Event Cinemas George Street in Sydney was the place to be for a glimpse of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as he walked the Black Carpet before introducing an exclusive footage presentation of Hercules. Flanked by a pair of body guards smaller than he is, Dwayne proved to be a man of the people, gracious with fans and journalists alike, giving an extended amount of time to all.
Also in the cast is Australian actor Stephen Peacocke. Best known for an ongoing role in the local soap opera Home & Away, he has a minor role as Stephanos.
Take me through the audition process. How did the role come your way?
Stephanos Peacocke: They just got me to pick up a club, swing it around smacking a pizza box with it to see if I had a good swinging action. (laughs) No, all I had to do was shed a few kilos. I auditioned here in Australia, then flew to America to audition again with director Brett Ratner, then managed to score a little role which was cool.
How was working with Brett?
SP: He was great; he has this incredible eye and vision, really passionate and has more energy than just about any human being I have ever met. He was the man for the job, the kind of person you want on something that big.
Compared to the Home & Away catering, what was it like at lunch time on the grand set of Hercules?
SP: Good question, I’m going to say our caterers at Home & Away actually do a better job than the Hungarians. The Hungarians are lovely people, but our meat and our caterers are very good.
Dwayne Johnson: Pleased to meet you, Shane.
Pleased to meet you too. Did you watch any of the older Hercules movies to get a feel for the character?
DJ: Not recently, I didn’t have to, I’ve always been a big fan of Steve Reeves version of Hercules, and a fan of Greek mythology over the years, so to be honest with you, it wasn’t a big part of the process. This process was to spend a lot of time with the director, a lot of time with the screenwriters and the producers, we all wanted to make the definitive version.
I think you did.
DJ: I hope so (laughs)
Did you get hurt and how many swords broke during filming of those epic action scenes?
DJ: Lots of injuries onset, a good amount of blood because you know everything was built to scale. The battles that we had were epic; there were hundreds and hundreds of warriors who were not necessarily actors, they were locals in Budapest that came to set everyday always ready to lay it down and get dirty. There’s a different energy that an actor can bring to set as an actor, but when you get the excited locals who are ready to go to war (laughing), that’s a whole different energy.
Even by your standards you seem super bulked up as Hercules.
DJ: It’s the lighting and effects (laughing). This was incredibly challenging, the most difficult role I have ever prepped for, close to 16 months training twice a day. Strength and conditioning coach, a dietician. You only have one crack at Hercules, and you want to make sure you do it right and not screw it up too badly.
DJ: I like doing both. Inevitably comedy is always harder because it requires a good partner, requires timing but there’s a physicality about action that really tests your mental so to speak.
You’re pretty good at both; Be Cool in particular was a comedy standout that basically kicked off your comical side.
DJ: It was, thank you so much. It’s one of my favourite roles. It was defining in a way as I was working with such an incredible cast; I was really new in the business, a rookie only a couple of years in. John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, everybody all supported me, we all had a great time.
How much do you enjoy Australia?
DJ: Been to Australia over the course of 12-15 years numerous times. Always love it here; I have just spent the last 5 months up at the Gold Coast. It is amazing filming San Andreas there.
How did you find working with the iconic Aussie personality, Kylie Minogue?
DJ: The particular scenes she is in are very epic in scale and important to the plot of certain characters. Fearless, she took everything in her stride. Thank you, Shane, take it easy.
Hercules Producer, Beau Flynn (Bubble Boy, Number 23), has been living in Australia working on San Andreas, at Warner Bros Movie World on the Gold Coast.
BF: You know what that’s a good question, and when you work for Gary Barber, you better come in on budget at MGM. We actually did; it was touch and go as we went a little bit over the shooting schedule, however we brought it all in to deliver on budget. To me that is very cool, especially on this movie, it was easily the most challenging movie of my career.
What can you tell audiences that is be different about this Hercules? What can they expect?
BF: First of all in a very heavy CG (computer generated) world we live in now with visual effects based movies shooting on a green-screen, Brett Ratner really made a point to make something real and grounded. We built the citadel you see in this movie from scratch, in terms of the throne room, all the battle grounds, it was all built, all real. We had hundreds of horses and thousands of extras, movies are not always made like that any more. To be part of that was really exciting, but incredibly logistically challenging. Thats what made it so hard for me but certainly rewarding too.
Did Brett Ratner want to push and do more during filming, or stick to the script?
BF: No, Brett always wants more, always pushing but that’s what makes him so great, he’s never complacent. Pushing the cast, pushing the crew, pushing the studio and certainly pushing me all the time, it’s in his filmmaking DNA. That’s exactly why this movie feels so big and powerful.
What is next on your agenda?
BF: Still filming San Andreas, a huge disaster movie due for release June 2015 for New Line / Warner Bros. I love the Queensland facilities, love the people, love the crew, love the location.
It’s really just a great place to work and live, I’ve never been Down Under until I moved here for the San Andreas shoot.
Are you coming in on budget for San Andreas?
BF: I like you, Shane (laughs). It is but it’s right on the line, that’s what a good producer does keeps it on the line. Coming in under is actually not good producing, remember that mate.
Hercules opens July 25th in the U.S. and July 30th in Australia.