The first official teaser trailer for Walt Disney’s Race to Witch Mountain has finally arrived over at Yahoo, and as an added treat, ComingSoon.net has an exclusive interview with the director and stars that you can’t read anywhere else.
The action-adventure, which revisits the concepts introduced in Disney’s Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and its sequel Return From Witch Mountain (1978), reunites director Andy Fickman and former wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson following their 2007 Disney family hit The Game Plan. It stars AnnaSophia Robb (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Alexander Ludwig (The Seeker) as two young teens with supernatural powers who suddenly appear in the back of a cab driven by Johnson, and he has to help them save the world by solving the mysteries of Witch Mountain, a secret location in the Nevada desert. Along the way they get the help of an alien expert played by Carla Gugino.
First, watch the teaser trailer, which debuts with Disney’s Bolt on Friday, then check out the exclusive interview that follows to learn more about Disney’s latest family adventure:
ComingSoon.net saw very early footage from the above at Disney’s panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego over the summer. After the panel, we had a chance to sit down with director Andy Fickman and actor Dwayne Johnson, who were joined by the seriously gorgeous Gugino, who jumped in once in a while as well. Since ComingSoon.net had JUST visited the set of the movie and posted a report (which you can read here and here), we decided to save this interview until the official trailer finally debuted online, so here it is!
ComingSoon.net: Who came up with the idea to do another movie, being that it’s been thirty years since the sequel “Return From Witch Mountain”?
Dwayne Johnson: Our producer…
Andy Fickman: Andrew Gunn (leans back and points him out) right here… (Andrew yells out “I didn’t do it!”)
Johnson: Andrew came up with the idea after he’d just done “College Road Trip.”
Fickman: Andrew successfully had done an updated version of “Freaky Friday” at the studio, and Andrew had been sort of creating a version of “Witch Mountain” for several years, and I think like anything, it’s how things come together. We were in post on “Game Plan,” having a great experience with the studio, it was a series of Andrew and the studio asking me if I was familiar with the movie, and before I could even say anything, I’m like, “It’s one of my all-time favorite movies” and then a discussion of “What will that version be if we didn’t do it as a remake or didn’t do it as a sequel?” Very quickly, we were having conversations and a lunch with Dwayne of like, “Hey, would you consider this?” and he’s like, “I loved that movie” and before you know it, we were putting a team together and next thing you know, Carla’s in my office and we’re saying, “Let’s go off and make this movie.”
Johnson: It happened so quickly, it was just like a strong shot out of a cannon. I just remember Andy Emailing me and saying, “There’s this incredible idea, let’s sit down, meet me for lunch.” We met for lunch and he goes, “Remember Witch Mountain?” and I was like, “Are you kidding me?” Ironically enough, I had just watched it with my little girl, who was four at the time. “I was just watching it the other night!” Just the irony of it was really impressive and before you know it… we were shooting.
CS: It did happen fast since “Game Plan” was less than a year ago now.
Fickman: Put it this way, at the premiere for “Game Plan,” Anna Sophia Robb was here, Kim Richards was there. We already had people. We had AnnaSophia Robb and Kim Richards at the premiere taking pictures together without announcing anything, so yeah, it was a pretty amazing… but I think when a movie comes together and everybody has the same shared vision, then it wasn’t a question of “Do I see the movie different than Andrew?” Or “Do we see the movie different than the actors?” From the very beginning, we wanted to make it serious, we wanted to make it real. We wanted to make it fun, but it’s got to be groundedCarla’s character has to be grounded in reality, she can’t just be this person, and Dwayne’s character, he has to make decisions not based on the fact that he’s a superhero. He’s got to make decisions based on the fact of what would you do if two kids got in back of your car and their lives were in jeapordy and they convinced you they were aliens, who would you call? How would you get through? Once we started having those conversations, man, you couldn’t wait to make the movie.
CS: Since you guys just did this family comedy together, even though Dwayne’s done action movies before, this would seem very different, so how did Disney decide to have you guys do this kind of movie together after “Game Plan”?
Fickman: I think it’s because they came to me and spoke to me about how I would feel about it, and I’d know Andrew for a long time and was enjoying the relationship with Disney, and then you start with that iconic image of who (drives) the cab they get into it? You can go through a whole list of actors but then if you think, “What if they go into that cab and the guy driving it is Dwayne Johnson?” Boink, you know what the movie is. At that point, you’re having that relationship and you’re able to talk about this with your actors to where they can really bring something to the equation. There was a lot of Carla when we were in the process of developing the script and we had a lot of Emails and a lot of discussions about “What about this theory?” From a scientific standpoint, you can’t ask for a better process than that.
