CS Interview: San Andreas Director Brad Peyton Shakes Things Up

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Brad Peyton directs this Friday's San Andreas, starring Dwayne Johnson.

This weekend, “The Big One” hits California in San Andreas, Warner Bros. Pictures’ massive disaster thriller starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario. The film mark the second big screen team-up for Johnson and director Brad Peyton. Peyton’s sophomore feature film was 2012’s Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, which turned out an impressive $335 million worldwide.

In the below interview, ComingSoon.net sits down with Peyton to chat about his career path so far and where he hopes it will head in the future, naming both the Star Wars and X-Men franchises as dream projects. He also discusses Lobo, the now-on-hold DC Comics film he was formerly attached to, as well as the potential for a San Andreas sequel or prequel.

The filmwhich also stars Paul Giamatti, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Kylie Minogue, Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson, is now in theaters. If you’ve already seen it, be sure to tell us what you think! Also, if you missed it, be sure to check out our interview with Alexandra Daddario.

CS: After Journey 2, were you and Dwayne Johnson actively looking for another project to work together on?

Brad Peyton: What it came out of was, right after we finished shooting “Journey 2,” Beau [Flynn] was talking to me about “Journey 3” and he said, “I have this other thing you might like.” It was a very rough draft of “San Andreas.” It obviously needed a lot of work as a lot of scripts do early on. The thing I really latched onto, though, was the family stuff. There was a very interesting family dynamic of a family that had been through a tragedy and, without even knowing it, were looking for a way to rebuild. Throughout the chaos of the movie, they get torn apart and then they actually find each other again and find themselves a little bit. It seemed like richer material than I was used to seeing under the context of a quote unquote “disaster movie.” I initially glommed onto that. I really liked what that was. Then it also kept my interest. I have a bit of an ADD thing. I need movement. I need interesting visuals. I need a certain pace. This offered the opportunity to do that. I was intrigued right away.

CS: Your first two films skew towards a younger demographic. Was it a very conscious decision to tackle something a little more serious while maintaining a foothold with family audiences?

Peyton: I think the tone is obviously a little more adult. I always wanted to do the big, four-quadrant release. I didn’t always know that’s what it’s called. Now that I’ve worked in Hollywood a couple of times, I realize that what I always wanted was that sort of big movie. It’s been a process. Like Dwayne, I didn’t really have a lot of ties to Hollywood. My first big break was with “Cats and Dogs 2.” People that knew me were like, “I’m surprised you’re doing ‘Cats and Dogs 2,'” but it was a big, big opportunity for me. Right out of the gate I had this big movie. What I’ve been doing since then is kind of aging up my demographics. Now, with “San Andreas,” this is finally the tone that I wanted to be in. This is the tone that I wanted to achieve and wanted to make. It was a big challenge to make a movie of this scale and size. Every day was a whole new thing. That’s the right zone for me. It’s the right tone. It’s the exact kind of movie I always wanted to make, especially growing up and watching James Cameron and Steven Spielberg. Now I think J.J. Abrams is kind of leading that charge. This is definitely more adult than anything I’ve done, but it’s closer to what I’ve always wanted to do.

CS: Going back even farther, there’s an Irwin Allen vibe to San Andreas.

Peyton: It’s funny. I’ve been asked a bunch about Irwin Allen and disaster movies. I actually never watched any of those movies. I actually didn’t watch any movies to get prepared for this. I wanted to strip away any influences and have a real conversation with myself. How would I want to do this? Although I think we’re all influenced by the things we love and can’t help that. You pick it up everywhere. For me, I get it from checking out a great installation or a great painting or a great music video or song. That’s as important as seeing a great movie. But I wanted to strip all of that away. I asked, “What is the story I want to tell?” So I wasn’t really influenced by any disaster movies exactly. The Irwin Allen movies I know are great because so many people have told me to see them, but they came out in the ’70s. I was born in ’78. I was also born in a time where there was no internet and there was a very small collection of VHS tapes that you could rent. It was small town, so I didn’t have great access to movies. There was no second-run theater. We were lucky to have a first-run theater. It was very small. I remember the first rental store open. It wasn’t something, for me, where you could just go back and look at all these things and educate yourself. As I went forward as a filmmaker, I was influenced by the stuff that I grew up on. The Lucases and the Spielbergs. When I had an opportunity to study film when I moved to Toronto, I went back and rented four or five Truffaut films. I had never seen them. I wasn’t even aware of them. Suddenly I was stumbling on Fassbinder. It was this time where I went from great big popcorn films my entire life until around 18 years old to then moving to Toronto and going, “Oh my god! There’s like 50 amazing filmmakers that everyone considers the best!” I had to watch every Kubrick film. I had to watch every Fassbinder film. Every Truffaut film. The positive result of that is that I think that the movie feels more like something I grew up on. The touchstone there is the same inspiration of the 15-year-old kid who grew up wanting to make films. I almost picture the same tone of movie as when I saw “Terminator 2” the first time. To me, that is the epitome of the best tone of a movie. It’s serious and has everything you want, but it’s also grounded. It’s entertainment. It’s a robot that comes from the future. To me, that has more influence on me than anything.

