I have no idea what The Rock is cooking, but for the month of May he was cooking with some heat!
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, also tapped with the awesome moniker of Samoan Thor, had not one, not two, but three movies in the top twenty at the end of the month of May: G.I. Joe Retaliation (clocking in at $121 million domestic gross thus far), Pain and Gain (just shy of $50 million domestic) and Fast and Furious 6 ($183 million domestic gross and still going).
True, Pain and Gain didn’t set the world on fire (even if it got good reviews), G.I. Joe Retaliation was simply a by-the-numbers action flick, and it’s Vin Diesel — the other bald muscled badass — that is the main draw for the Furious franchise accolades, but Dwayne’s winning brand of humor, humility and physicality had at least a little something to do with these three movies’ successes.
Not too shabby for a semi-retired WWE wrestler turned actor.
I was definitely one of the cynical eye rollers when Dwayne first began to parlay his WWE success into an acting career back in 2000. While I’ll watch just about anything on TV, I don’t watch WWE and so my familiarity with Dwayne was minimal until my younger cousin — who adored The Rock – introduced me. (Said cousin went through the phase of always strutting into a room, striking a pose and performing a wide sweeping stare before attempting to contort his face to mimic Dwayne’s trademark eyebrow raise.)
My true introduction to The Rock’s ‘acting’ came in a bit of network corporate synergy. The late UPN decided to cross promote WWE (which then aired on UPN) with my beloved Star Trek Voyager. In the episode “Tsunkatse”, the character Seven of Nine was kidnapped and thrown into an alien Fight Club arena where she had to face — you guessed it — The Rock. He really didn’t do much more than what he normally did on WWE, but I remember thinking that it was cool that the man didn’t take himself too seriously and was having fun with his acting opportunities. Oh, and that he had HUGE arms.
Fast forward to The Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King and you knew that Dwayne wasn’t giving up this acting thing. But, at the very least, he was playing to his strengths: parts that required big, physical guys doing a lot of action.
Next, Dwayne threw a curveball at everyone by going for roles of big good guys with brains, muscle, and a sense of humor such as The Rundown and Walking Tall. Darn it all, Dwayne would not be contained! He wasn’t going to just play the brute, but rather, he was openly challenging himself to play more well rounded roles and spread his wings a little. And while he was a little green, he did have the charisma and earnestness to make those chances work.
Then came Dwayne’s acting career turning point. In the 2005 John Travolta film Be Cool, Dwayne played a gay Samoan bodyguard with acting aspirations. While a bit meta, Johnson did the role justice, and you couldn’t help but cock your head to one side while watching him and think “Huh, he might actually have some acting chops under those muscles.”
After that Johnson never looked back. He kept up his varied movie choices by appearing in an array of kid friendly comedy Disney adventures and offbeat dramedy action flicks until he finally shared the screen with the-one-guy-you-never-realized-you-wanted-him-to-until-it-actually-happened: Vin Diesel. The only thing better than seeing Dwayne go toe-to-toe with Vin Diesel was adding another bald, insanely muscled brawler into the mix which was exactly what the Furious franchise producers did by — SPOILER ALERT! — introducing the awesome Jason ‘The Transporter’ Statham into the mix. He is set to exchange menacing glares and punches with Vin and Dwayne come Summer 2014 in the franchise’s seventh installment.
Hard to believe that over ten years ago I couldn’t have cared less about what the Rock was cooking and now I can’t wait to see what he’s up to next. Props to you Mr. Johnson. The power of The Rock just cannot be denied.
What is your favorite Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson movie?