The next big challenge for this pro wrestler–turned–actor isn’t body slamming a 300-pound guy in tights or killing aliens with a laser gun. The Rock is determined to pulverize all your preconceived notions of him.
Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is a meathead. He’s a big dumb jock. And if you say that to his face, he’ll give in to his violent tendencies and use the People’s Elbow to crush you.
It’s easy to see why people would stereotype the Rock. He did, after all, get his start as a professional wrestler, and has starred in such action flicks as Doom, Walking Tall, and The Rundown. But if you talk to him for more than five minutes, you realize two things. First, while he is big, and he is a jock (he played professional football in Canada), he’s certainly not dumb. And second, the Rock is actually a big goof.
When we asked if there was anything about him that would surprise people who buy into the idea that he’s a walking macho cliché, he deadpanned, “Aside from the corduroy G strings I wear backwards?”
The Rock, believe it or not, has a sense of humor. But if he had his way, audiences would have noticed that years ago. “When I was wrestling,” he recalls, “I would write all these crazy long monologues that never made it on air. It was a constant battle. Other people in the WWE would always ask me, ‘Why are you always trying to be funny?’ But I thought, You can’t always be yelling.”
The irony is that the Rock’s most famous catchphrase was an off-the-cuff remark. “I was doing an interview with, of all people, Gennifer Flowers,” he remembers, “and she was asking me about some court case that was going on at that time. I said to her, ‘The problem is, if I were the judge and the jury, nine times out of ten it would be a hung jury … if you smell what the Rock is cooking.’ ”
The Rock’s comedic timing in the ring has allowed him to explore another side. In the movie Be Cool, he played a wannabe actor whose audition monologue was the catty exchange between Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union in the cheerleader flick Bring It On. He’s also had two stints hosting Saturday Night Live—where he played Clark Kent so convincingly, it almost led to him being cast as the Man of Steel in Superman Returns. “The question did start to arise after they saw me as Clark Kent on Saturday Night Live,” he says, “but I think it was going to be hard to pull off a half-black, half-Samoan Clark Kent.”
People may not see the Rock as a comedian, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting his career. He has two movies coming out this fall: the uplifting true story of juvenile delinquents reformed through football, Gridiron Gang, and Richard Kelly’s surreal sci-fi thriller/comedy Southland Tales. Also in the pipeline are Daddy’s Little Girl and Johnny Bravo. But one thing that has the Rock really excited is his new video game, Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run. It is the game version of the movie that’s based on the eighties arcade game Spy Hunter. (It sounds a little convoluted, but awesome nonetheless.)
“We were actually still developing the movie and working on the script when Midway [the game’s publisher] came to me about doing the game,” the Rock recalls. “I was into it because I was such a big fan of the original game. My first question, though, was, ‘How is this game going to be different from the other ones?’ They told me that, for the first time in a Spy Hunter game, players would be able to get out of the car. They’d get to be the character who has been driving the car this whole time. It was perfect for me, because what I’ve always loved about Spy Hunter is that this guy literally hunts spies. Who’s the guy who hunts James Bond? I want to be that guy.”
He also, apparently, wanted to hurt people—virtually. “I was interested in doing something different with the combat,” he explains. “I wanted to know how we could creatively maim and bring death to the bad guys with our bare hands. And Midway was like, ‘You can have complete control.’ Which was great, but it also presented a cool challenge: How many ways can I kill somebody with my bare hands? So I sat down with the developers, got my stunt double, and we just came up with some badass moves for my character. I even got to integrate some old-school wrestling moves that I used to do.
“Other people in the WWE would always ask me, ‘Why are you always trying to be funny?’ But I thought, You can’t always be yelling.”
“Though what I was really looking for,” he notes, “was what I call the ‘H.S.’ move. The one where, once you execute it, you’re like, ‘Holy shit!’”
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Why is Dwayne Johnson always trying to be funny? Perhaps he's not The Rock you thought he was. With a few movies outside the tough guy genre already under his belt, this surprisingly funny performer may have more tricks up his sleeve.
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