A chat with Dwayne Johnson

To coincide with the home release of Dwaynes latest film, ‘San Andreas’ we are pleased to be able to share an interview with the man himself.

San Andreas tells the story of the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot (played by Dwayne Johnson) makes a dangerous journey with his ex-wife across the state in order to rescue his daughter.

San Andreas is directed by Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island)

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What drew you to want to make San Andreas?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: It was the opportunity to do a movie in this genre, and I loved the script after reading the first 30 pages. It was a big disaster spectacle, but told from the point of view of one man trying to take care of his daughter and help his family survive. It’s the human element that always moves me, and I found the humanity in the script very compelling. At the same time, it’s this huge, gripping, relentless experience.

You play Ray, a search and rescue helicopter pilot. What do you like about the character?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: Ray is a good man with great qualities who has struggled with balancing his family with his job as a rescue pilot for the LAFD [Los Angeles Fire Department]. What I liked about Ray was the fact that he quietly does his job without being boastful. His words aren’t loaded. I felt lucky to find a character like that in a big action movie.

But Ray is tested in this film…

DWAYNE JOHNSON: Yeah, he goes through the largest earthquake ever recorded to hit California. But there is nothing on water, land or air that Ray does not operate to get to his daughter. At the core of his journey in this film is his relationship with his estranged wife Emma, and also his daughter, Blake, who is trapped in San Francisco when the earthquake hits. So we witness this spectacle through their eyes and also a scientist, played by Paul Giamatti, who has found a way to track the movement of the quake by predicting where it will strike next.

Can you talk about Ray’s relationship with Emma and Blake, played by Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario, respectively?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: His relationship with his daughter is a little bit better than the one he has with his ex-wife, although there is still a tremendous amount of love there. Anyone who signs up for marriage didn’t sign up for divorce, but life goes on. So they have a respectful relationship. What’s interesting is that in the face of this great danger and calamity, they both realize that some things they thought were important weren’t really that important after all because it’s not their issues that matter now but their daughter. Ray and Emma actually had two kids, but we will learn through the course of the story that Ray lost a daughter years ago on his watch. There is an interesting psychology that goes on with a man whose job is to save lives but who couldn’t save his own daughter’s, and who is ultimately a very good person. So he’ll basically do anything to not let that happen again…

Ray would do anything to protect his family and loved ones. Do you identify with him in that aspect?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: Without question. I would do anything and everything to keep my family and loved ones safe.

What did you do to prepare for the role?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: I was lucky enough to spend some time with LAFD firefighters, and also spent time with a lot of helicopter rescue pilots in Australia while we were shooting on the Gold Coast. I’ve always seen first responders as unsung heroes and very special people, because when everyone else is running away from danger, they run into it.

What did you come away with after spending time with people who do this kind of work day in and day out?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: Apart from the details of how to operate and fly these machines, more importantly, the mindset of these guys, who are incredible. I’m not just talking about how brave they are, but also how they are able to separate their emotions from the dangers they face. They just have a special DNA, and after meeting them, I walked away with an even greater level of respect for what they do. I admire them boundlessly.

How did that experience inform the character for you?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: I’m not sure if I will ever play a character like Ray again, who embodies all these very special qualities. I was fortunate to get to do it in this film, and I walked off the set every day humbled. I also like that Ray has strong women around him too, whom he loves and respects.

Speaking of strong women, what can you say of Carla Gugino, who plays Emma?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: This is our third movie together. Carla is so unique because of the powerful weight and gravitas she brings to all her performances, especially this one. She’s really special and puts so much heart into everything she does. I can’t say enough good things about her.

What do you think Alexandra Daddario brings to the role of Blake?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: Alexandra is not only beautiful, she’s extremely likeable. It’s a fine balance to play someone who’s as brave and resourceful as Blake, but, at the same time, show vulnerability, and Alexandra nailed it. The audience will be rooting for Blake in this film.

How much action were you involved in during this shoot in Australia?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: I was involved in a tremendous amount of action, but it was different from other movies I’ve made in that it was relentless. Also, I have a great stunt double, but I wanted to do everything precisely because so much of it was shot incamera. So, I guess I was crazy enough to do that…

So, when we see you doing these crazy stunts, that’s without visual effects?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: we used visual effects to augment and extend a shot. When you see me on a boat in the San Francisco Bay, it’s because I was really there. We even built three stories of a building set to scale and submerged it in a tank.

You have worked with Brad Peyton before. What qualities do you think he brings to San Andreas?

DWAYNE JOHNSON: He was hungry to create an epic movie in 3D that could also redefine how these films are made. That required a director with the right vision and keen awareness. Brad knows how to capture the audience and immerse them in the action, but he never loses sight of the human element. You experience this enormous spectacle through the eyes of these characters as they struggle to survive and protect the people they love

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San Andreas is out now on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD

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