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Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Hutcherson explore new territory in 'Journey 2'

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The 2012 movie “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” is the sequel to the 2008 hit film “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” begins when young Sean Anderson (played by Josh Hutcherson, reprising his role from the first “Journey” film) receives a coded distress signal from a mysterious island where no island should exist. It’s a place of strange life forms, mountains of gold, deadly volcanoes, and more than one astonishing secret.

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Unable to stop him from going, Sean’s new stepfather, Hank (played by Dwayne Johnson), joins the quest. Together with a helicopter pilot (played by Luis Guzmán) and his beautiful, strong-willed daughter (played by Vanessa Hudgens), they set out to find the island, rescue its lone inhabitant and escape before seismic shockwaves force the island under the sea and bury its treasures forever. “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” (a 3-D movie) was filmed primarily in Hawaii, where the Hudgens and Hutcherson did this interview at the press junket for the movie.

Can you compare and contrast making “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”?

Hutcherson: There was such a big gap also between the two, it felt like an entirely different movie. It was nice though. I mean, when I heard the cast that we were going to get, I was really excited about it. You’d never think that we’d be in a movie together. It makes no sense, honestly. But we are, and it was an absolute blast. I mean, Luis Guzmán, Michael Caine, Dwayne Johnson, myself and Vanessa Hudgens. It was like, wait, what is this?

Hudgens: Everything is different I’ve never done a 3-D movie before. So to be able to jump in this and see the end result was just so cool. Like I’ve never been able to enjoy a movie that I’ve done like I do with this.

What was the creepiest thing in the jungle when you filmed “Journey 2”?

Hudgens: There were centipedes. The centipedes that were crawling around were just so disgusting and massive. And all their little legs crawling freaked me out.

Hutcherson: A hundred of them, roughly. Bugs. They definitely were a little much at times for sure, especially when you’re sitting there and all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh, there’s an ant. Oh my God, it’s an anthill,” and there are like 9 million ants crawling all over you. It’s a little scary at times.

What was your toughest stunt?

Hudgens: I think, for me, it was the water because I have a pet peeve that is so ridiculous, I know, but I hate getting my face wet and like fully submersing myself under the water, and opening my eyes and acting underwater. It aggravates me! I don’t know why. It’s just the feeling of it.

Hutcherson: It aggravates you to have your face wet. That’s a funny thing to say. Were you held under a tub as a baby?

Hudgens: Shut up.

Hutcherson: The tank was tough. It was hard because there was one point where Dwayne and I were actually down there for almost an hour without coming up to the surface once. Everybody else had scuba gear on and we didn’t. So literally, we’d do the take on like one breath. And they’d cut and we we’d blindly fumble over to our little thing and getting some air.

And that was pretty challenging … because you’re sort of like, “I don’t have a breathing apparatus and I’m not made to be underwater this long, so this is kind of strange.” It was hard. They had to use chlorine and whatnot in the pool to keep it from being dangerous for us to be in, so it was kind of hard to open your eyes at times. They have a guy hand you a hookah to put on to breathe.

Josh, how did you get into acting?

Hutcherson: From the age of 5 years old, I loved putting on little shows and faking sick and getting out of school. And I told my parents I wanted to be in movies. And being from Kentucky, there’s really not much of an industry in that area. And so, I got a hold of an agency in Cincinnati through a phone book when I was 9 years old. I told them I wanted to be an actor.

And my parents were like, “Well, I guess we’re going to have to do this with him or he’s going literally to take off and do it at 9 years old.” So I met an acting coach in New York who said we should go to California for pilot season. I convinced my parents to go out there. My mom and I got in our car and drove out to Los Angeles and stayed in a motel and started to do the movie business out there.

I was thinking I was going to be in movies, however I can. I was pretty good at figuring things out as a little kid. I was like, “Phone book, that’s logical. Talent agent, that’s logical.”

Have there ever been any projects you wanted to do so badly that you thought that if you didn’t get to do those projects, you would feel lost?

Hudgens: I think there are definitely projects that you truly invest yourself in and can only hope for the best. But we do this because we so passionate about it. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I love it with all of my heart, and I will always fight for anything that I want. I was going to say to the death, but that’s a bit intense. That’s “The Hunger Games.” But yeah, I will always continue to do what I love.

Hutcherson: It’s hard because with every single role, you’re not going to get a role unless you invest your whole heart into it. But then, you also don’t get a lot of them. So it’s a lot of little letdowns over time. And like “The Hunger Games,” for instance, I said out loud that if I didn’t get that, I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I didn’t know what that meant because I had no idea what I was going to do. I was going to keep acting, obviously, but I had never read a role that I felt I connected with as much and that I felt like I was more right for in my life. So if I didn’t get it, I was like, “What am I, just a bad actor then?” Because if that’s so much who I am, how can I not even play myself?

How did you react to the criticism from people who said you were not right for the role of Peeta Mellark in “The Hunger Games”?

