Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino Interview, Race to Witch Mountain.

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

At Comic Con we had a chance to catch up with Dwayne The Rock Johnson and Carla Gugino to talk about their upcoming film a remake of Race to Witch Mountain. RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN is a thrilling action-adventure about a hard luck Las Vegas cab driver Jack Bruno (DWAYNE JOHNSON), whose life is thrown into chaos when apparent ‘runaway’ teenagers

Sara (ANNASOPHIA ROBB) and Seth (ALEXANDER LUDWIG) jump into his taxi. He soon realizes his two fares are children with exceptional paranormal powers whom he must protect as they elude a collection of ruthless enemies.

Why remake this film?

Carla Gugino: I loved the movie as a kid. I lived in a van. We had a motor-home for year, as a kid. So, for me, I always just related to those kids so much -- not the alien part. And then, when I got this script, I just thought it was really good, and I was a fan of Andy’s. We sat down and talked about it and, within about three minutes, I was like, “We have to work together! We have to do this!” And, I’m a huge fan of Dwayne’s. It was just a really natural fit. I fell in love with the character and all the elements. It’s great when something isn’t a lot of work to make happen. Obviously, making a movie is a lot of work, in a great way, and it’s really fulfilling, but what you want is the creative connections to be easy, and that was definitely very immediately apparent.

Dwayne Johnson: They offered me so much money, there was no way that I could turn this down! I mean, wow! It was a very, very easy decision. I loved the script and was a big fan of the original. My little girl, who’s six loves the original, and that was even before Andy came to me with the idea, so it was a very easy decision to make. I love Andy. We worked together on The Game Plan. And, I didn’t want to pass it up. Carla came on board, with a company that I think embodies a lot of wonderful elements, especially with a movie like this, where you can combine and infuse great action with great adventure, great family values, great humor, contemporary action, contemporary humor and with a touch of fantasy too. I’ve said it in the past and I’ll say it again, in my opinion, there’s really no greater director, more suited for this type of movie. With his history, his love for UFOs and everything that that means, and having been born in Roswell, it’s amazing. Being around Andy, when it comes to UFOs, and the mythology and history of what it could be and what it is, is like being around your favorite professor in college, where you’re just like, “Wow!” It’s incredible the wealth of knowledge that he has. So, it was an easy decision for me.
Carla, can you describe your character?

Carla: I play an astrophysicist, named Dr. Alex Friedman (??). She’s been discredited from several universities because she has decided that there is enough hard data to prove that there probably is alien life and, at the universities that she was working for, that wasn’t a popular notion for a respectable university. So, she’s relegated to lecturing at the UFO Con in Las Vegas. She’s hoping, of course, that she’ll get some support, and all they want to talk about is crop circles and kooky theories. She’s pretty much having one of the worst days of her life, when Dwayne’s character, Jack, the cab driver who drove her from the airport, walks in and says, “Hey, these two kids are aliens.” She’s like, “Great, and now I’m being made fun of.” And then, she comes to realize that, in fact, they are aliens. It’s basically the most exciting thing -- the thing she’s been waiting for, her entire life. Then, she is swept away to help on the journey to save the world, or two, in this case. 

How does your relationship with aliens in this film compare to your relationship with aliens on your previous TV series Threshold?

Carla: It’s definitely a different vibe. When I sat down with Andy, it was very cool because he was a big fan of Threshold. So, when I first thought about her as an astrophysicist, she was a contingency analyst and there are certainly differences, and tonally the movie is very different from that. Molly was much more super-serious. With that show, which I loved so much, inevitably, it’s very difficult in TV, if you are the hero of the show. You have to behave in a very particular kind of way. This was almost like Molly gone berserk. It was the flipside of that, where I just got to have so much fun in this movie. She takes her job very seriously, but she ends up in an unknown terrain. I think they definitely could be sisters, but they were extremely different to play, much more so than I thought they would be.

Carla, you’ve done Sin City and Spy Kids, and you have Watchmen next year. What is the appeal of this genre for you?

Carla: I never was particularly a graphic novel or comic book person, per se. For me, it’s just about a good story and good characters, and these have happened to be that. With Sin City, I had worked with Robert Rodriguez in Spy Kids and I was really up for the challenge of doing a completely different character. For me, it always comes down to how I relate to the character, who I’m working with and the vision of the director because that is ultimately what you’re serving. In that way, it was a director I trust implicitly, and I did love Frank Miller’s graphic novel. And, with Watchmen, I get to play somebody who starts at 25 years old and ages to 67, with full prosthetics, and becomes an alcoholic mother. I was like, “Are you kidding?” And, Zack Snyder is amazing, and Watchmen is clearly an unbelievable graphic novel. It’s funny that that has happened. It hasn’t been intentional. I’ve just loved falling in love with each project, individually.

What have your experiences at Comic Con been like? How have the die-hard fans treated you?

Carla: It’s been very cool. One person did say to me, “Next year, for sure, they’re going to reveal on television that we have found an actual alien.” I was like, “Wow, did you find him yet?,” and he was like, “I can’t speak about that right now, but I will tell you by next year.” I was like, “Okay, great!”

