The Rock has thrown in his wrestling mat for good, but acting seems to be his calling, proven with his scene-stealing turn as a gay bodyguard in Be Cool. Life for the ex-wrestler seems to be pretty good, as the roles get better and continue to define Dwayne Johnson as a force to be reckoned with. Garth Franklin reports.
Question: How much control did you have with this character Elliot and was there any reluctance in portraying a gay character?
The Rock: Actually I had a lot of leeway and latitude with (director)Gary Gray. Although Elliott was written in the novel by Elmore (Leonard), we had to start from scratch. I didn’t take the role specifically to get away from the action genre. Actors always wait for that role to be fearless, where they can jump off the cliff, and for me that was this role, an opportunity to play a guy who was conflicted in a world that he didn’t want to be in, and still felt that he had something to offer the world through song and dance. He was a gay man who was proud and by the end of the movie embraced even more being gay.
Question: What did you feel you had in common with him?
The Rock: In terms of drawing from things in my own life, I connected with Elliott. Here’s this aspiring actor – that was me five years ago. And this is a guy who doesn’t have any money – that was me eight years ago. I was lucky in my life because I had a lot of positive gay influences, and my mentor for many, many years, Pat Patterson, is a strong, steadfast, truthful gay man, who by the way I’ve literally seen kick a lot of people’s asses. . . he was a former professional wrestler.
Question: Any worry about the reaction your fans might have?
The Rock: I think the audience that I have and my fans are going to be very supportive because at the end of the day I have always wanted to entertain, and I think they would just appreciate (my) taking on the role. Elliot is an earnest man who’s genuine. There are a lot of people like him out there right now. You can go outside and they are those aspiring actors who’ll drop a monologue on you at the drop of a dime. People come up to me every day “Hey, I got this idea, I got a cd, I got a script” so I’ve seen that before.
Question: The movie is about the music industry. Are there similarities to the wrestling world?
The Rock: I think there are a lot of similarities over all the entertainment industry, period. There’s a seedy underbelly to the movie business, to the music business as well. I wasn’t that familiar with the music, or at least that side of it. Speaking to John Travolta over the months of us filming, as well as Andre (3000), knowing a lot of musicians, it’s a pretty accurate depiction of what goes on. We made it funny, we poked fun at it, but the reality of it is true.
Question: We were glad to see that you still raise the eyebrow.
The Rock: If there’s a way, I’ll do it. That was one of the great things to me too. I love self-deprecating humour. I’ve always been a big fan of that, and to have that joke run through the movie – look, I’ve got talent! I thought that was a great joke too. But no, if there’s another creative way to throw that in there to make fun of myself, sure.
Question: Have you ever sung before like in this film?
The Rock: Certainly not in movies. I drive my family and my friends crazy every time (I sing). I think I’m going to win a Grammy or something like that. I sat down with Gary and told him ‘What if he wants to sing?’ And he says: ‘Well, what do you think he would sing? Like R and B?’ ‘No, he’s an artist and he may have an old soul. He might like to sing – Loretta Lynn.’ I came up with that because one of my favourite movies is Coal Miner’s Daughter . . . so I thought, ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough’ made sense, a gay man singing to another gay man (laughter drowns him out)
Question: And the wild native dance at the end?
The Rock: Elliot is now completely out and free living his dream on stage for millions of people. He would do his customary Samoan slap dance. I called my cousins from Hawaii who are professional dancers. They were there with me. They came up, and we recorded that number. It was so exciting. Of course Elliot doesn’t want to leave the stage.
Question: What is the craziest thing you did to get noticed in Hollywood?
The Rock: I don’t have any of those kinds of stories. I was really very lucky. After I finished my football career, I got into professional wrestling. It was fortunate that because of wrestling and being on that stage of live television for four hours every week (I was known). It wasn’t like all of a sudden.
Question: Who is the coolest person you know?
The Rock: Ah, I would say the coolest person I worked with on the show would be Travolta. He’s timeless. You’ll see him… he’ll breeze into the room, and he’ll saunter, and he’s just cool.
Question: What was the challenge of going from professional wrestler to actor?
The Rock: I think the challenge at first, like five or six years ago, was there was a stereotype that the wrestlers before me had, and understandably so. So it took a lot of the executives actually going to the show and watching me perform live. It took hosting SNL on a couple of occasions. It took the Scorpion King and movies like that, and for me it was just a matter of time, that’s all. I knew that going in. I just wanted the opportunity and to surround myself with good people and con
Question: Are you actually done with your wrestling career?
The Rock: My contract was up. It came and went at the end of the year last year. I wasn’t contacted or notified or anything like that. My old team had basically congratulated me with ‘oh my god, what a wonderful career you’ve had, congratulations’! I was like ‘Really’? So I wish it had gone down a little bit different. (Renewing the contract) was never brought up. I was over in Prague filming, and it was just one of those things kind of like being hit with a ton of bricks. Yeah, I do miss the fans. That part sucks, I mean I can’t perform live. I love live interaction.
Question: But couldn’t you come back if you wanted?
The Rock: I’m sure the door’s always open and I appreciate that.
Question: Do you own your name “The Rock”?
The Rock: Actually, I do. It’s almost like a dual ownership, and we had made that agreement a couple of years ago, so I’m able to go out and use the name, The Rock. It’s interesting now how things have just taken a life of its own in terms of the name but people also call me Dwayne (Johnson).
Question: So what’s up for you in the future?
The Rock: I’ve always wanted to just continue and diversify and, you know, take on movies that were entertaining at the end of the day and I’ve been really fortunate to have decent material and make good movies and work with some good actors. There’s an inspiring drama that I’m going to do this summer. I’m excited about that. It’s called Gridiron Gang and it’s a true story. It takes place in a teenage prison camp literally transforming all these kids’ lives. When kids can’t go to prison say, for example, for murder, they get sent to these camps first. And Doom (based on the video games), of course. It’s funny, I love Ben Affleck. He said last year: ‘I don’t want to blow anything up, I don’t want to shoot any guns any more.’ And I love blowing things up and shooting guns. Doom is a video game adaptation and it has a great writer, John Wells. I’m very excited about that. The writing is great.