Film journalism can be tough. Like when you’re sent on a mission to Hawaii to uncover the secrets of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. That really smarts.
But, professional as ever, Total Film sucked it up and headed to the south side of Oahu island where the cast and crew of Journey 2 were setting up one of the movie’s biggest set pieces with Dwayne Johnson and Josh Hutcherson.
For this sequel, Brendan Fraser is out of the picture, and Sean Anderson (Hutcherson) goes off on his next adventure with his mum’s new partner, Hank Parsons (Johnson).
The pair set out to find Sean’s grandfather (played by returnee Michael Caine), in another riff on a Jules Verne story.
The scene that’s currently being shot comes as the mysterious island, an atoll that surfaces in the South Pacific once every 150 years and where the explorers have ended up, is rapidly sinking.
The two actors were meant to be doing their own leaping off China Walls (the locals’ nickname for this stretch of coast), but yesterday the production had to be shut down after Hutcherson fell ill and was driven away looking very faint indeed (diagnosis: strep throat) so the young star’s stunt double will take over after close-ups and mid-shots are done.
As for Johnson, the film’s panicky producers aren’t in the habit of letting their chunky leading man take too many risks. “If Dwayne so much as stubs his toe, everyone freaks out,” drawls one crew member to Total Film.
Looking at the swells below, which look exceedingly dangerous, we reckon the producers’ claim that the actors were going to do their own ocean jumps could be a bit of hyperbole. With plenty of fake plantings and extra brush to beef up the jungle lushness, Hutcherson and Johnson stand on the bluff, gauging the leap below.
Once they’re in the surf, their characters have to swim 100-feet under water to reach the submerged Nautilus submarine (told you this was loosely based on one of Verne’s rollicking adventures). Even though it’s late November, it’s a hot day and the crew's t-shirts are soaked through to a man (and occasional woman).
“The sea level’s risen over 100 feet in the last 24 hours!” barks Johnson. Hutcherson, hobbling with the aid of a cane after his character plummeted off the back of a giant bumblebee, replies, “You know, if we die down there, mom’s gonna kills us.”
After director Brad Peyton calls cut, the brollies go up to shield the stars from the Hawaiian sun, a lucky make-up girl sponges the sweat off Johnson’s naked scalp and a few Styrofoam rocks are moved around. The man formerly knows as The Rock decides to take a quick comfort break, although the production’s stinking portable conveniences have become a joke on the Journey 2 set.
Before heading off, he turns to Total Film and laughs, “This is a $100m movie – we really need better Porta-Potties. Be very careful when you enter one.”
Canadian director Peyton, who moved to LA two years ago, seems to be relishing the challenge of helming a large-scale blockbuster; “If you’re not filming giant lizards, then it’s diving into the ocean to find the Nautilus. There’s giant bees and birds and lizards and storms and helicopter crashes.”
This movie is shot in 3D, and it was designed with the extra dimension in mind from inception. “A lot of the jokes and a lot of the action are designed for 3D.”
That’s not the only high-tech hurdle to deal with. Some of the action sequences are being shot at 200 frames per second, so you’re going to be getting something coming out of the screen (like spear or some other pointy item) then freezing as the camera tracks around to examine it. “A lot of it is about how do you slow it down and just let it sit there and enjoy that moment,” adds Peyton.
So can we expect 3D Bullet-time then? “Yeah it’s close.”
Peyton’s also keen to point out the massive increase in scale compared to the first film, from the scope of the production, to the sets being assembled and the crew that has been hired. “Not to denigrate the first movie but this is a better and more creative team and we’re going to have a much larger scale film.”
Were there discussions about Brendan coming back? “It was always known that this film was a different adventure. So the answer is, yes, there was never any intent to have Brendan in this movie,” Peyton explains.
“There was talk at one point of having Brendan do a cameo just because it would be fun – Brendan was interested and the studio was interested but story-wise it didn’t work out.”
Peyton’s confident that it’s worth the audience taking a return Journey: “First of all, the script itself is better. It’s really more of a male-bonding story, this journey. The script is far superior and therefore the movie will be far superior to the first one.”
Seeking solace from the overwhelming island heat, Total Film grabbed some shade for a chat with Dwayne Johnson and Josh Hutcherson.
