When he burst onto the Hollywood stage from the world of wrestling, Dwayne Johnson joined a long line of athletes-turned-actors. Usually the limitations show – one musclebound hulk after another looks great in fights or action scenes, but ask them to actually emote and they lock up tighter than a Hollywood producer’s coke safe.
Johnson did something different. He’ll likely never win an Oscar, but that’s more to do with the genres he moves in that any performing deficiency.
Though the fights, quips and effects tend to overshadow him, he’s actually that rarest of beasts, a good actor – and that megawatt-watt smile and earnest determination to make everything he does great makes him a great screen presence in the bargain.
Moviehole.net caught up with the artist formerly known as The Rock in LA.
What appealed about working on San Andreas?
I read the script and said ‘there’s me’ [mimics turning pages quickly] ‘not me, not me, not me… there’s me’.
No, seriously, I lucked out on this one to work with this amazing group and it doesn’t happen often. When you go on a movie and work for six months together then you do the tour for the press you get really lucky when you really like everybody.
Beau [Flynn, producer] gave me the script when we were in Budapest shooting Hercules. I read it and loved it. A lot of directors had their hands up but Brad [Peyton, director] had his hand up and said ‘I’m flying to Budapest right now.’
He flew over and had this incredible take on the movie, we already had a relationship from Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and we put all trust into our great leader. He delivered a great movie.
There was an opportunity to redefine the genre. Roland Emmerich has done very well in it as we all know, and it’s just a fantastic, epic, global genre if you do it right.
It was a really great opportunity for us to do something that had a lot of really cool elements in terms of the spectacle and the visual but also a lot of heart.
When you watch movies like this generally you remember the action and the set pieces and how big and cool they were. With San Andreas we’d like to think you remember that but also remember the characters.
It’s been 14 years since The Mummy Returns. How has Dwayne Johnson the actor evolved?
I like to speak about myself in the third person too. ‘Well, Dwayne has…’
I think I’ve grown in so many ways. I came into acting like a lot of actors who don’t have Hollywood connections, I didn’t go to performing arts school. My goal with The Mummy Returns was to break into acting and hopefully have a long and diverse career.
Back then, I felt like I didn’t have experience. I cut my teeth in the world of wrestling, which is a whole other monster because it’s in front of a live audience.
In terms of nuance and subtlety you hopefully learn that over time as an actor, I didn’t have that back then and I felt the best thing I could do was trial by fire, jump head first into the biggest, most challenging movies I could.
I went from The Mummy Returns to The Scorpion King to Rundown and Walking Tall and felt like I needed to have diversity and take risks, do comedy, whatever opportunity came my way.
I also felt like I needed to understand the business from top to bottom as best I could from marketing to executives to acting to directing and producing and trying to understand it because I thought all that would make me a better actor overall.
And now I’m so excited to be talking to you about this big summer tentpole movie. Life is good.
You’ve been known as ‘franchise Viagra’. What was your favourite franchise growing up and what franchise do you feel you could inject your manna into?
My favourite franchise growing up was Star Wars and Indiana Jones. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark at eight years old I loved it, I loved Indy, I wanted to be that guy.
Where could I inject my manna? Just to be clear, you’re meaning manna like ‘spirit’? I could inject it into Baywatch, Brad and I are making Baywatch together. That’s the title of your story right there, ‘Rock injects manna into Baywatch’.