While action superstar Dwayne Johnson gets top billing in the new disaster film "San Andreas," the two leading ladies, Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario, are just as involved in the thrills when a catastrophic earthquake decimates California.
In the movie, opening Friday, Gugino plays Emma, the estranged wife of Johnson's Ray, a rescue-chopper pilot. Daddario is their daughter Blake. When the big one hits, Ray and Emma are in Los Angeles while Blake is in San Francisco with Emma's beau Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd).
Separated from her family, and with a pair of British brothers in tow, Blake is no damsel in distress as they navigate the broken city.
"I had a great time playing her," Daddario says. "As I've grown older and evolved as a person, I think that I've become stronger in my own life and I think that she becomes stronger as the movie goes on. But she's still a real person, a young girl with her own vulnerabilities and things like that."
Thanks to training from her dad, the college student Blake is equipped in an emergency with serious survival and leadership skills, despite her age.
"You see her take charge and you see her grow as a person throughout the film," Daddario says. "I think it's a very important thing for young women to watch this film. I think it's important that we are portraying more young women in positions of leadership, power and strength, because I think that's reality. And I hope that people watch this movie and see that they too can be as strong and tough and take charge."
Rolling with The Rock
"San Andreas" marks Daddario's first experience working with the former WWE wrestler ("The Rock") turned blockbuster actor.
"He's an awesome human being and he's so amazing in the movie, and I feel like it's just so cool to be able to say that I get to play 'The Rock's' daughter," she says. "It makes me feel cooler, tougher."
Gugino, however, is no stranger to acting with the oversized star. She co-starred with him in "Faster" and "Race to Witch Mountain."
"I love working with him so much and I think what was really nice about this one is that certainly we got to go to a different place," Gugino says. "These characters have deeper relationships than we've ever gotten to play before and the level of trust and just knowing each other was such a great way to be able to go into this movie where we were creating a relationship where we really had to have history that people can believe very quickly."
Daddario, who grew up on the Upper East Side near Yorkville, has lived in Los Angeles for more than 6 years, but has very little real-life earthquake experience -- just a few smaller ones.
"It's an interesting experience the ones that I have felt, even if it's like a 3.4, which is a considerably small earthquake," she says. "It's a very strange feeling. Sometimes you'll have a moment where you're like, 'Oh, did someone just drop something upstairs? Or did I have one glass of wine too many?'"
Gugino, however, experienced the Northridge quake, a 6.7 on the Richter scale, which hit Los Angeles in 1994.
"[It] was significant and terrifying," Gugino says. "And I think, until you're in one, you can't really imagine what it's like. And when you are actually in one, you realize the power of Mother Nature. And after you have been through one, you have great war stories to tell with other people who have gone through the same thing."
Maybe it's not surprising that Gugino, who is now starring in "Wayward Pines" on Fox and "The Brink," coming up in June on HBO, has relocated to New York City after 20 years of living in California. Of course, there is the draw of being in what she calls "the best city in the world."
"I've always loved New York, but I am in the chapter of my life in which it is a complete love story with New York," she says. "I love that it's one of the most cosmopolitan, metropolitan cities in the world and yet it's really a small town. You know your neighbors; I never knew my neighbors in L.A."
Paul Giamatti reveals his favorite distaster flicks
In the new disaster flick "San Andreas," Paul Giamatti plays a seismologist who figures out a way to predict when an earthquake is going to hit. Giamatti says he joined up with the film because he was intrigued by the idea of reviving the disaster film genre, a genre he was a big fan of as a kid.
"I was really into 'The Poseidon Adventure,'" he says. 'That movie was a big thing for me when I was a kid, and for a lot of people. 'Earthquake' was good [and] I had a particular fondness for a movie called 'Meteor' with Sean Connery, which was just absurd."