Hutcherson: Well, I don’t read stuff online or that kind of thing so much. I think, for me, everybody’s going to have their opinion, especially when you have a beloved book like this, people want to see it done right. And what people have to keep in mind is [“The Hunger Games” director] Gary Ross was hired by the studio and the producer is working with [“The Hunger Games” author] Suzanne Collins because they all have a united vision for the project. So having Suzanne involved in that process helped a lot. And having her said what she said about the casting process, for me, really gave me a vow of confidence as well as the audience.

Why did you connect so strongly with the Peeta Mellark character?

Hutcherson: For me, Peeta has this really strong belief that you have to maintain who you are as a person and stay true to yourself. And that’s my biggest moral as a human being, as well as a very self-deprecating sense of humor. He’s good at communicating with people. I just felt that his voice and his overall existence was very much who I was.

Vanessa, can you talk about your Kailani character in “Journey 2”?

Hudgens: I think it’s a beautiful character. I mean, she definitely stands up for herself just as I think that all women should stand up for themselves. We’re strong, we’re powerful. And Kailani definitely sticks with that. I love her relationship with her father I love because I’m very close to my family.

But it’s like the kind of thing when you’re at a certain age where your parents seem like the most embarrassing thing on the whole entire planet, and you want to be nowhere near them. But at the end of the day, you know that you can’t literally do anything without the. You love your parents through and through, and they love you probably even more than you could ever imagine until you’re a parent yourself.

Kailana seems to have the upper hand with Sean. Can you talk about their relationship?

Hutcherson: Women tend to [have the upper hand].

Hudgens: Yeah, it’s definitely a funny relationship. In the beginning, she wants nothing to do with him; he’s just another American tourist. But through everything, I feel like he really opens her eyes and heart to adventure, which is an amazing gift to be able to give someone.

Can you talk about the challenges of making a fantasy film seem realistic?

Hutcherson: I think that there are a lot of times when you’re on set and you have a green screen you’re working with where you’ll pretend there’s a giant lizard chasing you when there’s nothing there. You kind of have to go for it. In order to sell it to the audience, you can’t really hold back.

I think that was the biggest thing for me, at least. Being shown the images of what the creatures were going to look like and then having to react to them realistically without feeling like you’re a crazy person. So in that sense, making a fantastical world real is a bit of a challenge, for sure.

Hudgens: I think that Hawaii definitely was a large part of making everything real. Because, I mean, to shoot such magical places, Hawaii definitely has them. We would go out to these valleys, and I would show up to work and almost be in tears by how moving and how stunning these places were. It definitely added that extra magical element.

Hutcherson: I’m going to add a tiny little thing on that. As far as making it real, I think that in a story like this, the emotional journey is so important because it is such a fantastical world but human emotion is something that everybody can connect to. So, when you have the emotions of Sean getting to warm up to his stepfather and Kailani getting to trust Sean, you have those character elements, that kind of brings it down to reality for sure.

What was it like working with Dwayne Johnson?

Hudgens: D.J., he’s awesome. He really is an extremely large guy. I thought that he was going to be big, but you just can’t really imagine how massive a human being can be until you meet him. But he’s just such an incredibly sweet guy. I mean, he’s very, very genuine, really funny, very silly and very charming.

What surprised you the most about each other?

Hudgens: How carefree Josh is, I think. Every now and then, in the business, I feel like there are some people who can care about what other people think and kind of try to morph themselves into something they’re not. And it’s really refreshing when you meet people who are very true to themselves. Josh is very true to himself, and he’s very silly and kind of crazy, just like me. So it was nice to have a partner in crime when it comes to just being a spaz.

Hutcherson: What can I say that’s nice about you? Just kidding. What surprised me about Vanessa, I think, is when you see a lot of leading ladies in Hollywood, they can tend to take themselves very seriously and listen to their press and whatnot. And Vanessa doesn’t. She doesn’t take herself seriously — in a good way. So that was nice to see and very refreshing.

Vanessa, what advice would you give to Josh since he’s become part of a huge movie franchise and will be under more public scrutiny because of it?

Hudgens: The only thing you can do through all the scrutiny and just in life in general is be true to yourself. He does it already — and very well. So I think he’ll be fine.

Josh, are you ready for how your life is going to change because of “The Hunger Games”?

Hutcherson: I don’t think there’s any way to prepare …

Hudgens: There isn’t.

Hutcherson: For what people like Vanessa or what people from “Twilight” have gone through. Obviously, when you have that kind of fan support, you’re doing something right, and they like the movie. That’s why I make movies: so that people like them. Therefore, if people act that way, that means they like the movies, which is good, so I’m doing my job.

How do you deal with the criticism?

Hutcherson: For a movie like “The Hunger Games,” it has such a passionate fan following that [criticism] comes from passion, how much they love. Anytime you take a book and make it into a movie, you’re going to have people who have their version of it in their minds and whatnot. You can’t please everybody, but we had the blessing of Suzanne Collins, the writer, and I think that helps a lot. And it’s also Gary Ross’ vision of the movie. And that’s why he was the guy who was hired, because he had the right idea.

