IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Luis Guzman Talks 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island' And 'Last Stand'

Wednesday, 08 February 2012 22:35 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Luis Guzman Talks 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island' And 'Last Stand'

Character actor Luis Guzman is probably best known for his collaborations with director Steven Soderberg on Out of Sight, Traffic, and The Limey, as well as his work with director Paul Thomas Anderson on Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love, but the iconic actor has also appeared in such popular films as Carlito’s Way, Yes Man, Arthur, and The Taking of Pelham 123. The talented Puerto Rican born actor, who now resides in Vermont, was most recently seen starring on the HBO series How to Make it in America but now returns to the big screen with his latest film Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, which opens in theaters on February 10th in 3D.

The film serves as a sequel to ‘2008s Journey to the Center of the Earth but only features actor Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right) from the original film reprising his role as Sean Anderson. The new cast includes the addition of Dwayne Johnson (Fast Five) as Sean’s new stepfather Hank Parsons. When Sean finds a clue that was sent to him by his long lost grandfather (Michael Caine) explaining that the islands in the novels Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels, and Mysterious Island are all the same body of land, Sean begins to believe that the island really exists and that his Grandfather is stranded there. Wanting to prove to Sean that it doesn’t exist, and grow closer to his stepson, Hank agrees to travel with Sean to Palau to find the lost island and save his grandfather. Along with a partially incompetent tour guide named Gabato (Guzman) and his daughter Kailani, played by Vanessa Hudgens (Sucker Punch), Sean and Hank embark on finding the island and rescuing Sean’s grandfather. But what they find on the island … maybe stranger than they ever could have imagined.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with actor Luis Guzman on the phone while he was in Hawaii promoting Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Guzman discussed the new movie, his character, the film’s special effects, working with director Brad Peyton (Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore), Dwayne Johnson’s improvisational skills, acting opposite screen legend Michael Caine, and his next film Last Stand, which will mark actor and former-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fist starring film role in almost a decade.

Here is what he had to say:

IAR: To begin with, you’re very funny in this film, so was your character written that way or was that something you added to give the movie some comic relief?

Luis Guzman: I guess it was a combination of both really. It became my job to be funny. The situation, the materials gave me the opportunity to be all of those things.

This was your first 3D film so what was that experience like for you as an actor? Did the 3D change the way you work, or is the process the same as it is on any other movie?

Guzman: Yeah. It’s the same as any other film because it’s still a film camera. Its just technology in that camera, but it doesn’t really change your ability to act or how you act and stuff like that. But it was really cool because they had a 3D monitor on set because you know of course they’ve got to see what it looks like as they’re shooting it. So you go in front of that monitor and you put on those 3D glasses and you go, oh snap!

Did watching playback of what you had just shot give you an opportunity to see how it looked in 3D so that you could make any adjustments or changes needed for the next take?

Guzman: Yeah. Honestly, as far as changing stuff, that didn’t really happen unless Brad Peyton, who was the wonderful director on this movie, gave you and adjustment, but the adjustments weren’t based on what you saw in 3D. It was like whatever direction he gave you or not, you just went with it.

The movie is huge in scope; can you talk about director Brad Peyton’s vision for the project and what he said to you when you first met him that convinced you he could really make the film’s mysterious island come to life on screen?

Guzman: The most impressive thing about Brad was how well prepared he was. He has his iPad and he would show me the scenes that he had done. He animated all the scenes. So when a sixty-foot lizard was supposed to be chasing us, and you’re looking at a tennis ball, he pulls out his iPad and says, “This is what it’s going to look like.” He would play it for us so that we could conceptualize it. You know what? I’ve got to tell you man, I was so impressed with how well prepared he was. How well thought out he had this, and that made this so smooth to shoot. Because you know, like you say, you see the enormity of the film and how it changes once it goes into that world. Man, you know you shoot some of that and it can become really complicated, but it wasn’t. It was a pleasure showing up to work every day, and working with the crew and the cast. It was amazing.

