It’s only been five years since Alexandra Daddario’s first leading role in Chris Columbus’ Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and, since then, the young star has gone on to headline films like Texas Chainsaw 3D and to play a key role in the first season of HBO’s hit series, “True Detective.” This Friday, Daddario is back in the spotlight, starring opposite Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino in director Brad Peyton’s San Andreas.
Hitting theaters this Friday, San Andreas imagines a nightmare scenario in which California finally gets hit by “The Big One,” an earthquake so massive that its trail of destruction stretches from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Johnson stars as Ray Gaines, a helicopter rescue pilot who, when disaster strikes, rushes to the aide of his estranged wife (Gugino) and his daughter (Daddario), who is trapped in The Golden Gate City with another major quake on the way.
ComingSoon.net sat down with Daddario to find out what went into bringing San Andreas to the big screen. We also learned a bit about Daddario’s currently-filming The Layover, wherein she stars opposite Kate Upton in a sex comedy directed by William H. Macy.
CS: We see a number of photos of a younger Blake in the film and I’ve always been curious what that process is like for an actor. Are you asked to bring in actual family photos that they can doctor?
Alexandra Daddario: Yep! My mom lives in New York still in the home that I grew up in. I don’t have any of those pictures, but my mom will pull them out. She always sends way too many. She’ll pull like 60 photos and send them. They’ve also used photos that aren’t actually me and look like me for other things, but for this they used my childhood photos. I think that in “True Detective” there are photos of my brother and sister and mom and dad all over the apartment.
CS: When did San Andreas initially come your way?
Daddario: I auditioned for it and got a call back. I read for the director and I met with him after that. They gave me the job! It was really amazing, both to be up for a movie like this and to be part of it. It’s extraordinary. I got to do things I’ve never done before like travel to Australia and play the Rock’s daughter. It’s awesome.
CS: Not just the Rock’s daughter, but also Carla Gugino’s daughter.
Daddario: She is such a miraculous woman. We both got there before shooting and we had some time to get to know one another and to bond. She is just such an an incredibly nurturing, caring person, but she is also a very tough and strong woman. I feel lucky to know her.
CS: I know Brad Peyton mentioned that he wanted as many practical effects on set as possible. What did that mean from an acting standpoint?
Daddario: It was wonderful! When I did sit down and speak with Brad Peyton after I got the job, he said that he wanted these characters to be real characters. Even though there’s so much going on with special effects and visual effects, it had to be about the characters and about the actors. Otherwise, he didn’t think the movie would be strong. I was impressed by that and he really followed through. He was incredibly determined. He created a situation where he did create a lot of practical effects. That’s really helpful as an actress because you get to actually experience what the character is going through. When I was working in the water tank and Blake had five inches of air above her, I actually did. It’s easy to trick your body into that level of panic. That’s pretty interesting and extraordinary and was a lot of fun for me.
CS: Is it a very different level of action than something like Percy Jackson?
Daddario: It’s very different. The Percy Jackson movies set me up for something like this. I had never done anything like that before. We had so much training and so many stunts and I learned how to fall correctly and make it look natural. To tumble and all the things you need to be the kind of person who can do these stunts. It helped me a great deal. It was different, though. That was a lot of sword fighting and wirework. The big change in this was the water tank. It really set me up very well.
CS: What’s a dream project for you at this point in your career?
Daddario: I’ve been pretty lucky. Every single thing I’ve done has meant so much to me and has been like a stepping stone to something different. I’m a believer in challenging myself and overcoming challenges by doing things I’ve never one before. I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to do that so far in my career. Right now I was wanting to do a comedy and now I’m doing a comedy.
CS: That’s The Layover with William H. Macy directing, right?
Daddario: Yes! With Kate Upton. I’ve been wanting to do something like that. It’s been a challenge, but it’s also so much fun. I like to try things I haven’t done before, but I also like to do stuff I have because I just enjoy my job. I’d love to do a period piece. I haven’t done that yet.
CS: The Layover sounds like it’s kind of a female-driven sex comedy.
Daddario: It is! It’s great. Kate Upton is a remarkable human being. I just adore her and I think that our relationship will translate on screen because we’re just getting along so well. She’s outrageously hilarious and really intelligent. We’re having a great time. I’m very excited to see the movie. It’s funny. It’s raunchy. It’s very interesting being directed by an actor. It’s very different than I expected. His instincts are coming from an actor’s point of view. I loved “Rudderless” and it’s really cool that William H. Macy is directing a comedy. It’s sort of surreal working with him.
CS: Speaking of surreal, what was it like meeting Dwayne Johnson for the first time?
Daddario: I was nervous! I think you can tell from social media. His presence is very authentic in the media, I’ve found. I sort of knew what to expect, but he’s Dwayne Johnson! He’s as wonderful as you expect. He’s totally genuine. One of the things I’ve really found impressive is his work ethic. He’s so confident and humble and he just has an incredible energy about him. He’s just everything that you expect him to be. Meeting him can be pretty intimidating, but he instantly puts you at ease because he’s such a wonderful, gentle soul.
CS: Did you find that he and Brad Peyton had a shorthand from working together before?
Daddario: Yes! I think they understood each other and understood what one another wanted. I think one of the reasons Dwayne wanted to work with Brad again is that Brad is an incredibly hard worker. He’s really great at getting what he wants and achieving what he wants to achieve. That’s everything you can ask for in a director.
CS: Blake is neither a damsel in distress nor an action hero, but sort of has moments of both.
Daddario: She’s a real person. I think that part of being strong is having weakness and sometimes needing help. I try to approach every character that I do from that perspective. I think Blake is a very strong young woman, she goes through a lot during the course of the film. She’s also young. It was a very exciting thing to explore someone like her going through this experience. What does she do? What’s the thinking behind her actions? Is she scared even though she’s not acting like it? That was exciting.
CS: Blake also has a sister whose absence is felt throughout the film. Do you work out a clear view of who that sister was to Blake?
Daddario: Absolutely. I think the backstory is very important to Dwayne and Carla’s relationship and what has happened to the family. For my character, I think there is a degree of knowing that something like that has happened. How does that make you stronger or weaker? How does that make you want to survive? I think it’s made her stronger and made her family very determined.