The man they call The Rock talks about his new flick San Andreas, learning to fly helicopters and being today’s last action hero.
Tell us about your San Anreas character, Ray.
He’s one of these really special unique guys like a lot of men and women out there who are rescue pilots and fire fighters. one of the most amazing things is how in the face of calamity and trauma everyone runs away whereas they run towards it.
Did you learn any cool new skills on this movie?
I spent time with the helo rescue pilots trying to operate a helicopter. I understood the technical aspects of it, then spending a bit of time with those guys to get inside their psychology. But the most important and compelling material was working with the earthquake scientists. we broke down the script with them and learned all about tectonic plates and how much research has been done in terms of being able to call in an earthquake 30 to 60 seconds before it happens.
Do you ever want to own any sort of aircraft?
Never. I enjoyed it in the movie when I was able to fly, but I love my pick-up truck. I have no interest in flying my own plane or buying a chopper. also, in the helicopter you’ve got two guys who actually fly it at the same time, so I can look like I fly very well.
What did you take away from San Andreas?
We don’t delve too much on it in the movie but it’s ok to fail. I know what it’s like to get a divorce. There are parallels with myself and this character but he also loses his daughter. Without giving too much away, he’s carried the weight of that blame for so long and the irony is that he’s a man who saves lives.
And you related to this?
It’s happened to me in the past, whether it’s divorce or asking what kind of dad i’m going to be to my little girl. You make mistakes and you like to think you’re learning from them. You walk away from San Andreas thinking mistakes are OK, we all make them.
And what will audiences take away?
It’s thrilling, it’s entertaining, it’s informative. I watched it with my whole family and we left the theatre in a state of shock. Then once you calm down from it you start to think how we made it with the tanks and water and tsunamis. audiences are going to be really intrigued.
San Andreas looks pretty action packed, how much is there?
A tremendous amount but it’s a different kind of action because you’re dealing with mother nature. An earthquake will hit and then that will trigger another fault line to go off in San Francisco, which will then trigger a tsunamI — it’s a big domino effect. a lot of it is based on reality and research with scientists who worked on the script with us. we had people from the scec (university of Southern California Earthquake Center), decorated seismologists, who made sure they could say the movie could really happen in terms of scientific fact.
Do you consider yourself the last action hero these days?
I know what you’re saying and I do appreciate it, but no. When I first got into the business, probably in 2000, there was Bruce Willis and Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Those guys were on top of their game. They are huge movie stars. The three of them, specifically, were always very supportive of my transition when I came into Hollywood and I appreciate that, but the goal was never to become the next ‘that guy’. The goal was to be me and work in all different genres, comic and dramatic. I didn’t come from a performing arts school. my performing arts was the ring in front of 50,000 people every night.
Were you comfortable working with green screens?
Very comfortable. as an actor we’ve all worked in front of green screen with the monster or robot that isn’t really there, but this was very different because it was mother nature. Those elements are way different from an alien, bad guy, tank, anything like that.
You look as buff as ever. Got any fitness advice for us?
I don’t judge. It’s easy to think everyone has time to do it, but we all live different lifestyles. It just works for me and becomes my anchor, same for someone into meditation or just going out and having a cigarette break. Some people need that. The best advice is to find something you like doing — walking, yoga, quiet time. You don’t necessarily have to be active, just whatever quiets your brain and makes things balanced. Life is crazy as it is but if you’re not into physical activity then be careful about what you eat. Find balance.