Warner Bros Pictures’ San Andreas directed by Brad Peyton finds California all but destroyed by a major earthquake. The film focuses on a rescue helicopter pilot (Dwayne Johnson) and his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) as they attempt to save their daughter (Alexandra Daddario) in the midst of all of the destruction. I had the opportunity to talk with Gugino about her role in the action thriller and reuniting with The Rock during this year’s WonderCon. Gugino says she’s proud of her character’s strength and she’s proud of the fact she was able to do many of her own stunts in the film which opens in theaters on May 29, 2015.
San Andreas is your third film with Dwayne Johnson. Do you tease each other, like, “You again?”
Carla Gugino: [Laughing] “Well, no, but I think also both of our lives are so busy and we so enjoy working together and we’ve gotten to go to different places in each one. For sure this one is a totally different relationship and our characters, the relationship between the characters is also deeper and more complex and really interesting. I think that there was something so great. We were so happy that we could trust each other from the day we walked onto the set. That makes such a huge difference, you know? But, no, because our lives are so busy we actually got to see each other. I got to see my friend which was great and spend some time together. And also he is so good in this movie, like really good. And so that’s also knowing someone well, that always makes you more proud of someone when you know them well and you see them do work that is even [beyond]. He goes to different places than he has really gone with any other characters in this movie.”
Even in Faster? That was a very dark movie.
Carla Gugino: “I know. That was a very dark movie. This is less of a dark character and more of an emotionally vulnerable [character]. Our family has had a tragedy that’s pretty much as bad as it gets and his character had a really hard time dealing with it, and he has to come to terms with that. And we have to come to terms with that if our relationship is going to work. So in the midst of this huge, exhilarating action spectacle, you actually have this beautiful family story.”
Did Dwayne help you with the action scenes?
Carla Gugino: “Yes, for sure, he is amazing at stunts which on everything like Race to Witch Mountain too he did some amazing stunts. But on this movie, absolutely, and I did more stunts than I’ve ever done on any movie. I think I might actually do as many stunts as he does in this movie, so I feel a badge of honor about that. The stunt department said to me, they were like at the end of the movie, ‘You know, Carla, I don’t think we’ve ever worked with any actress who has done this many of her own stunts.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know. Is that compliment or maybe I wasn’t wise?'”
You’ve done films with big action scenes including Spy Kids. Was this on a different level than those?
Carla Gugino: “For sure. I mean this was, in terms of Spy Kids and Sin City, both of those we did a lot of green screen work. Certainly on this we did. But in terms of the action and the magnitude of the movie, how huge this movie feels, this is definitely another level.”
What’s the most intense it got for you. Can you talk about one particular big stunt that another actress might have balked at but you stepped up and did?
Carla Gugino: “There was a stunt that I in the middle of doing it was balking at. There’s a sequence in the film where my character is in a building that’s going down and [director] Brad [Peyton] wanted to do this one shot that’s three minutes long. It involves me taking my own falls, there’s a fireball, there’s a ton of stunt people. Floors drop down; I’m dropping each of these floors. They put you, in that particular case, this was a separate part of this section where they put you on wires and you still have to hit the floor, you just don’t hit it hard enough that you break something. They’ll soften your blow a little bit. You just have to trust them implicitly; you just have to fall. And in this particular case it was like a rag doll situation. It was a debate as to whether I was going to do it or the stunt woman was going to do it, and I said, ‘I really want to try. If we can make it with me, I really want to do it.’ And about seven takes in I was like, ‘Whoa, I wonder if we made the right decision.’ But I think we got a really awesome, awesome piece of footage. And I think it feels for the audience you’ll see that it’s me and it’s much scarier because of that.”
How many times did you do that three minute take?
Carla Gugino: “We did three takes because it was a five hour reset. Yeah, it was pretty amazing. We shot it over a two day period and when you see it, it’s a spectacular action sequence that he’s designed. Really, really cool.”
Who is your character and what’s her relationship to Dwayne Johnson and Alexandra Daddario’s?
Carla Gugino: “Dwayne and my character are married but they’re going through a separation because we lost our other daughter in a rafting accident. He was there and he wasn’t able to save her, and he never was able to recover from it. And so I didn’t have a husband anymore, really, so I moved on and at the beginning of this movie my new boyfriend takes Alex’s character up to San Francisco where she had to go to college because Dwayne’s character is a rescue worker and he has to go deal with the earthquake – and he was going up there and I can’t take her at that moment. So basically he and I unite in a way that’s cool and you’ll find out, but we go up to save our daughter. And as you know, nothing can stop a mother bear. She’s going to do everything she can to get her daughter and needless to say Dwayne’s character is too.
So to answer your question, she’s a smart, resourceful woman who’s not an earthquake expert, who’s not specially skilled, who’s just a real woman in a situation and she’s incredibly resourceful and tenacious. I love this character so much and I love their relationship so much, and as the movie goes along you start to see their relationship come together in a really powerful way that doesn’t feel cliche or sentimental. They don’t know if they’re going to have another day.”
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