Dwayne Johnson Interview
How does it feel to shoot at home in Hawaii?
“It’s fantastic. It’s great to come back home, it’s great to shoot back here. You know, I grew up probably 30 minutes away from here and things were much different back then – for myself. It’s awesome to come back and bring a big movie back here to Hawaii, not only for the local businesses here in Hawaii but for me personally it’s very satisfying.”
Does shooting in 3D affect your acting?
“First of all, this is my first 3D movie so it’s been a fascinating experience. Does it affect the acting?”
Because you’re already 3D yourself…
“Thank you for saying that. You’ve known me for a long time, yes. No, I don’t believe it affects the acting, it mainly affects the shot set-ups. We’re the third generation users of Cameron’s 3D technology, we were the first generation with Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. He came by the set and was watching how all of his cameras, his technology was being utilised – and he was the second generation and now we’re the third. So it’s been fascinating.”
What was is that made you want to join Journey 2?
“It was that, it was being part of a successful franchise. I really enjoyed the script and wanted to hopefully come on board and elevate it and make it bigger and better.”
As an actor, what’s kind of films do you prefer working on?
“Honestly I prefer everything. I’m really fortunate to be in the position that I’m in, to have the type of diverse career that I’ve been able to have, you know, being very comfortable in a lot of these spaces whether it’s adventure like this or action like Faster to a comedy.
“So I like the diversity and I like being able to work in all these different spaces, and I recognise that there’s not a lot of actors who have the opportunities that I have to work in such varied genres. I enjoy all of them. I think ultimately though, something that is part of my make-up is that I like taking care of things so I like that whether it’s in a comedy or an action movie or an adventure movie. Just the guy who may not be great but does get better by the end of the movie and does take care of things. Kicks a lot of ass too. You’ve gotta do that every once in a while.”
What about your character?
“He’s a fun character to play. He’s an accomplished guy, was in the Navy, built his own business and gets taken on this incredible adventure with his stepson who has already journeyed to the centre of the Earth and is now going to explore, uh, this really cool, iconic Jules Verne novel and gets taken to this ethereal place that he never thought existed – and it does. So it’s been great.”
What lost paradise would you like to go back to?
“I’d love to go back to the Roman Empire; I would love that.”
On the centurion or gladiator side? You could be Spartacus…
“I’d love to take a crack at that… I don’t quite know – I would be an infusion of both. A Caesar who was a gladiator and got to compete – and get the girl, of course.”
What’s your relationship with Josh like in the movie?
“He’s a young man and, like a lot of relationships - whether it’s with your real dad or it’s with your stepdad - oftentimes there’s a struggle to find some cohesiveness and find some balance. So we’re struggling, when we meet up with these two characters, we’re struggling to find that.
“And I was this way – like a lot of teenagers he feels like he knows the road, the path that he’s on, doesn’t necessarily need a lot of help, certainly not from his mom’s new husband. But now having children of my own and having gone through that myself, I know there are some wisdoms and some pearls that I can share so that’s how our relationships starts out. And then we ultimately bond together into a really nice relationship, which I liked.
“That was a point of movies that I like doing is that by the end your central character has just become better people, and they make everybody else around them better.”
Josh Hutcherson Interview
So, after a day off sick yesterday, you’re diving into the water later today?
“I think so. We’re jumping off the end of the world into the ocean. I’m looking forward to it. It’s so hot out there and the water’s so nice. Especially on those rocks, because the heat just bakes them and turns them to hot stones and you’re just frying out there.”
What happened to your foot?
“Basically, I was flying on top of a giant bumblebee and I fell off and I rolled my ankle severely. As you can see we have a makeshift cast thing going on. It was pretty gnarly actually.”
What’s the appeal with Journey 2?
“What’s cool about this cast is we’re all different genres coming together. With Dwayne it’s the action crowd and Luis [Guzman] is comedy and Michael Caine is a legend, and then Vanessa [Hudgens] is like my age. So it’s nice to have some different people around on set, and especially somebody younger like Vanessa so her and I can get along and hang out and stuff.”
Your characters have a bit of romance don’t they?
“Oh yeah, definitely. We definitely have a little something, a little something sizzling.”
