For the three leads, working on an action adventure film also meant many intense physical challenges. Hutcherson states, "During the weeks of pre¬production, we went to a really awesome rock-climbing gym to prepare for the scene where we repel down the big volcanic tube."
"There was a lot of climbing and falling, running and harnessing, which is all great fun," say Fraser.
Hutcherson picked up a few tricks of the trade from Fraser. "There's so much big action in this film that, day after day, climbing walls, getting thrown around on ropes and jumping from rock to rock, the physical demands do take their toll. On the first day of filming, I was like, 'I don't need knee and elbow pads,' but after a short while, I learned I was very wrong."
"After doing three 'Mummy' pictures, I've gained a full appreciation for the makers of athletic padding," smiles Fraser. "There's a reason why my shirt sleeve is rolled up at three-quarter lengths in many scenes and not all the way up. I mean, it's nice to show off your muscles, but if you're jumping and diving around on set, you're going to get a couple of knocks and the padding comes in handy."
Briem adds, "It was hard, but I got a real kick out of all the rigorous training we did. It's a real treat as an actor to get to learn all of those different skills. I had a couple of days where I was absolutely convinced that I could be a super hero. It was fantastic!"
Sometimes the demanding physical stunts made it difficult for the actors to get through their lines. "One of the most challenging scenes for me was the one where we fall towards the center of the Earth," recalls Briem. "We had these huge fans blowing on us to simulate the fall, and they were so loud it was physically very difficult to just get our lines out."
"The sequence was called 'The Big Drop,'" notes Brevig, referring to the scene where Trevor, Sean and Hannah plummet down thousands of miles toward the center of the Earth. "They're falling for so long that they actually have time to talk about their situation," he smiles.
"My initial vision for the shot was to see them travel from way up above us to way down below us, falling maybe 200 feet in one shot. Unfortunately, due to physical limitations of our soundstage, it was impossible to capture this continuously," notes the director. "We thought about raising them up really high outdoors, but that required a huge blue screen behind them, making it impractical. So I came up with the idea to put the actors on their sides, turn the camera sideways and dolly past them, so it would be the camera moving and not the actors. This way, we were able to run two to three hundred feet across our soundstage floor and capture the feeling that they're falling a great distance. We found a hot-rodded golf cart that could go like 60 miles an hour and shot the scene. The only challenge left was stopping the golf cart in time before slamming into the stage wall at the other end."
At the end of "The Big Drop" in the film, the three explorers are met with giant gravity-defying water globules until they finally reach a tunnel that acts like a waterslide funneling them into a crystal blue lagoon, the watery paradise at the Earth's center. This underwater set was built in Montreal's 1976 Olympic stadium diving tank, one of the largest in North America.
In addition to "The Big Drop," another action-packed thrill ride that Trevor, Sean and Hannah experience was the mine shaft "rollercoaster" ride. "We had a lot of fun playing with the volumes and spaces and the lighting to make the mine car ride dramatic, fast and fun," Christopher Townsend says.
The mine car sequence took equal parts visual effects and acting. "While the visual effects may look convincing, the actors are the ones who really sell any visual effects shot," states Brevig. "It's the acting that's going to convey the sense of danger and excitement. If the acting is good, the audience will trust the situation their characters find themselves in. Brendan, Josh and Anita were great at that."