Carla Gugino: Also, I think it’s inevitable for people to, of course, go to the last project anyone’s involved in, especially a big success like “The Game Plan” and go “Oh, that’s what they do really well” but the truth of the matter is with artists, if you’re really good. Andy, you’ve done so many different genres and (to Dwayne) you’ve done so many different genres that the two of you together I think… obviously, I wasn’t on “The Game Plan” but it’s all about a level of passion and ingenuity and vision and then you can make any genre, you know?
CS: Is there still going to be some comedy and fun in this?
Fickman: There’s definitely…
Johnson: It’s hard to get away from that when it reflects the artist and the filmmaker, because you know Andy’s personality is that. He can be intense, he can be driven, he can be all the things that Andy is, but inherently, you can find a great laugh too.
Fickman: There’s also a human laugh in the sense that there are moments when I look at the footage of the two of them, there’s a joy… Carla’s character spent her whole life looking for aliens and now they’re sitting there and if you spend your whole life looking for something, now they’re really there, and there’s just a sense of joy, and Dwayne, as his character becomes more and more enamored with the world and the heart and the emotion… I think the best action films, the best sci-fi, the best everything have a sense of humor to them, because humor is real life. That’s what happens in moments and you want to embrace that.
CS: Definitely the best action movies, the ones people really remember and love, are always the ones that have a sense of humor.
Fickman: You remember the joke. I could not get over in “Indiana Jones” and I must have seen the first one a thousand times, because every time in the movie theater, there was Indy on one side and the guy pulls out the scimitar and Indy just shrugged and (Spoilers!) just took the gun and shot him, I couldn’t believe that. When I think of that movie, that’s what immediately comes to mind, is that’s a great action/adventure/comedy moment.
CS: I know you have a creature in this called the Syphon and you mentioned it was created by the guys who created the Aliens and Predator, and I wondered whether this was still going to be a family-friendly PG or is it going to have a PG-13?
Fickman: Well, we cut back almost all of Dwayne’s nudity. I’m to keep though most of Carla’s nudity… just for the director’s cut. I think you have to find the balance…
CS: Did you even tell them that they were doing a PG movie or did you just have them do the nude scenes for the hell of it?
Fickman: Um… no, that was real footage… ixnay screenplay… Look, we’re a Disney movie and we’re very proud of being a Disney movie but Disney is also “National Treasure,” “Pirates,” there are so many types of movies. In this day, we want a movie that 8 to 80 can go see. We’ll find that way and how you blend and you add your energy and excitement and the thrill ride.
Johnson: It’s just a matter of being creative. When you’ve got a creative director and an editor involved, you get guys who are passionate about that and who really want to push the envelope and I think when you’re forced into a situation like this, where you’re forced to be creative, then surprisingly enough, you can come away with some great action sequences that are intense, that are gritty, that are all those things, whether it’s PG-13, PG, it’s just a matter of being creative on what you can show, what you can’t show, and when you go back to that old school style of shooting but just in terms of performance… one on one. I have issue with you, you have issue with me, as I had my issue with the monster. It’s okay… Two men are entering, one man’s going to leave, that’s it.
CS: How did you approach Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann (the original kids) to appear in it? Do they have a small part, like a cameo, or a bigger role?
Fickman: It’s not really a cameo as much as pivotal character moments that are instrumental to the safety and survival of our heroes. I met Kim first and we started talking. Ike lives in Florida, Kim lives in L.A., and we first started talking about all that and once we could get Kim going, then we started talking to Ike. For themwhich I totally understandthis is something that’s so important to them because… why reinvestigate it? They are very happy because those were great memories, why tamper? They both read the script and meeting everybody, they really wanted to be a part of this new mythology and we loved having them be a part of it.
CS: What’s your sense for franchise potential? Obviously, Disney would like to have another big action franchise in the next year.
Fickman: I think we said, “We need amazing characters that we fall in love with…” like Carla and Dwayne and AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander. I think we have great villains, and I think we have a great story that if you enjoy this journey, it really is just the beginning of a journey that could take you in so many directions and I think that it was such a great experience, I don’t think any of us, not a crew member or cast member, that would blink at the opportunity to continue telling that story.
Johnson: Of course everybody would love that but when it comes down to the audience, if they respond in a major way worldwide, then we’ll be happy to sit down and talk about a sequel.
Race to Witch Mountain opens nationwide on March 13, 2009.