9 Milestones in the Evolution of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

This weekend in Fast Five, Dwayne Johnson makes his Fast and Furious franchise debut as Luke Hobbs, a hulking law enforcer who tangos with the wrong street racing crew. How did Johnson (née "The Rock" in the entertainment industry) transform himself from a professional WWE body slammer to a bankable film star, worthy Saturday Night Live host, and -- most surprising -- a respectable Academy Award presenter?

Let's review nine pivotal performances that mark (and help explain) the remarkable evolution of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

World Wrestling Federation (1996)

Dwayne Johnson's first entertainment role was in the ring, where the charismatic performer won over the testosterone-heavy TV wrestling audience -- even during seasons where his character was positioned as a WWF villain. Christened "The Rock" by Vince McMahon, Johnson's wrestling persona was that of an energetic bully who would insult fans, refer to himself in the third person and deliver the best promos in the industry -- a skill that he would attribute to his college communication courses. (Seriously.) Watch The Rock communicate a world of staged pain to the Hulk in this WrestleMania clip.

Saturday Night Live (2000)

Because of his massive WWF fan base (back before it became the WWE), The Rock was invited to host an episode of Saturday Night Live following four years in the ring. After sharing the cold open with Vince McMahon, Mick Foley and a few other professional wrestlers, The Rock impressed an entirely different television audience with his relaxed and confident sketch ability. Watch as the wrestler holds his own against Tracy Morgan (unlike Jimmy Fallon who also shares the scene) in this memorable Brian Fellow clip.

The Scorpion King (2002)

After the success of his Saturday Night Live episode, The Rock accepted his first feature role in The Mummy Returns -- a small part that grew into a full-blown lead in the film's sequel The Scorpion King. As a bronzed desert king intent on defeating an evil army encroaching on his homeland, The Rock seamlessly transitioned from shirtless staged wrestler to shirtless Sahara warrior. Roger Ebert christened his film career by declaring that the budding star had "the authority to play the role and the fortitude to keep a straight face." All the makings of an action star!

The Rundown (2003)

The Rock traded special effects for action-comedy with Peter Berg's The Rundown the next year. Playing a professional bounty hunter who really just wants to open up a restaurant (don't they all?), The Rock's character travels to South America to retrieve a mobster's son (Seann William Scott). Still holding onto bits of his wrestling persona, The Rock uses his signature move (the Rock Bottom, as if you didn't know) on a thug, earning him his first MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Fight. He also shared a memorable torch-passing moment with action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Be Cool (2005)

The Rock proved that he could poke fun at his steroid-esque profile in Be Cool, the sequel to 1995's Get Shorty. As a gay Samoan bodyguard, The Rock showed audiences that he was not afraid to wear powder blue suits, silk shirts and red cowboy boots, when not being assaulted by homophobic jokes from Harvey Keitel and Vince Vaughn's characters.

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Comments

  • The Winchester says:

    Don't forget Southland Tales, where he turns in the only good performance of the movie, comes out relatively unscathed, and gets to deliver the classic line "I'm a pimp. And Pimps don't commit suicide."

  • SunnydaZe says:

    I love that movie! Of course, I also love the dreams I have when I have a dangerously high fever...

  • RECON says:

    All of the performances in Southland Tales are great, IMHO. Seann William Scott steals the show.
    Amy Poehler, Justin Timberlake, Jon Lovitz, Zelda Rubensteni!!!

  • SmarterThanYou says:

    He is not in the other guys that is Mark Wahlberg

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