San Andreas is the huge disaster epic about to rumble across screens, filmed mostly in Australia and starring former rock-and-roll wrestler Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson with a cameo by our very own national treasure Kylie Minogue. During the earthquake mayhem is an emotional torrent, one of the strongest characters is a mother reconnecting with her estranged husband, both separated from their daughter. Carla Gugino (Watchmen, Elektra Luxx) has survived show business for over 30 years, including co-starring with weasel Pauly Shore in the 90’s classic Son in Law to currently appearing in the TV mystery, Wayward Pines.
Shane A. Bassett: Before filming mostly in Australia, had you ever been down-under before?
Carla Gugino: I had never been down there and absolutely fell in love with the place. It was so lovely shooting on Broadbeach. Then, I got to go to Byron Bay a few times, and I got to walk on the beach every morning, which was a lifesaver.
How do you compare it to filming in Hollywood?
There is something really wonderful about going so far away from your own life and to solely focus on making a movie, in that respect I couldn’t go home for a weekend or anything, so that was very significant. Also, your Australian crews are spectacular. I do have lot of Aussie friends, and one of the things I love in your culture is you’re hard workers with a very funny sense of humour, a key attribute when production on a movie is many hours of the day.
Have you ever experienced a real earthquake?
I have. There was a big earthquake in Los Angeles in 1994; it was really terrifying. I was actually asleep in a house with my boyfriend at the time, I was naked, I got up in the middle of the night couldn’t find my clothes but finally grabbed a robe and raced outside. From that moment on, I have never slept without clothes on in California again. (Laughs)
Was the hardest part of making San Andreas the massive action scenes?
It was, although there were certainly emotional places we had to go but they felt very organic and natural, but I was extremely thrilled to get to do those action scenes, and Brad Peyton asked me early how I felt about continuous action because he wanted it to be me, not effects. Nothing could thrill me more, and I’ll do everything you want me to do, was my answer. The incredible stunt team had just done Hercules (with co-star Dwayne Johnson), it was really challenging doing wire-work and pays off in the movie because of the visceral stripped down sense. No flying superhero, just real people going through high adversity.
Did you actually do that skydiving scene tandem with Dwayne? It seems so real.
It looked amazing, right? Believe me, I begged to do that scene, but for insurance purposes, we could not do the whole thing. We did the initial start and the last bit floating down around 100 feet, a good portion of it but not the entirety.
Your instincts as a mother were strong in this; was that a natural instinct of acting?
Yes, as I have 2 step-kids, who are now big and so many other kids in my life including god children. I think it is an instinct you’re born with, so like in the movie if anyone upsets your child or they need help, nothing will stop you.
In your words, what can people expect of San Andreas?
Interesting thing about this movie is that it is a huge visual feast, spectacular, jaw dropping, you forget to breath, completely edge of your seat, relentless, entertaining. It’s all those things, but at the core is a fractured family coming back together, that I find genuinely moving. It isn’t cliché or cheesy because truth is it’s in these crises that we are reminded of what’s important.
I was hoping your scene with our national treasure Kylie Minogue would be a bit longer.
(Laughs) I know; Kylie was amazing. I just loved working with her, she came in and made a huge impression in a very short time. We have become friends since the movie; we had lots of mutual friends before that. We share a manager as well but didn’t get to know her until shooting. We are now mates; she is an amazing woman.
Do you still have to audition for roles? How do you select certain parts?
I do, but certainly audition for less but if it’s something I really want to do, I will. It’s nice because I’m offered more now. For this, I screen tested with Dwayne even though we had worked together before; it felt very connected, which felt right for San Andreas. I find you have to believe two people are confined as one, and sometimes you don’t have long to establish that, so I was interested in going in and seeing if we all felt if I was the right fit or not. It can be a good opportunity to audition because although you may love working with someone or want an opportunity, but it’s just not the right fit, at times people don’t know that until you’re on the set.
Your third movie alongside Dwayne, what does he bring as a co-star or person?
Amazing collaborator. He doesn’t function with an ego at all, he’s incredibly humble, and he is a really hard worker. He is a standout acting partner to delve in with; here it’s a much more vulnerable role with emotion I feel more than he has ever done before. He wasn’t flashy, just present with what was going on with that character under duress. He wants everyone to shine, and that’s a welcome quality; he’s a good friend and extremely funny.
You can tell you love him as your on-screen chemistry is so natural.
Thank you. It really is a nice thing even as our job as actors to find that unique chemistry. It’s so wonderful when you don’t have worry as it’s just there.
Always wondered what does the N stand for in your middle name.
Neil, my mother’s father’s name was Neil. You would never guess that one right
You’re a child star who came through the Hollywood system, the key to longevity is…?
I realized the other day I’ve been acting for 30 years, which is alarming. I guess tenacity, patience for sure, but also love of what I do as I don’t want to do anything else. Even as a teenager, I knew I wanted to play different characters, never interested in branding myself or become a flash in the pan. I am interested in portraying a variety of roles and taking people on journeys. Perhaps over time that has given me longevity, at this point I feel I’m seasoned in some regard but have so much more I want to do. I love complex roles, plus I still act in theatre and television, that helps.
That’s right; you have had a successful run on some great TV shows and so many films. Do you have a preference?
I grew up being such a cinephile film lover, but I do feel in television because there is so much great quality now and the level of people working on shows is getting higher, the ability to tell a long story I love. You have time to explore characters like in a movie. Did Wayward Pines begin in Australia yet?
It has, and I just can’t work out your character yet after the opening 2 episodes.
She is definitely inscrutable for sure; you will see many, many layers to her.
Have you got a part for Zack Snyder’s (Batman V Superman) as I know you have a long association with his previous films?
I love that association so much, but I don’t know yet if I have a part but would love working with him anytime he asks.
What movie of yours do you get asked about the most when meeting people?
If I meet with kids, it’s Spy Kids. I get asked about Entourage lots. Sin City is mentioned a bit depending on the demographic, especially those pop culture fans of graphic novels. Night at the Museum, people talk about because it was such a big movie. It varies from country to country as well. What do you feel is the one people would ask me about?
Who could forget Troop Beverly Hills? (Carla bursts out laughing) No only joking, but you did catch my eye during Son in Law, but I would say you really stood out in both Jaded and Judas Kiss.
Wow, I really love Judas Kiss, and I know it did really well at the box office in Australia. That was really exciting and so happy you mentioned it as it is one of my personal favorite movies.
Well, Carla Neil Gugino, thank you so much for your time. It has been a pleasure.
(laughs) Thank you so much, Shane. You’re a fresh interviewer; I like you. I love your country too and can’t wait to go back. Great speaking with you, bye.
San Andreas opens in theaters on Friday, May 28th.