In between shot-in-3D takes on Dwayne Johnson’s latest big-screen adventure Journey 2: The Mysterious Island–the sequel to 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth–ComingSoon.net joined the big man literally in the middle of the Hawaiian tropical rainforest for a conversation ranging from being a newbie on a second established franchise to bulking up and bulking down from role to role.
Q: With all the other movies you have going on, how did you have time to prepare for this?
Dwayne Johnson: I had months actually to prepare for this as I was shooting “Fast Five,” and as I was preparing for press for “Faster.” I was fortunate because we had a great team here. Beau Flynn is the producer, I got close with him and got close with our writers, and really had some good time, even though my time was split with responsibilities of shooting the other movie. We were in Puerto Rico and then we were in Atlanta for “Fast Five,” and it was fortunate that I got the script and was able to prepare in my down time, which wasn’t a lot.
Q: As sequels go, with really only one returning cast member you are basically making a very different film from the first film. What was it about the script of this film that got you involved?
Johnson: I like the idea of making a big, fun, adventure type of movie. I read the script, I liked it and thought that we had an opportunity to elevate it and make it bigger, make it better from the first one. I enjoyed the first one – I thought there were elements of the first one that were pretty cool and exciting. And with the team we had put in place for this one, there were a lot of variables that made it easy to say yes.
Q: Was Michael Caine already on the project?
Johnson: He was not. No. At that time it was Josh and then myself and then, I think, Michael Caine signed on and then Vanessa [Hudgens].
Q: It seems like you guys have a good relationship?
Johnson: I love Michael. I’ve enjoyed my time with him. As an actor it is an honor to work with him. The words ‘legend’ and ‘icon’ come up when you talk about Michael, and he certainly is those words. He is a great, great guy to be around and a great storyteller. He is a guy’s guy and I can appreciate that.
Q: What do you like about being able to shoot a movie here in Hawaii, since it’s a place you have a personal connection to.
Johnson: It’s great. Not only is it great to bring business here for the economy for the locals and the local businesses here, but personally for me to come back to Hawaii is very satisfying. I lived here on two occasions; I did a lot of my growing up here. At a time where development was important, I spent a lot my time [here]. I think from 13, 14, those years–those important early teenage years–I was here and I was getting in trouble, but yet doing a lot of dreaming. And to come back and live the dream, so to speak, is pretty cool.
Q: Speaking of dreaming, what are your long-term goals career-wise? Do you plan far ahead or do you just take scripts as they come?
Johnson: The goal for me is always to have the opportunity to work in different genres. This is a great and exciting time in my career, where I can have the opportunity to work in different genres, and also I recognize there’s not a lot of actors who have that opportunity and I’m grateful for it. I like the idea of working in different genres and transcending genres and hopefully finding success, and ultimately make movies people like.
Q: Do you worry that you may mix it up too much that people don’t know what to expect from you?
Johnson: But that’s a good thing. That’s a great thing. I never wanted to stay in one genre; I never wanted to be pigeon-holed or defined as the actor who only worked in one genre. I want to be able to work in all different genres. 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 curve balls to the audiences, but seldom throw change-ups.
Q: This one kind of seems like the actions blends with the comedy. Is that a fair assessment of this?
Johnson: I think so. I think there’s a good infusion and a great combination of action and fun and adventure too. I think especially with the 3D platform, which for me was an attraction too. I’d never made a movie that was in 3D. I like the idea that it was written and made specifically for 3D. The very first movie was the first generation of James Cameron’s technology, which he used for “Avatar.” We are the third generation. So it’s exciting.
Q: Are you seeing any difference, for you as a performer, as to how you think about the camera? Or is this something you’re able to not think about.
Johnson: I’m intrigued by it, period, the 3D technology and just that platform. But not only that, I think it’s fascinating when you can look at how the shots are set up and why they are set up specifically for this, for the entertainment for the audience. There are certain things that you have to look at that I never understood till now making this kind of movie, just in terms of depth and how and where actors are placed within the scene, color pallet of the scene, there’s cool special effects happening, and how everything is framed. I mean, there is a lot of fascinating detail that goes into it. As a performer, I think about that and this is where it’s really important to have a great director who has a great vision and a great sensibility for 3D.
