The man they already alleged The Rock is activity aback to a adamantine place.
After establishing himself as family-friendly cine brilliant with “The Game Plan,” “Race to Witch Mountain,” “Get Smart” and “Tooth Fairy,” actor Dwayne Johnson is activity in a actual altered administration with his aing film, “Faster,” which arrives in theaters in November with a barbarous annual of R-rated vengeance.
“I’m demography it a altered abode with this one,” Johnson said aftermost week, and that was abundantly bright by his surroundings. The 37-year-old amateur with the agent physique was standing on a abrasive amplitude of San Pedro sidewalk dotted with taverns and tattoo parlors and glowing with red affiance of a neon sign advertising “Triple-XXX Peep Show.” During one break, Johnson looked bottomward at one of his able-bodied accoutrements with disapproval — his fake bastille boom was starting to fade.
“This,” he said to a affiliate of the architecture team, “needs some work.” As a aggregation affiliate with a pen anxiously adequate the aphotic edges, Johnson talked about accomplishing abundant the aforementioned affair for his acting career.
“I’m aflame about this, it’s been some time aback I’ve been in this space,” Johnson said, apropos to cast not to the ailing pawnshop area the “Faster” aggregation was at work. “I’m aflame to be blame ass. My abiogenetic composition is one of physicality. I’m a belly guy. And career-wise it was time to change it up and accumulate things interesting.”
This is the 10th ceremony of the above pro wrestler’s great Hollywood adventure, and he has been advancing throughout, even when his on-screen characters veered against caressible or — as with Twentieth Century Fox’s cloying “Tooth Fairy” — the movies didn’t wow the critics. In abounding ways, Johnson is like his acceptable acquaintance Arnold Schwarzenegger, who abundantly came to Hollywood with a adamant appetence for success and a accomplishments as a competitive, able-bodied showman. For one thing, both the wrestler and the bodybuilder allocution about their careers in agreement a CEO would love.
“It’s about creating opportunities area I can booty this cast and aggrandize it,” Johnson said on the set. “That could beggarly foundation assignment or alfresco business opportunities. But movies are what drive it, always. That’s my passion. “The ambition is to accomplish abundant movies and to accomplish them in a array of genres.”
Almost every big-time cine brilliant thinks in attenuated agreement of art and commerce, but most aren’t adequate accomplishing so in public. Johnson, though, grew up cerebration about crowd-pleasing victories and box-office receipts. The Hayward built-in is the son of Hall of Fame wrestler “Soulman” Rocky Johnson, a Nova Scotia built-in who in 1983 won the Apple Angry Federation’s tag-team championship with his partner, Tony Atlas, acceptable the aboriginal atramentous wrestlers to authority the title. The actor’s affectionate grandparents, meanwhile, were wrestler “High Chief” Peter Maivia and Lia Maivia, a apostle in Polynesian Pacific Pro Wrestling.
Growing up, Johnson lived for a time in Hawaii and New Zealand and affiliated with his mother’s Samoan heritage, but a job alteration took the ancestors to Bethlehem, Penn., which put the able-bodied youngster in a amphitheatre amorous about football. He became a amphitheatre brilliant at Freedom High Academy and went on to the University of Miami, area he was a arresting lineman on the aggregation that won the 1991 civic championship.
It was in the angry ring, though, that Johnson became an international celebrity accepted simply as The Rock. Switching aback and alternating amid hero and villain, the able-bodied 6-foot-4 won (and lost) the championship added than bisected a dozen times, but the accurate victory had annihilation to do with gold-plated belts. In the backward 1990s, he rivaled Hulk Hogan as the best apparent face in wrestling and with his angled eyebrow he appropriate an acrid disengagement from his aeon that took him into settings such as “Saturday Night Live,” “The Martha Stewart Show” and “The MTV Cine Awards.”
Then he angry to Hollywood, area he knew his bid to become a star would be met by smirks. The aboriginal cogent role was as Mathayus the Scorpion King in “The Mummy Returns,” but from the alpha Johnson capital to go able-bodied above bare-ed bad guys.
“I got into it to become a abundant actor. And because I got into it in a nontraditional way, I absitively the best way to acquisition success was to get a ample abject of work,” Johnson said. “I came into it with aplomb in my accustomed adeptness and aptitude and, really, that’s all I had to go by, my gut. I didn’t accept a lot of craft, certainly. I knew credibility would arise abandoned in time and through ardent performances. Bodies had a assertive acumen of me 10 years ago, advancing from the world I came from, so there were a lot of challenges.”
After a acknowledging role in the “Mummy” film, Johnson starred in the 2002 sequel “The Scorpion King,” which grossed $165-million common — admirable but a far cry from the aboriginal film’s $433-million take. “Walking Tall” in 2004 presented Johnson in a PG-13 tough-guy role, but that didn’t actually ablaze it up at theaters either. Afterwards a memorable about-face as a gay babysitter in the 2005 comedy “Be Cool,” the beefy star angry his architect to lighter actual that played off of his alarming profile.
Looking aback on his aboriginal work, Johnson said there are “a lot of wince moments” but that he still sees “an ardent guy” who was advancing into a new amphitheatre to compete. “The one affair I knew I had to do was annual and annual acting itself,” he said. “That was key. I capital anybody to apperceive I was amorous about it and how committed I was to acceptable acceptable at it. I consistently anticipation that time and achievement would get me accomplished all those challenges.”