How was Dwayne to work with?
“He is awesome. He’s so much fun, he’s so cool. I mean I grew up – when I was younger I used to love watching wrestling and he was The Rock back in the day. But now he’s transitioned over into a full-blown actor which is really awesome and he’s a great actor and he’s great with stunts, so he’s just a really all-round great guy.”
How has it been shooting in 3D?
“The 3D doesn’t really affect anything we have to do as actors. Sometimes it takes a bit longer to set up shots because they have the different special things they have to do with the two lenses. Other than that the biggest challenge for me is not being on the beach the entire time we’re here shooting. It’s so beautiful, you just want to enjoy the surroundings. The other day we were shooting on the most beautiful beach ever and we couldn’t get in the water because we were working all day. So that’s tough.”
“The first movie it was like 80% greenscreen, although we got to go Iceland for a few days which was cool. This is like the polar opposite.”
Is it strange coming back without the people who were there on the first film?
“Um, it’s a little weird. To me it doesn’t feel like it’s at all the same movie. It’s a completely different adventure with a different cast and we’re in a different place.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“I surf a ton. I’m always in the water. I love being in the water so much. I surf, work out, eat awesome food and enjoy the sights.”
What’s next for you?
“I have a couple projects that are on the horizon possibly but three days before I came down here I finished shooting this movie called Detention, which is a horror comedy, it’s a genre film that’s going to be cool. And I produced that as well so that was very exciting.
“It was great because I’ve grown up on sets since I was like nine years old and I’ve learned a lot about every aspect of filmmaking and I’ve always had my ideas and I’ve wanted to say things but I’ve never been in the right position to give my input because it would be out of place. So for the first time I was able to say my feelings about the project and in my opinion [bring it to a better place].”
Do you think you’d like to direct in future?
“Definitely. I love every aspect of filmmaking and I would love to direct something too.”
What can you tell us about your adventures in Journey 2?
“Can’t give away too much but there’s a giant lizard that chases us, giant bumblebees that we fly on. There’s tiny baby elephants that you want to keep as pets. And there’s a submarine that we have to swim down 100 feet and get to and there’s a little monster guarding that so there’s quite a few little adventures we have to go on.”
Do you have many underwater scenes?
“Yes, the Nautilus scene is the biggest one. We have to swim down a 100 feet and go into the Nautilus and come back up and get the rest of the gang. But I actually had to get certified for scuba diving to do that because we’re going to have to do a lot of underwater breathing and training and stuff like that.”
Do you have a stunt tester?
“Yeah, Ralph! It’s funny, I love doing my own stunts – I’m like a producer’s worst nightmare because I’m always trying to do my own stunts and they don’t like that. But Ralph is awesome, I’ve done three movies with him now – he’s a good guy.”
What fantasy journey would you like to take?
“Atlantis would be pretty awesome, cos you always hear about the lost city of Atlantis under the water and the fact that in our movie it rises to the surface…? If that actually happened that would be a very cool place to go.”
What’s it like working with Michael Caine?
“Michael Caine’s a legend. I mean he walks on set and you’re like, Pinch me, that’s Michael Caine standing right there! He’s such a nice guy and it’s weird you’d think that as an 18 year old guy you wouldn’t – not necessarily not get along with him but you don’t think you’d be able to communicate very well with a 77 year old man. But he is hip; he understands what’s going on, he gets it, like he knows all the lingo. He’s down. He’s very sharp for being 77.”
You two could be Facebook friends...
“Exactly! My mom told me he was twittering the other day! I mean, I don’t even tweet, that’s ridiculous! Michael Caine’s beat me on the tweeting thing? That’s crazy.”
You didn’t really know Vanessa Hudgens well before working with her on this, how do you get along?
“We get along great. She’s so much fun to be around, she’s always dancing around and having a good time and joking. We were total goofballs together so it’s a lot of fun having her around.”
Are there any other actresses you’d particularly like to do a romantic scene with?
“Oh man, there’s so many beautiful actresses. I know it’s kind of ridiculous but I think Eva Mendes is absolutely beautiful. I know she’s like 10 years older than me but a guy can dream, right? It’s the movies, anything’s possible!”