Speaking their truth: Vanessa Hudgens (left) and Josh Hutcherson, stars of Journey 2: Mysterious Island.
With the cameras turned off in the high-tech media room for the Journey 2: The Mysterious Island junket, newly confident former teen starlet Vanessa Hudgens and her up-and-coming co-star Josh Hutcherson visibly relax. She’s mussed her locks, has her feet on his chair; he’s plucking fluff off her seat.
It’s kind of strange to see people who want fame so much. - Josh Hutcherson
As is their duty, they’re eager to plug their new film; Hutcherson, star of 2008’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, was contracted to do this sequel but is nonetheless proud of how it was ‘‘aged up’’, while Hudgens is racking up her family-film cred, having headlined three High School Musical films, though she signalled her desire for edgier fare with 2011’s controversial action-fantasy Sucker Punch.
The film was not a hit, either with critics or audiences, but Hudgens defends it, both as a film and as a filmmaking experience, which co-starred two formidable Australian young guns, Abbie Cornish and Emily Browning.
"I loved it, and it was amazing," Hudgens says. "I got to work with extremely talented young women who had such a strong sense of themselves. That's kind of rare in Hollywood. And Zack Snyder is a genius. He's such a big kid; he brought so much energy and inspiration to the set every day."
As well as being a fast-moving, fun 3D lark, the story of Journey 2 is underpinned by themes of family cohesion. Sean (Hutcherson) has trouble accepting his new dad (Dwayne Johnson), while Kailani (Hudgens) has to deal with her bumbling dad (a pretty funny Luis Guzman).
As was the case with her High School Musical adventures, Hudgens says how even light fare needs some sort of dramatic anchor, otherwise it won't work.
"You've gotta have heart," she says with her signature smile. "I'm really close to my family, so [I was able being to] play really close to that dynamic. Of course, it's a love/hate relationship when you're a teenager. You're going to be embarrassed of them no matter what! In my case Luis Guzman is the father and that would be very, very embarrassing, but at the end of the day you love your parents and I think that was a really great message to get across."
And neither take their message-delivering duties lightly.
As iGen icons, the pair are aware of the influence they wield. ‘‘It’s amazing the power that people like us are given simply by making movies, the ability to reach that many young people,’’ says Hutcherson.
‘‘I feel the same way,’’ says Hudgens, after a little prodding. ‘‘At the end of the day we stay true to ourselves, so if kids can take after that then I’m very, very happy.’’
Discretion is a value both hold dear: during her Disney days Hudgens apologised for naked photos of her leaked to the net while Hutcherson, soon to be seen in the highly anticipated Hunger Games, is guarding his public profile closely. So what say they of the ‘‘Act Now; Think Later’’ culture?
‘‘It’s tough to say,’’ says Hutcherson. ‘‘For me, I’m not big in Twitter, I’m not on Facebook or anything like that [neither is Hudgens]; I’m much more of an analog-type person than I am digital, but I understand the fascination. It’s kind of crazy if you think about how readily available any information is that you want; it’s a great platform for education, the way you can just Google anything. At the same time, it does take away some of the privacy and the human element.’’
‘‘I’m with him,’’ says Hudgens, after more prompting. ‘‘It’s great if you lost contact with somebody and want to find them again. But I’d rather be outside enjoying the way that the leaves move in the wind than staring at my phone twittering about getting coffee. So hopefully kids will look up to that and get outside more!’’ she says, laughing.
When Hudgens last visited Melbourne in December 2008 to pump HSM3 she feared the pervasive paparazzi: ‘‘I’m just a 19-year-old girl. I don’t have karate moves in my back pocket. I don’t know how to defend myself. In fact, these 40-year-old guys following me who I don’t even know is creepy.’’
Hudgens is now 23. Much has changed, she says. The tabloid harassment ‘‘is exactly the same’’, but ‘‘I do know how to defend myself a bit better now than I used to, thanks to Zach Snyder (her Sucker Punch director); I did a lot of training, I know a decent amount of martial arts.’’
She kidding? ‘‘No, I’m dead serious. [The paparazzi] definitely used to bother me a lot more than it does now. I’ve been dealing with it for a few years and realising that there’s not really much you can do about it unless you want to sit at home and live in a cave. Then they win.’’
As for the growing disconnect between fame and talent they see around them...
‘‘It’s crazy,’’ says Hutcherson. ‘‘The last thing I want is fame. I would give anything, literally anything, to be able to do what I love for the rest of my life and never become famous.’’
Adds Hudgens: ‘‘It’s really interesting because you look back in the day there were these massive movie star actresses who were controlled by the studio and the only photos of them released [were the ones] that the studio wanted. Everything was so much more controlled than it is now. Actors are so accessible and it makes kids feel like they know the actors. If I could go without the fame I would totally choose that; the celebrity is just something that goes along with it.’’
‘‘It’s kind of strange to see people who want fame so much,’’ says Hutcherson. ‘‘To me it’s weird because it’s something that we want so little; all we want to do is become talented at what we do.’’
How do you think these kids come across?
Your valued thoughts are hereby sought.
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