With San Andreas, Carla Gugino adds disaster epic to her wildly varied list of credits, writes Vicky Roach
From the supermum in Robert Rodriguez’s PGrated fantasy Spy Kids to the lesbian parole officer in the Mexican director’s graphic crime thriller Sin City... even Carla Gugino admits she’s a hard actor to pin down. “I like to keep myself interested,” she says. Early in her career, Gugino’s eclectic list of credits — spanning the Pauly Shore comedy SonIn-Law, Broadway productions of Of Mice And Men and Arthur Miller’s After The Fall, action fantasies Sucker Punch and Watchmen, and TV series such as Californication and Entourage — confused casting agents.
“But one of the perks of age is that it starts to be recognised as a body of work,” she says.
At 43, the star of upcoming disaster movie San Andreas, in which she plays the estranged wife of Dwayne Johnson’s helicopter rescue pilot, is only nominally showing signs of slowing down.
“(Acting) is the love of my life. I could do it 365 days a year. But I am trying to be a little bit better at living my life in between,” she says.
Having gone straight from the set of M. Night Shyamalan’s “dark, cool and complicated” 10-episode TV thriller Wayward Pines to the $US100 million earthquake movie that takes place on the infamous Californian fault line, Gugino is hanging out to do another comedy.
But despite San Andreas’ gruelling production schedule, the actor describes making her third film with Johnson (after Race To Witch Mountain and Faster) as thoroughly enjoyable.
“My character really goes through the wringer, so it’s challenging on an emotional level — and a physical level because I have also been doing a lot of stunt stuff,” a cosmetically bruised and battered Gugino said during a break in production at Village Roadshow’s Gold Coast’s studios.
“But still there is a very light energy to this production...I’m having such a good time every day even though I have my own actual bruises from the stunts as well.”
While advance promos have concentrated on San Andreas’s spectacular visual effects — crashing tidal waves, crumbling skyscrapers, cracking fault lines — Gugino says that at its core, the film is a smaller, human drama
“Even just reading the script — it was scary, thrilling, edge-of-your-seat — but it’s also got a huge amount of heart,’’ she says. “I was genuinely moved by the journey of these characters, and I was not expecting to be.”
Having spent many years living in southern California, Gugino is no stranger to earthquakes.
“When I was about 20, I was in LA in a big one that terrified me. It was big enough for a ton of my friends to move out of town. But that didn’t happen for me because … well, I feel the same way about flying. I am like, if it’s my time to go, I am going to go.”
Hurricane Sandy, however, taught her an important lesson. Now based in New York City, Gugino experienced the full elemental force of the destructive 2012 weather event.
“We live on the tenth floor of an apartment building. They had warned us to fill our bathtubs; basically they told us everything we were supposed to do — the City was very good about it — and we did nothing. So we were without power, water, an elevator for eight days. And it was freezing. Next time, I will not do that!”
San Andreas is in cinemas now