I know you’ve worked on visual effects films before, but that must have been really helpful to have the director show you what the finished scene is going to look like on his iPad, especially when you are looking at a tennis ball while you’re shooting. So does that really help you as an actor to envision the special effects and make the scene more believable for both you and the audience?

Guzman: Oh yeah, because again because visually you can see what you’re reacting to. That tennis ball is a sixty-foot lizard and I’m like, oh, okay. But when you can see with your own eyes what the scope of it is and what it looks like, then its, oh, okay, I get it. He had this down pretty well. It was most impressive.

Are you a fan of authors Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Jonathan Swift, or any of the actual literature that was used to inspire the film?

Guzman: I was more into the films than I was into the books. Brad gave me the whole scope of all the books and I just kind of went over them briefly, but I never read the books. However, I’ve seen a couple of the movies that were made.

Your co-star in the film is Dwayne Johnson, what was it like for you to work with him?

Guzman: You know, he’s a kick-ass action hero in this world, he comes from WWE and all that stuff, but it comes down to one thing, the man is a really good soul. I enjoy working with him, I enjoy my time around him, sharing the screen with him and you know just kicking it and really, really having fun. I couldn’t say enough nice things about the guy. I mean really a good levelheaded down to earth human being and I’m really proud to have worked with him.

It seems that he can act, do comedy, and all the action that is required from a film like this, so he’s the real deal, isn’t he? I mean he’s not just a former wrestler, he’s a really talented performer, don’t you think?

Guzman: Oh yeah, he could even improvise! We used to get off on that with each other. He is the real deal. I think the beautiful thing about it is that he takes it really seriously, but he doesn’t take it to the point that it becomes too serious, because then it doesn’t become fun. He’s got a good a head on his shoulders and he does approach this as a true artist.

Speaking of true artists, screen legend Michael Caine is also in this film. Was this your first time working with him and what’s it like to be on set with the Sir Michael Caine?

Guzman: Well you know … what can you say man; the man’s an icon. I love listening to his stories, the stories that go back thirty, forty, fifty years you know and he used to hang out with Brando, and Yul Brynner, just listening to him talk about acting. He was like a real presence and a down to Earth guy. Look, I had to ask him … I said, I’m sorry but I’ve got to ask you this, do I call you Sir Michael? And he said, “No, Michael’s fine.”

His voice is so iconic; did you ever have to pinch yourself on set because you couldn’t believe that you were actually working opposite him in the same movie?

Guzman: Yeah. Like I said, he was a great man. I’m so fortunate to be in his presence and have the opportunity to work with him. Like I said, he was very giving, very down to earth. I was so fortunate that all the actors, including Josh Hutchinson, everybody was so well grounded, so well down to Earth, and I take a lot of pride in that. This is one of those films that I looked forward to going to work every day no matter whether it was sunny, whether it was raining, whether it was a foot of mud, it was wonderful. It really, really was. The guy that really drove this through was Brad Peyton. He’s a young director, but he knows his shit.

Finally, I wanted to ask you about your work on the upcoming film Last Stand starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, have you shot all your scenes for that already?

Guzman: Yeah, I shot my scenes out. I shot last October, November, a little bit into December, and I’m done. That comes out January of next year.

I think everyone’s curious to see Arnold’s first performance after stepping down as Governor of California, but what was it like for you working with him on the set? Were his acting skills rusty at all or did he just jump right back into it?

Guzman: You know working with Arnold … what a great guy he is. I was very, very impressed with him. He’s a good guy, got a good head on his shoulders, and I would work with Arnold anytime just based on who he is and his great personality. He’s a really, really smart guy and not imposing by any means.

Was that a surreal experience for you, going from working with Dwayne Johnson on Journey 2 to then stepping on to the set with Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Guzman: You can’t beat that brother. I think what’s going to happen now is I’m going to have to start hitting the gym like five, six times a day and shit. I’ll probably become the next action hero.

That would be awesome, maybe you could be in The Expendables 3?

Guzman: I’ll have my people get back to your people on that one. 

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island discovers theaters on February 10th.

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