Can you share any behind-the-scenes stories about “Journey 2”? Did you play pranks on each other?

Hutcherson: It was fun. It was a lot of pranking. Our runner prank for the show, because there were a lot of bugs in the woods and whatnot, we’d take these long sticks and, from far away, kind of poke it in somebody’s ear and they’d always think there’s like a bug crawling inside their head.

And one time Vanessa and I, we got Luis [Guzmán] so good. It was probably like eight minutes long, and Luis was like, “What in the world is going on? These stupid bugs.” He turns around and goes, “I see you.” It was so hard not to laugh. He had no idea. That was really fun.

Hudgens: Oh yeah. We were just such little kids. We’d just run around and sing and dance and swing on vines and do anything.

What did you do for fun in Hawaii when you weren’t working?

Hudgens: Clubs, I’m not really into.

Hutcherson: Some restaurants, some good restaurants.

Hudgens: Great restaurants. Morimoto’s, we went to a lot. It’s amazing, and just being out on the ocean. I loved paddle boarding.

Can you describe the first time the two of you met?

Hutcherson: I met her a couple of times just at random events, but I never really talked to her. So the first time we really hung out was during the chemistry read back in L.A. Vanessa came in, and we kind of read over some scenes just to feel it out and everything. And it was great. We hit it off from there on out.

And like we were saying earlier, we’re both just very fun, outgoing people and don’t really care what we look like when we’re having our fun.

Hudgens: We’re big kids.

Josh, can you talk about what led up to your first big break as an actor?

Hutcherson: The acting coach, he had connections with some small agencies. I met with them, and one of them took me on, and started auditioning. I was doing four or five auditions a day and running around town and getting a lot of callbacks but not really booking anything. And then finally, I got the lead in a small TV-movie called “Miracle Dogs” for Animal Planet. And then it slowly started building from there. I played a little boy who found these dogs who could lick people and heal them. We all start somewhere.

In “Journey 2,” Scott seems like he feels trapped. Have you ever felt trapped in your life?

Hutcherson: I think everybody can feel that at some point, be it by your job or your relationship or whatever you’re in. I haven’t had too many of those. I think there’s definitely times when I get a little nervous, especially with “The Hunger Games” coming out … It’s like “Holy wow, what do I do about this?” But you’re along for the ride, and I’m proud of it. As long as you stay true to yourself, it’s the most important thing, I think.

Vanessa, how did you get into acting?

Hudgens: I did a lot of theater, growing up. It started with theater I had to pay to be in, and then it started becoming theater I was paid to be in.

Hutcherson: What was your first play?

Hudgens: My first play was “Sleeping Beauty.” I was some random princess.

Hutcherson: Didn’t you play a hunchback in a movie?

Hudgens: Not in a movie. A play. I played the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Hutcherson: That’s awesome! That’s funny.

Vanessa, you’ve been doing grittier movies recently. Do you prefer to go in that direction?

Hudgens: I love doing it all, honestly. It’s just fun to completely transform yourself into a different person, and look in the mirror and not know who you are. I mean, it’s kind of scary, but so exhilarating and groundbreaking. It’s so nice to be able to jump into the unknown and just tackle things.

When you play a role, do you ever feel the lines get blurred between your character’s personality and your real personality?

Hutcherson: I feel like out of all the movies I’ve been in, I take a piece of all of the characters, and that kind of makes up who I am as a person. I feel like I have a certain underlay that is been there throughout. But it’s like anybody in anybody’s life. All the experiences make who you are. It just so happens that my experiences are pretending to be other people. So I think I take a little bit of each character and it becomes a part of me, consciously or subconsciously. One way or another, I think that’s how it works for me.

Hudgens: Yeah, I think that that happens. But for me, that’s a bit more short-term. After I play a role, a few things may stick with me, but over time that fades away, and then I become myself again. I think all the parts that I do play are definitely an extension of myself, so I pull from that. But at the end of the day, I go back to my happy, bubbly, giggly Vanessa.

Vanessa, you play a homeless teen in the movie “Gimme Shelter.” How did you connect to that character since you’ve never been homeless?

Hudgens: I actually lived in a homeless shelter for pregnant teens before we started filming, and just kind of became one of the girls, hanging out with their children, listening to their stories. And chopping your hair off definitely makes you feel like a completely different person. The hair, the makeup, the tattoos, the piercings — like I said, I like immersing myself and having the complete transformation.

Did the homeless teens you lived with ever get affected by your fame?

Hudgens: It’s completely irrelevant to their lifestyle. They could care less. It doesn’t benefit them in any way by knowing me. They’re just trying to get by.

Vanessa, what’s going on with your music career?

Hudgens: Definitely not giving it up. Music’s such a big part of my life, a bunch of people around me, like my closest friends, are musicians. So I’m constantly surrounded by it. But for me right now, it’s just not something I’ve been doing. I mean, I’m always down for it. But yeah, it’s just not happening recently.

For more info: "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" website

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