At WonderCon 2015 director Brad Peyton and stars Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario previewed an exclusive new trailer and discussed the dangers of performing practical stunts.
The Rock vs. Giant Wave. As if the mindless tomfoolery of some Roland Emmerich-esque earthquake destruction wasn’t enough, San Andreas has to go all The Perfect Storm with modern-day-Schwarzenegger Dwayne Johnson sailing a little boat up a giant Pacific wave before it crests and pummels him into oblivion. Besides the aforementioned giant wave, you also (of course) get rampant earthquake destruction, vague intoned warnings from an actor probably too good for this (here played by Academy Award nominee Paul Giamatti) and the prerequisite familial dramatic backdrop (this time a father-daughter thing – because I guess there should be some semblance of story in between the random acts of awe-inspiring terror.) In its favor — San Andreas is smart enough to know that if the ‘big one’ were to ever hit Los Angeles, getting crushed by the falling Hollywood sign would be the most appropriate, if not spectacular, way to go. Although I, myself, would probably prefer death by giant wave.
At the WonderCon Panel for San Andreas, Peyton, Gugino and Daddario were also on hand to discuss this newest entry into the destruction porn genre.
The panel opened with a new trailer for San Andreas with somehow more toppling buildings than ever before. There was an added beat or two about the emotional side of the story — The Rock attempting to reunite with his wife and daughter amidst all the surrounding chaos. Giamatti seems to be having a blast. When someone off-screen asks who they should call about the impending earthquake disaster, Giamatti stares steely-eyed ahead and responds ‘Everybody.’ He should win an Oscar just for delivering the line with a straight face.
There’s more giant wave action, as we see various people crushed and drowned by the Pacific. The trailer ends with our hero Dwayne Johnson and his daughter (Daddario) in a precarious position — stuck in a boat as water fills in, the duo on the verge of drowning. I guess giant wave beats rock after all…
After the trailer screened, Peyton, Gugino and Daddario took the stage to discuss the mayhem on screen.
Peyton was quick to note the practical reality of the shoot. “We had a saying on set — let’s build a ride and put the actors on it.” He informed, “My priority was to make it as real as possible. It has to be legit.” For Peyton, the most important thing was “to get as much of [the stunts] in camera as possible.” “When you see it in camera, you can tell [that the film] is raw and real.” Gugino seconded Peyton’s sentiment. “We really got to react to real circumstances which you don’t get to do a lot of in these type of films.”
Gugino did more training for San Andreas than any other movie she’s ever done before. “My character drops several floors and for some reason I thought it should be me actually doing it,” she confided. The actress had to fall onto the ground face first — so the hit had to look real but at the same time be safe enough that she didn’t break any bones or worse. “[To perform the stunt], each crew member had one of my limbs on a wire. I was literally a marionette.” Gugino laughed to herself — “The crew probably thought I was pretty dumb [for doing the stunt].”
She then relayed her reaction to reading the script for the first time. “When I read the script, I saw how epic it would be. It was very stripped down… The level of big emotion matched the big action… Ultimately this is a film about a family under attack.”
How do you get actors to perform such stunts while maintaining the emotional integrity of the picture? Per Peyton – it boils down to one word: “trust.” “I was really lucky having worked with Dwayne before [on Journey 2]. We already had a level of trust.” He informed, “There were a couple of amazing conversations early on… A character dies and I wanted Dwayne to say a prayer… It doesn’t have to be religious but just something the character would do.” “We wanted to go there and reach those emotional heights.” There was a lot of communication about maintaining the balance between spectacle and big emotions. Peyton smiled — “Dwayne has never been better.”
San Andreas destroys Los Angeles (but not The Rock) on May 29th.