Hudgens goes on ‘risky’ journey for Caine
VANESSA Hudgens said yes to Journey 2: The Mysterious Island for one simple reason: Michael Caine. “Any chance you get to work with a legend, the legend being Michael Caine, you take it,” Hudgens says. “To be on the same screen as him is such an honour. You’ve got to work with the greats to learn from the greats.” OK, there were a few other reasons too. “We filmed it in Hawaii,” says the former High School Musical’ starlet, now 23. “I was like, ‘Seriously, you’re going to pay me to be in paradise for two months?’ So there was that too. Also, I’d never been in a 3-D action film before, so that was another really great draw.” The Mysterious Island is the sequel to the 2008 surprise hit Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which starred Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson. This time around Sean (Hutcherson) receives a distress signal – sent by his missing grandfather, Alexander (Caine) – from an island that shouldn’t actually exist. Sure enough, Sean heads off to that island, accompanied by his stepfather (Dwayne Johnson), a helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and the pilot’s daughter, Kailani (Hudgens). What they find is gloriously beautiful but also thoroughly dangerous, because the island is on the verge of being submerged forever.
“Kailani is fun, hardheaded, and she has a really, really great relationship with her father, which I loved, because I’m very, very close to my family,” Hudgens says, speaking by telephone from a hotel in Hawaii. “So being able to play that dynamic and how they really do love each other so much, it’s a nice, refreshing thing to see.” The shoot for The Mysterious Island was very different from that for Sucker Punch (2011), the ambitious but poorly received girl-power fantasy in which Hudgens co-starred last year. The latter film was a visual-effects extravaganza shot entirely on sound stages in Vancouver, British Columbia, and with green screens, using few practical sets or props. For a time The Mysterious Island was entirely the opposite experience.
“This film, we did half of it in Oahu, Hawaii, where it was all outdoors, all on the most magnificent locations,” Hudgens says.
“I would show up to work every day and literally be so moved that I’d be fighting tears. It’s just such a spiritual place. The other half of it was shot in North Carolina, where it was on sound stages. So it was a bit of both, but I think the location shooting makes it special.
“It’s so beautiful here,” she says. “It’s just so nice to be outside. Anytime I can be outside, I take the opportunity. I’m outside right now because I don’t have to be inside, because I’m on the phone.” Moviegoers will witness Hudgens, Hutcherson et al. interacting with all sorts of creatures. They cradle an adorable baby elephant, ride gigantic bumblebees and run for their lives from massive lizards and a gold-spewing volcano.
All that, of course, is pure movie magic.
“For the most part there was nothing there,” Hudgens reports. “Our director, Brad Peyton, was great about keeping us involved with what we’re actually running from, what it looks like, but at the end of the day, running from the giant lizards, I was running away from the film crew, because they were behind me filming. So you have to use your imagination.
“I think that’s all acting is anyway, at the end of the day, whether you’re talking to a live person in front of you or you’re running away from a giant lizard.” Hudgens adds that she had a blast making The Mysterious Island. Best of all, she says, was working with the quartet of men around her: Caine, Guzman, Hutcherson, whom she briefly dated, and Johnson.
“It was amazing,” she says. “It was such an interesting hodgepodge of actors they put together. It’s definitely not a group that I would think of, but you throw us all together and it was the most amazing time. Dwayne is the biggest sweetheart.
He’s a Teddy bear and he’s really funny. Luis is just hysterical – everything that comes out of his mouth just cracks me up. Josh became one of my best friends. We had the best time just being ridiculously silly, singing and dancing all the time.
“And Michael Caine is just a legend,” Hudgens enthuses. “Listening to his stories about going to Las Vegas for the first time and having Frank Sinatra take him, it was crazy. Being on the cliff faces with him was pretty amazing too: He’s, like, God knows how old, and he was climbing these cliffs with me.
Acting underwater with him ... How many people can say they’ve acted underwater with Michael Caine? That was pretty cool.” Hudgens – who is due next in the dramas The Frozen Ground and Gimme Shelter, the latter of which ironically co-stars Journey to the Centre of the Earth’s Brendan Fraser – recently watched The Mysterious Island with an audience in a packed theatre.
How did it go over? “Awesome,” Hudgens replies promptly.
“Everybody loves it. I loved it. It’s so funny, because normally I watch a movie and I’m busy critiquing myself, but with this one I could really sit back and enjoy the ride. I was holding my breath when we were underwater, I was jumping whenever anything jumped out at us.
“I was fully taken on the ride.”