He’s known as The Rock, but you can also call him Dwayne. During a surprise stop in the city last month, we met up with the former wrestler and emerging movie megastar to discuss his accelerating film career…
Just a little over a decade ago, Dwayne Johnson spent his nights smashing steel chairs off other men’s heads. He was known as ‘The Rock’ then, and was the biggest professional wrestler around. But that’s not the only thing that made him unique. He was also the first third-generation star in the sport. And before that, he was also part of the University of Miami’s championship football team in 1991.
As The Rock, Johnson became a fan favorite for his polished speaking, humorous promotional spots, lively interviews and his sense of comedy (his pre-match interviews were regularly the highest rated segments of the week).
At six foot four and with 250 pounds of chiseled muscle, it’s no wonder that movie offers started to come along for the American of Samoan heritage. But despite appearing in over a dozen films, this Hollywood star hasn’t forgotten the 1975 film Escape to Witch Mountain, which spearheaded a very busy two years since in cinema. In what passed for teen fare back then, the story was about two paranormal siblings who may or may not be aliens and their adventures with a mysterious safe haven called Witch Mountain.
?The director Andy Fickman had pitched me the idea of re-imagining this Disney classic,? says Johnson, who had worked with Fickman in 2007’s The Game Plan. ?What sold it for me was that he wanted to make it this huge action adventure.?
Of course, this being a Disney film, there’s a lighter side to the movie as well. ?This was my second Disney film and to be honest, I think family-orientated films are important because when done right, every member of the family can relate to a character in the movie," said Johnson, the father of a seven-year-old daughter. ?But make no mistake, there’s a great car chase that starts the film and the climax was very dramatic and intense.?
That mixture of genres suits the man who was first billed as the next action star ala Arnold Schwarzenegger (who even put in an cameo appearance in The Rundown in a symbolic ‘passing of the torch’ scene). Lately though, he’s been showing off his comedic side, which included his hilarious role as a gay bodyguard in Be Cool.
?It’s not a conscious effort on my part to take on more comedic roles, I’m just open to variety.?
That’s the reason why he’s cheerfully able to sit atop one of the main floats during the daily Disneyland parade as thousands of onlookers cheer him on. ?One of the coolest things I’ve done is to be part of the Disneyland Main Street parade," he gushes, The local audience may not know much about his wrestling roots, but they sure do know him for his mixture of menacing and comic roles in such films as The Rundown, Gridiron Gong, Be Cool, Doom and Get Smart, Planet 51, Tooth Fairy, The Other Guys, Faster, and most recently Fast Five starring opposite Vin Diesel and Paul Walker.
Ever since the Disney endorsement, we’ve been seeing a lot of Johnson. He stared in other roles, such as a tooth fairy, before taking on the superhero Shazam. When asked about Disney’s Race To Witch Mountain, he explained, ?It was just a matter of material that came my way.?
Race To Witch Mountain was certainly a blend of the heavy and the light as Fickman (who was born in Roswell, New Mexico, the site of one of the most famous unexplained UFO incidents of all time) wanted to combine his interest in the subject with his love of 70s type films.
Add a stellar cast that includes Carlo Gugino, Cheech Marin and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory star Anna Sophia Robb and it’s clear that the film is great escapist fare. ?The action is merged with all the qualities that make up the Disney brand,? enthuses Johnson, who transforms from an unhappy cab driver into a man with an extraordinary mission in the film. ?It’s got heart and family and humor, along with a touch of magic."
As for a return to wrestling? ?I won’t be returning to the ring,? Johnson says emphatically. ?I’ve been retired for five years."
THE ROCK BEATS FILM EVERY TIME
Well not really. As you can see from this highly irreverent look at Dwayne Johnson’s career, it’s a mixture of promising roles, paydays and, err, paydays ..
THE MUMMY RETURNS
It’s a ?blink and you miss I’ debut for The Rock in this Mummy sequel. Considering he was a wrestler at the time, all can be forgiven for his brief appearance as a… wait for it – CGI enhanced giant scorpion!
THE SCORPION KING
Okay, so he got his own spin-off film. The movie’s remembered more for his US$5 5 million payday
The Rock cracks jokes! And heads! All that plus a cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A remake of the semi-classic 1973 film. Johnson is a retired sheriff who gives all the bad guys a big whuppin’ in his small town. He walked tall here, though critics still thought the original was better.
Johnson shows his funny side as a gay bodyguard in what is the surprise highlight of this uneven Get Shorty sequel. In fact, he was so good some whispers started that he was batting for the other team.
Based on the first person shoot ’em up video game, Johnson himself would probably admit he was gunning for the lucrative paycheck.
Wherein Johnson takes on the tried and true actor’s tradition of being the tough guy with the heart of gold who mentors troubled youths. All together now…
THE GAME PLAN
One of Johnson’s most successful film to date sees him playing a star athlete who discovers he has a young daughter in the middle of the NFL season. Cue kid shenanigans, mock frustration and a happy ending.
Notable for two reasons: Johnson’s first stint as a villain and starring as Anne Hathaway’s character’s ex-boyfriend. Hard to tell which concept is funnier.
THE OTHER GUYS
Dwayne plays one of the cocky badass cop foils to dysfunctional cop partners Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg is this great comedy flick.
Dwayne Johnson stars as Driver, the anti-hero, in this dark shoot ?em up, spurred on by a burning desire to avenge his brother’s murder.
This fifth installment in the Fast and the Furious film series follows three people as they plan a heist to steal $100 million from a corrupt businessman Hernan Reyes while being pursued for arrest by U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent Luke Hobbs, played excellently by Dwayne Johnson.
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
This upcoming American 3D action-adventure film directed by Brad Peyton is the sequel to the 2008 film Journey to the Center of the Earth. Sean accompanies his mother’s husband (Johnson) to find his grandfather who went missing while exploring a lost island.
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
A movie we’re eagerly awaiting, is the sequel to 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, to be directed by Jon Chu! Get ready to get butt!