Q: With Michael Caine, did you have to get over any kind of intimidation factor because he is so iconic and get relaxed around him at first?
Johnson: No, we were pretty relaxed around each other. I was just very excited to work with him. He read the script and wanted to be in a 3D movie and loved the goal. I’ve been such a fan for such a long time that I was just really excited. Everyone once in a while you get the opportunity to work with somebody who’s amazing, who not only comes on to help elevate the movie, but it’s always a nice added bonus when that person is really wonderful.
Q: Do you have any mentors in the industry that you get their advice on roles or scripts or just bounce things off?
Johnson: I’ve had the good fortune to work with a lot of wonderful actors. The very first time I started in this was 10 years ago this year and a lot of actors and directors and studio heads as well, producers too, so a fair amount of successful people in this business in a lot of different areas. I mean, I’ve become friends with a lot people over the years. These are all people who call each other and say, ‘Hey, what are you working on? What are you doing now? That’s great.’
Q: After your 10,000th stunt, are you starting to let the stuntman do a few more of the stunts or are you still getting in there and doing as much as you can?
Johnson: I love that. I love doing stunts, sure. I’m a physical guy, so as long as it’s safe. We always have great stunt coordinators–I’ve worked with some of the best in the business–and they always provide a safe environment for us to work in. But for me personally, as long as I’m able to do it and I think that it adds to the movie, then I’ll do it. I love doing it, for sure.
Q: Do you often find things you can’t do, though? I can’t imagine there would be much of that.
Johnson: In terms of stunts? Plenty, sure. I think that shots are designed to… if they are high-wire work or high-wire mixed with CGI or green screen and it’s necessary to have your stunt double. I’ve been very fortunate; I’ve got a great stunt double who’s my cousin and we look like twins. He’s been with me since I started.
Q: Where are you size-wise? You’re huge in “Faster” on the screen.
Johnson: I trained a lot. I trained hard for that movie, harder than I’ve trained for a role, ever. Where am I now?
Q: Where are you now for this movie in your changing dimensions?
Johnson: I’ve slimmed down, probably five to ten pounds. The type of training I was doing was the type where it was very unsophisticated. We went back to moving iron as how a guy would train when he was in prison. You go into prisons in the yards, these guys train in very unsophisticated ways, moving a lot of iron, sometimes moving a lot of cement, sometimes makeshift weights. They keep everything very basic. That type of training allows for density in the muscles to take place, which is what I wanted to hopefully accomplish with “Faster.” With this, I shed about five to 10 pounds, I would say. I changed my training around.
Q: Is there ever a point where you’re not going to worry about bulking back up for things?
Johnson: I don’t know the point will come where I say I’m not worried about it. I think it’s all just role-dependent and whatever the character will call for. I love training. It’s part of my life. I get up and I train hard; it anchors my day and allows me to work 12-, 14-hour days. It always depends on the role.
Q: Does your cousin have to match your size all the time?
Johnson: Of course. He has to, yes.
Q: Have you always been a fan of Jules Verne’s work?
Johnson: Sure, growing up, absolutely.
Q: What is it about these themes of ancient history and these fantasy worlds that seem to be endless fascination for the audience? What do you think that is?
Johnson: I think you said it. I think it’s living in those worlds, living in those fantasy worlds. I think that always makes it captivating and interesting. When I was a kid and growing up, I was always fascinated by a lot of those stories.
Q: What’s more interesting for you to see on the screen in this film, huge bumblebees or Luis Guzman in 3D?
Johnson: The bumblebees don’t hold a candle to Luis Guzman, I can tell you that. He’s a great guy and very, very funny and very talented, by the way. I can always appreciate in careers diversity, and he has that. He’s had a wonderful career over the years of solid, powerful drama to fantastic comedic timing.
Q: So you were already really familiar with your co-stars’ histories?
Johnson: Absolutely, sure. They are going to be my co-actors and partners in the movie. If I’m unfamiliar with their work, then I’d certainly get more familiar with it. I do everything I can to get as much information as I possibly can.
Q: When you work with people who are on that cusp of huge stardom like Vanessa and Josh, what is it like to see somebody where you were 10 years ago?
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 who are that age who are gracious to the crew, number one, and very appreciative of the position they are in and aware of the position that they are in and yet still remain humble I think is a great trait. I see that in the both of them. It’s important.