Plenty of challenges remain. Although Johnson has had bartering success, the critics accept been frosty, but there is a assurance of a thaw. Booty the appraisement of A.O. Scott, for instance, autograph in the New York Times aftermost year: “[His] ambit improves with every role and his natural, lapidary allure takes him a continued way. He is best aback he expresses an agitated acrimony amusingly at allowance with his solid, able-bodied presence. He doesn’t actually accept abundant to do in ‘Race to Witch Mountain’ … but it’s not aching to watch him do it.” Ty Burr, autograph in the Boston Globe had agnate abuse acclaim for “The Game Plan,” calling Johnson “by far the best agreeable of avant-garde cine muscleheads.”
Still, Johnson continued ago afar himself from Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and others pro wrestlers with SAG cards. He senses, though, that it’s time get abroad from “heartfelt activity lessons” in ancestors films and mix it up in an R-rated landscape. “I anticipate there are a lot of bodies who will be blessed to see me in a authentic activity cine afresh too.”
“Faster” is the adventure of a hulking, aloof man accepted abandoned as Driver who is beheld about as abnormal bulk in the abyss afterwards his exploits in prison; in his aboriginal three months in the penitentiary he took on challengers from every cell-block assemblage and exhausted them all (victories, by the way, he accurate in that bastille tattoo) afore he was put into aloof bonds to assure himself and, perhaps, every added man in the bastille yard. Nine and bisected years later, he emerged from “the hole” and was arise to the alfresco apple with one mission: To coursing bottomward the bodies amenable for his incarceration and, worse, his brother’s death.
“I capital to accomplish abiding that with all the abandon that’s in the cine he still maintains a faculty of candor and righteousness,” Johnson said. “That was important. These guys in these array of films can about-face into robots — that’s the accessible way to booty the characters — but with ‘Faster’ the actual was so acceptable it lent itself to accomplishing article bigger than that. It’s actual able-bodied accounting so there’s a abundant backlog that we can assignment with. There are layers of candor to him alike with all the violence. And there is a lot of violence.”
“Faster,” which began filming in August, is actuality directed by George Tillman Jr., whose antecedent credits accommodate “Men of Honor” and “Soul Food.” Tillman said he’s appetite to accord “Faster” the afflictive acuteness of 1960s and 1970s tough-guy classics like “Vanishing Point,” “Get Carter,” “Point Blank” and the films of Steve McQueen.
“McQueen said so abundant after talking a lot and in this cine I don’t anticipate Dwayne has a arena with added than 12 or 15 words,” Tillman said. “He’s abandoned a lot of the movie. A lot of the achievement is an autogenous one and I anticipate article we haven’t apparent from Dwayne before. It’s about like a western, he’s on a mission. This achievement is activity to actually abruptness some bodies and accord them the Dwayne they actually appetite to see.”
Johnson has been developing the acreage for added than a year and it’s bright that he sees it as new affiliate in his career — alike if it’s not the wordiest role of his career. “No, not at,” Johnson said with a laugh. “There are no soliloquies, no pontificating. He says little but what he does say acreage actual sternly, all the time.”
The calligraphy was accounting by the brother bike of Joe and Tony Gayton and additionally stars Billy Bob Thornton, an Arkansas built-in who became fast accompany with Johnson through their alternate adulation of country music. Johnson says he loves the “honesty and the irony in the writing” of Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck and Merle Haggard and he cherishes the guitar Nelson presented to him as a altogether gift. Johnson says he’s abstruse from watching Thornton at work, aloof as he has abstruse from added amateur elders through the years.
“He’s an intriguing person and I adulation the guy,” Johnson said. “I’ve consistently been absorbed by his assignment and the ability of his work. He’s got an absurd bulk of aptitude and a really diverse career.”
And what of the future? Johnson said he was admiring to see the success of “The Blind Side,” both at the box appointment and on Oscar night, and absorbed about what it ability beggarly for added sports-based films. He is additionally continued overdue, he says, to arise in a superhero film.
“I would adulation that,” said Johnson, who might be a acceptable fit as Luke Cage, Namor, the Martian Manhunter or Captain Marvel. “We’ve been alive in talking to these different companies and these altered studios about authoritative that appear and award what makes sense. There’s so abundant there and so abundant untapped. I’m abiding it will happened. We’ve formed to develop good relationships with the studios active and executives.”
There’s additionally advancing babble about a “Jonny Quest” blur with Johnson as Race Bannon, and he afire up aback the adventure was mentioned. “Oh, absolutely, we’re talking about that, I adulation ‘Jonny Quest.’”
Johnson said he would adulation to additionally accomplish adventurous comedies as able-bodied as “a big across-the-board epic” and one of his dreams is to see a big-screen annual of the activity of Kamehameha, the adjudicator who unified the Hawaiian islands in 1810. “It’s the Hawaiian adaptation of ‘Braveheart’ in a way,” Johnson said.
The touch-up job on his bastille boom was done and Johnson grinned at the fearsome-looking result. “You know, I started in activity and afresh I went to ball school,” he said. “Now I’m aback in activity again. And accept me it’s fun.”
— Geoff Boucher
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PHOTOS: Top, Dwayne Johnson in “Faster” (CBS Films). Three posters for Dwayne Johnson films. Images of Captain Marvel (DC Comics) and Luke Cage (Marvel Comics), appearance that admirers accept generally mentioned as asset roles for Johnson.
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