand the content of it but I think if there’s one correlating factor or connective tissue that would be the ideology of family and strength coming together through a tragedy like this.
  • I’ve been through natural disasters. I was down in Miami for Hurricane Andrew which was a category five. There were members of my family who thought they were going to die. Everybody was in the bathtub. It was a tough, tough thing. So I think the idea of coming together, like we were showcasing in our story, resonates with people and I think if there is any connection, for me it would be that.

Blake, terrified during the quakeBlake, terrified during the quakeCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Do you have an emergency bag at your house with stuff in it for a possible disaster?

  • Dwayne: I do. I have two.

Q: Are you as careful with your action movie persona as you were creating The Rock persona in wrestling? Do you work with the filmmakers of your films to determine what Dwayne Johnson should be doing in a movie?

  • Dwayne: Sure, it’s such a collaborative effort. I think when you’re trying to construct a heroic character, one that can play a part in being an anchor in a big movie like this, (you are) playing real men and women who live and exist today in terms of first responders. The level of detail and the deep diving that we do is really extraordinary. The level of conversations, Brad (Payton, director) flew to Budapest a few times (and there were) detailed conversations with Carla *Gugino, played Emma) and  with Alex (Daddario), to understand the relationships.
  • You have a responsibility I think when you play first responders. This is why I say it’s been a life-changing experience for me, this particular role. But also there’s an expectation I think that fans globally have with what we have been used to delivering. We had an opportunity to create something and anchor it with amazing heart and science on that end with Archie (Panjabi, plays Serena) and with Paul (Giamatti, plays Lawrence) certainly.

Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) and Serena (Archie Panjabi) duck for coverLawrence (Paul Giamatti) and Serena (Archie Panjabi) duck for coverCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Do you think the science in the film is correct? Could this happen?

  • Dwayne: There’s the element of the first responders and the family element but then also just as important, if not more important, is the anchor you have with the scientific side of the movie. We had the best seismologists, top scientists, earthquake scientists from Cal Tech and USC pour over the script, challenge the script and then ultimately walk away from it saying, “This could happen. We hope it doesn’t, but it could happen.”

Emma and Ray in actionEmma and Ray in actionCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Scary! When you were a little boy, did you imagine growing up to be this hero icon?

  • Dwayne: I was born in Hayward (California) and raised a lot in Hawaii and down in Miami. Did I ever think I would be in this position? No. When I was eight years old, I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark in Charlotte, North Carolina. I walked out of there, I was so inspired, loved the movie and went, “I want to be that guy. He’s charming and cool, kicks ass, is cool with the ladies.” But I had no connection to Hollywood. So to be sitting here today, I’m grateful and very happy. I will say just for the record, I received a letter from that gentleman who directed “Raiders of the Lost Ark. Very cool. You know who that is. I’m not a name dropper.

Searching for BlakeSearching for BlakeCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: You got a letter from Steven Spielberg?

  • Dwayne: He reached out and he said a lot of cool, inspiring, motivating things. When we went into a movie like this, we sat in Budapest and we started chopping things up and said, “Wow, this feels like a Spielberg movie.” We had this private conversation, the three of us in a hotel about how much Spielberg had inspired us. I didn’t write him or call him or anything like that. It’s just we’re such big fans of his movies.

Ray (Dwayne Johnson) in his helicopterRay (Dwayne Johnson) in his helicopterCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Cool. Was there any new training or skill you had to master for this role?

  • Dwayne: Sure, you know, the training part is pretty consistent, but the difference was actually participating in something I’d never participated in before; spending time with first responders, spending time with LAFD, rescue pilots, operating a helicopter with these guys and girls for a pretty good amount of time. So that was the different part for me. It was exercising a different muscle. As Carla was saying before, we’ve played characters like this where you’re pretty proficient, you hope to be, at taking care of business, whatever that business is. But in this case, it was very different than anything I had experienced before. So I spent a lot of time here in L.A. and a lot of time in Australia with those men and women.

Ray rescues EmmaRay rescues EmmaCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: What was your takeaway from the first responders?

  • Dwayne: Just how special and unique they are. It’s why so few are able to do it. I mean, really, really exceptional human beings and I’m very, very lucky. It’s why I say its a life changing experience for me.

Q: For the Fast and Furious fans, will your character Hobbs be in “Furious 8”? Also, could there be Hobbs spin-off movies?

  • Dwayne: Can’t go on without Hobbs. We all are interested in it. I just had a big conversation with the studio so we’ll see. I still think for me personally, we should create a little bit of space from 7 (“Furious Seven”) and gauge what the audience will want and go from there.

San Andreas PosterSan Andreas PosterCourtesy of Warner Bros.

San Andreas is in theaters May 29th!