Dwayne: There’s been nothing strange. I’ve been able to come to conventions for a long time now, with Comic Con being the biggest and the one that carries the most passion, and there’s been nothing strange. We were talking about it earlier, when we were on the plane coming over here, that what sets Comic Con apart from all the other conventions, and it all came down to passion. It’s not a stuffy convention. People travel thousands of miles, and hundreds of thousands of people come here, and they’re passionate about movies and passionate about comic books and passionate about whether they’re wearing something or whether they’re trying to be something or whether they want to meet somebody. It’s all about passion, so I can always appreciate that. So, for me, it’s not so much weird. And, plus, I can appreciate all the great costumes that I see. I’ve never seen so many Jokers in my life. It’s just been great.

How were the teenagers (AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) to work with?

Carla: They were amazing.

Dwayne: They were great. They were really great to work with. Making movies is a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of hard work too. Acting is difficult to do, on many levels, and you’re so impressed when you can find teenagers like that, who have a tremendous amount of capacity to do what they’re doing, and to be that involved and be that present in the characters and the movie, and to see the same vision as Andy and the rest of us have. To see that wide scope, for them to have that vision, and then for them to still embrace being teenagers and having fun, I thought was great, and I give a lot of credit to their families. They’re really, really talented kids. A very important point to mention is the fact that they are really, really passionate about the movie, not only this movie but the originals, and having a big love for the originals, and loving the fact that Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann (the original actors who played their roles) were there on the set. They spent a lot of time with them. Seeing them really engage with them was great, on our end. A lot of teenagers, frankly, are not like that. They’re interested in what’s on Yahoo! or Facebook, or something like that. But, they were great to work with. They’re very, very talented.

Do you believe in aliens?

Dwayne: Of course I do, yeah. I think it’d be extremely arrogant to think that we’re the only ones. I firmly do. And, I’m always fascinated and intrigued. Spending three or four months with Andy, as all of us did, in pre-production, and seeing his love and his passion -- he had all these videos and books, and he just literally took us on this course -- it was amazing. It was really phenomenal. But, yeah, of course I do, sure.

What do you look for in an action film?

Dwayne: Well, I gotta say that there are two movies in particular that I think raised the bar, in terms of the action. The last Bourne movie -- the whole Bourne series, by the way -- the last Bond movie, for example, really raised the bar in contemporary action, and how it’s shot in a very energetic way, but still a very real way. I think that resonates with a lot of people. In terms of how I pick projects, in general, it’s just anything that I’m drawn to, and a good story. Good material is hard to come by. Everybody can attest to that. For me, personally, I look for a character that I can relate, and if the character can have a little bit of humor to him and have heart as well. That’s important to me, with the exception of Doom. That was the only one that didn’t.

Carla, how does your Watchmen character compare to the graphic novel? Did they make many changes?

Carla: She’s extremely similar. Sally Jupiter has that famous poodle do, which we altered slightly because it was pretty scary. But, other than that, it is exactly what’s in the graphic novel. It was altered very, very little. The Minutemen in the 1940's stuff, and the passage of time, is really revealed through a title sequence that is really in keeping with the tone of the graphic novel, but something that’s not actually in the graphic novel

Exactly how much trouble is it to protect these kids?

Dwayne: It’s a lot of trouble. Immediately, within 10 minutes, as soon as they get in my cab, everything goes to hell in a handbag, and the race begins, essentially. With the action, Andy wanted to create action that resonated with people and that we didn’t have to rely on CGI effects for, in terms of creating the CGI villain, or a CGI monster. So, we had a great monster that those guys over at ADI created, which is really badass and real. And, a lot of times that, particularly with our movie, it shows. It has that texture of reality. When I get hit, I get punched in the face and the thing punches me and I fly across the room, it hurts because Andy’s got me on wires. Therein lies a great challenge, when we talk about action. How can we compete, if you will, on that level, in terms of our action sequences? There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned ass-kicking -- either giving one or taking one -- in movies. It’s great when you have CGI monsters and you can fight them. That’s wonderful. I think there’s also something great and real and appealing about one-on-one combat.

Do you think CGI goes too far these days?

Dwayne: No, I don’t feel it goes too far. There are great movies out there where CGI has done great work with the villains and the monsters, but there is something appealing about having a real monster, when you’re fighting something that’s real.

Carla: Also, I think that with this movie, in particular, there’s something great about the authenticity and the fact that it’s a little bit messier. It’s not slick, in that way. It’s done really, really well. I watched some of the footage and it looks like they are actually fighting, and there’s something fantastic about that, as opposed to flying through the air, which is great for a different kind of movie.

Dwayne, is your cab driver character just a regular guy that doesn’t know what he’s doing, or does he suddenly become a great action hero?

Dwayne: No, he doesn’t suddenly become a great action hero. He’s struggled to stay on the right path, for a long time, and he’s frankly not very happy with his life. With a lot of great movies, it’s always about the collisions of worlds that happen, whether it’s great comedies or action comedies, or whatever it is. In this, it’s a phenomenal collision that takes place between this guy, who’s your everyday guy, and he gets involved with these two teenagers who have these supernatural powers. Throughout the course of the story, he learns to trust them and wants to help them. What I really enjoyed about it, and Andy and I talked about this really early on in the process, is that, even though he struggles to stay on the right path, and he’s done a lot of things that he shouldn’t have done, and gotten in trouble a lot, but he has one great opportunity to do something great and really achieve greatness, at a level that he would never, ever dream of. He gets a chance to save the world. He has that type of responsibility and he accepts it and he embraces it. He doesn’t know if he’s going to succeed or not, but it’s his intent to embrace it and move forward with it.    

Race to Witch Mountain will be in theatres March 19th 2009


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