CS: So I’m assuming there’s a big fanboy side to you as well. I know you were attached to Lobo for awhile.

Peyton: I’m one of those guys who spends 100s of dollars on graphic novels. I’m such a nerd. I collected Star Wars figures. I literally have close to 1000 comics in the sleeves and the backing at my parents’ house. I was always into fantasy and science fiction world creation. I played “Dungeons and Dragons” as a kid. I played “TMNT: The Role Playing Game” and “Robotech.” I held onto that for a long time even when I was a big kid and other kids were playing sports. What I really liked doing, though, was writing and drawing. That’s really the zone that I occupy. I went to WonderCon this year and thought, “Bring my your Jedis and your Gandalfs. I can talk to these guys all day.” It made me kind of recognize that that’s really my place. I’m happy to do that. I’ve never been judgmental. I don’t judge them at all. I get being really into those worlds. To live vicariously through world creation. Fantasy is a fantastic thing. I’ve always felt very comfortable there.

CS: Is San Andreas eyed at all as a franchise?

Peyton: Truthfully, when you’re a filmmaker, you look at the story before the film and after the film. You’re trying to understand the bigger picture. The conversations you need to have with your cast begin long before the camera starts rolling. There’s always that potential. There could be a prequel, because these events happened. But there’s always that potential when you develop a character you love or when you have both ends of the story and see a place where one end could go. There haven’t been any conversation about it. Well, there have been some conservations. I didn’t really focus on it at all. I focused on making the best movie I could make. It does happen sometimes that you go, “We could put this line here about this” or “We can out that line there about that.” As long as it doesn’t hurt the movie, I’m happy to put in that line. But we have to make this movie really great, not the imaginary movie that might come years from now. I’ve always just focused on what’s right in front of me and tried to make that the best thing I could.

CS: Is anything happening right now with Lobo?

Peyton: I think what’s happening with DC is that they have prioritized what they need to make first in order to kind of lay the foundations for the DC Universe. This is what I believe is happening just from what they’ve been taking about. They’re talking about “Justice League,” “Batman v Superman,” and going into “Flash,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Aquaman.” Those are kind of the pillars of that universe. I was really happy with the script. I talked with Dwayne about it. Joel Silver and I had a really amazing meeting about it. I did a rewrite of the script and was really, really excited for it. In their estimation, though, he wasn’t one of those main guys. Whether you agree with that or not, it’s their approach. That’s fair enough. I think that, to do any kind of comic book universe correctly, you do need to establish, “Here’s the tone. Here’s the main people.” Then we can grow offshoots from there. With Marvel, they’re now doing smaller characters like “Ant-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” They obviously had to start, though, with their big guns and set up “The Avengers.” I kind of feel like that’s where DC is now. They’re setting that team up.

CS: Did the success of Guardians of the Galaxy have any impact? It seems like Lobo would have a lot of similar sci-fi and comedy elements.

Peyton: It’s one of those things where, creatively, you and I get it, but there’s a lot of people that don’t quite get that. It’s a real uphill battle to talk people into spending a lot of money to do things correctly. I think there’s going to be a really amazing time for Lobo and I think people are going to realize, certainly once they revisit it, what they’re sitting on. But you never know. I’m really happy with the project and where we got it and fingers crossed it comes to fruition at some point.

CS: Do you have a dream project?

Peyton: Of course! Who doesn’t? There are two that come immediately to mind. I’ve always been a massive “X-Men” fan. I would love to play in the “X-Men” sandbox. I collected “X-Men” comics religiously. I literally had 200 “X-Men” in a row, from 150 to 350. I collected first appearances. I have “X-Factor” #1. I have “X-Force” #1 like ten times. I’m that guy. I just love that world so much. I had Stan Lee autograph the first “X-Men” comic I ever owned. It’s one of those things that I just know so well. I’m so familiar with it that I would just love to do it. Now, obviously, that the Star Wars universe has been reopened, I think every filmmaker around my age grew up with Star Wars. “Return of the Jedi” was the first movie I saw in theaters. To have grown up with it like that, you’d have to be insane to not want to play in that sandbox. Of course, when it comes to the reality of that, I’m not sure.

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Weekend: Sep. 19, 2019, Sep. 22, 2019

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