Dwayne Johnson: A Piece of the Rock

With his kick-ass film debut in The Mummy Returns now on screens everywhere, The Rock reveals his softer side.


Dwayne Johnson, better known as the World Wrestling Federation's most popular personality, The Rock, has so far made his assault on Hollywood shrewdly. For his screen debut, he chose a small but important role in The Mummy Returns, which, as audiences are now seeing, gives him the opportunity to show screen presence without having to do much more. He then moved on to the action-adventure spin-off film The Scorpion King, locking a deal worth $5.5 million--a staggering sum for a starring debut. The question now is whether The Rock will remain a well-paid sideshow or eventually ascend, as Arnold Schwarzenegger did, into mainstream movie stardom.

MICHAEL FLEMING: Can you identify what you have that people in Hollywood see as special?

THE ROCK: To be honest with you, I have absolutely no idea what it is. People say, "Wow, you just have it." About five years ago, when I got into wrestling, I heard the same thing. I'd say, "OK, great. What exactly do I have?" They'd say, "I don't know. You've just got it." I don't know what "it" is.

Q: Have you taken acting lessons?

A: I did a lot of work with my director on The Scorpion King, Chuck Russell. And I worked closely with an acting teacher named Larry Moss. The emotions he was able to bring out of me surprised me. It was a matter of being taught how, "This is what you have to do," "This is where you have to place yourself," "This is what you have to think about to feel that." An hour later, we were crying like babies.

Q: What did you think about to bring on tears?

A: I thought about difficult times I went through when I was younger and didn't have as good a handle on the world as I do now. I don't know if I can give lessons in histrionics. I just threw myself into this situation, and before I knew it, there were tears in my eyes. You can't just say, "I'm going to make myself cry," and then do it. How it works is like when you're driving in your car, by yourself, and a song comes on that brings back memories. You get teary-eyed, and then you remember you're a guy and you say, "What the hell am I doing?" And you change the station.

Q: Do you cry at movies?

A: I'm a pretty sensitive guy, and I'm secure enough in my manhood to say that I cry every time I watch It's a Wonderful Life. Beaches is another one. Recently...Oh, what the hell, I'll tell you, but before I do, I remind you that we all know how much The Rock kicks ass. We were in Morocco last year filming The Mummy Returns, and I had to take a private jet back to Spain. They were showing The Story of Us, with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer. I'm watching this and at the end, she goes off into this long dissertation on love and what a relationship means. Before I know it, I'm looking around the plane, making sure nobody's looking at me. I'm doing the old yawning and stretching thing, like I'm tired, wiping my eyes. What she said felt real, and if something moves you, you cry. What's somebody going to do, make fun of me? They'll have to deal with me.

Q: Russell Crowe just won the Oscar for Gladiator, which is basically an action movie. Had you been offered that role, could you have handled it?

A: Could I have done the emotions? Yeah. As good? I don't think so. But I damn sure would have tried. I'd love to have an opportunity like that.

Q: What movies do you love?

A: I loved Braveheart, and Mel Gibson is an actor I really admire. But I also loved It's a Wonderful Life, and I'd like to have tried the James Stewart role. I gravitate to the roles I can relate to, the ones about struggle, heartache, betrayal and retribution. I loved The Godfather trilogy. Rocky and Rocky II.

Q: Growing up, was there a movie that just blew you away?

A: I was completely enthralled with Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. For the longest time, I was Han Solo. Wisecracking, macho, the coolest thing since sliced bread. And I loved Indiana Jones. I was eight years old when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, and I made my mom take me 19 times to see it.

Q: Do you try to see every movie you can when it comes out, or are you limited to what you see on planes traveling to the next wrestling match?

A: Most of the movies I see are in the hotel, because I stopped going to movie theaters two years ago. I'm one to sign every autograph, and I'd miss the first quarter of every movie I tried to see. I'd go in disguise, but the disguises never worked. I just got a portable DVD player, but the truth is, I have absolutely no time. I have to catch these movies when I can. Universal has been great, getting me Hannibal and other movies early. I'm coming up to a weekend where I have Saturday and Sunday off, and it's the first weekend I've had off in many months. I just bought L.A. Confidential. I'll probably have a moviefest with a big pizza.

Q: Have you talked with Arnold Schwarzenegger?

A: When he was plugging The 6th Day, he came on ["WWF Smackdown!"] and I had a little bit of dialogue with him. Since then, he's sent a lot of messages to me through people on my films who've worked with him. Words of encouragement. I appreciated it. You see people in the entertainment industry who are successful and insecure and will do what they can to stop someone coming up. I commented to somebody who knows Arnold well that it seemed unlikely for someone of his caliber to be encouraging, and that person told me, "Well, he sees himself 20 years ago in you."

Q: If you look at Arnold Schwarzenegger's success, it's linked to James Cameron, who directed both Terminator movies and True Lies. Have you had time to think about which director might take you on the same ride?

A: I would love for James Cameron to take me on. His work is fantastic. Steven Spielberg is another. Jerry Bruckheimer is a producer I'd love to work with.

Q: There's a rumor you've been offered a ton of money to star in a videogame series just bought for the screen by Miramax-owned Dimension Films called Duke Nukem.

A: You've heard about that? They want to make that a huge franchise, and from what I hear, they want me. That's fantastic. They'd have us collaborate on the script, and they'd put a lot of money into turning it into a franchise. I'm interested. The physicality I can handle, but I also want realism, like in The Scorpion King. I've worked hard on the sword-fighting and weaponry in this film and everything that happens in it is something that can really happen. I'm not going to be running up a tree or anything, like in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Q: You appeared at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Who did you vote for for president?

A: I voted for Bush, but wouldn't necessarily consider myself a conservative Republican because I'm liberal on many issues. My intent at the conventions was to get people to vote. I had no qualms about the fact that this was the first election I voted in.

Q: The Scorpion King is your first starring role and you're being paid like a major star. Does that make you feel more pressure, like you've got one pricey shot to make it?

A: I put a lot of pressure on myself to do the best I can, but I don't put that other type of pressure on myself, that it's now or never. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. I'm going to make the most out of this opportunity. And leave no rock unturned. No pun intended.


Michael Fleming interviewed Michael Bay for the May issue of Movieline.