While on the set of his new sci-fi action-adventure, Race to Witch Mountain, director Andy Fickman proudly sported a black “I Love Aliens” baseball cap that not only appropriately captured his passion for the Walt Disney Pictures film, a remake of 1975’s Escape to Witch Mountain, but also his immense enthusiasm for extraterrestrial beings.
The film stars Dwayne Johnson, who worked with Fickman on last year’s smash hit The Game Plan, and this time the former wrestler plays a Las Vegas cab driver who has no idea what he’s in for when he picks up Tia (AnnaSophia Robb) and her brother Tony (Alexander Ludwig) who have paranormal powers.
Fickman excitedly welcomed ComingSoon.net to the soundstages on the Disney lot and we saw right away why the two teamed up again for a second movie. As we watched a reel the director made of the cast, Fickman said, “I usually just do this for the cast and crew just to get them sort of pumped up, and also just to start with images.” Johnson walked by and without hesitating said, “Wonderful news, California just legalized same-sex marriage, so you’re in.”
“Oh then congrats to you too,” Fickman joked back.
“Were you saying wonderful things about me?” Johnson asked.
“You just interrupted. Dwayne Johnson is one of the greatest actors ever to live. And then you ruined it with a cheap joke,” the director laughed.
“Very cheap. I had to go cheap,” Johnson replied.
“I showed them the reel. You know what they all said? Should have had Vin Diesel,” Fickman said.
“Can you get Woody Allen?” Johnson fired back.
“Yeah, he wants to come work with you right away. That was his next to-do list. Work with “The Rock.” If unavailable, call Hulk Hogan,” Fickman said.
“Everyday. I’ll never forget at the table read. It’s one of the fun things about having an actor and a director who’ve worked together, producer Andrew Gunn chimed in.
“By work together, he meant have had sex together. Feel free to print that,” Fickman teased.
While we didn’t get a chance to properly interview Johnson because he had to prep for his scene, he did explain how this film isn’t a typical Disney movie.
“We really have some tremendous chases and the Siphon, and I think we might have talked about what was exciting about blending, especially with Disney, giving us that freedom and that latitude and giving us that trust to make a movie, to really push the envelope. Because a lot of my movies in the past have really been intense, and Disney, to their credit, and Andy can attest to this, was really not afraid to take those elements and combine them and merge them, with elements of–just in terms of intense action, contemporary action.”
Someone called Johnson back to prepping for the scene, but he was really cool and stayed a couple minutes to finish his answer.
“Okay, I’ll be right there. I’m right in the middle of something. Uhm, merging with all the elements that make Disney great, you know, family and heart and humor, touch of fantasy. And Andy’s bad jokes. Things like that.”
In the film, Johnson’s character unknowingly has been enlisted to protect the siblings from an evil organization that wants to use the kids for nefarious purposes and exploit their supernatural abilities. He goes on the run with them in search of their parents’ experiment which will help their dying planet. However, when their government decides to eliminate everyone on Earth so they can take over and leave their home which is becoming unlivable, the parents contest the idea and are considered traitors as a result. They are going to be executed as their punishment, so the kids go to Earth to find the experiment and prove their parents’ findings exist.
Once the government realizes they have left the planet, they send an assassin known as Siphon to kill the kids and destroy the experiment. The regime doesn’t care about saving their world and wants to continue with the invasion of Earth, but in order to do so, there can no be evidence of restoring life on their polluted planet.
The kids have concealed most of this information from Johnson’s character and he has no idea what’s going on until he actually comes face to face with Siphon. The siblings found their parents’ experiment in an underground cavern and are about to leave when they are confronted by Siphon whose sole purpose is to kill them. The Siphon backhands Johnson and he falls to the ground. He hides in the lush greenery where gooey iridescent pods above drip.
As Siphon walks by looking for him, Johnson has a terrified look on his face and is groaning in pain, but knows he has to escape and get the kids to safety.
We got a chance to talk further with Andy Fickman and Andrew Gunn, as well as AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig, while we were on-set. You can read the interviews using the links below!
Race to Witch Mountain hits theaters on March 13, 2009.