Tag Archives: Dwayne Johnson

How Dwayne Johnson Became The People’s Movie Star

AP734826878939This is a big week for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. SAN ANDREAS,  a disaster blockbuster in which he stars, arrives in theaters on Friday. BALLERS — an HBO series in which Johnson serves as both executive producer and star — premieres in June. Warner Brothers recently announced plans to develop a superhero film of SHAZAM, and Johnson revealed that he will play the nemesis Black Adam in the big screen adaptation of the DC comic book.

With all this activity, perhaps it is to be expected that Dwayne Johnson is everywhere in the media right now. Yet his omnipresence is more than the product of a busy publicity schedule. His public persona rises above any individual project, subsuming each role into the greater narrative, the one in which Dwayne Johnson conquers the world.

Scott Meslow examines the phenomenon in theweek.com under the headline “How Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Became the People’s Movie Star.” Meslow writes: “Johnson’s filmography is unusually eclectic, pivoting sharply from one movie to the next: big action movies to wacky comedies, weird indie movies to fun little cameos, often playing himself. The only unifying trait is that every role seems to have been carefully chosen to show off another aspect of his talent.”

Indeed, his career choices have been made carefully. Each new role is selected to enhance his brand. He is methodically creating a profile with broad appeal. His film debut role —  a significant cameo as The Scorpion King in THE MUMMY RETURNS —led to the starring role in the spinoff feature that followed, THE SCORPION KING. The picture made money and pointed to a future as an action star. Buddy films like THE RUNDOWN and WALKING TALL allowed Johnson to develop his screen presence while playing off of energetic co-stars.

Johnson then set about expanding his horizons. Jen Yamato, writing in The Daily Beast, charts the next phase of his career: “He took chances and diversified with a surprising comedic turn as a gay bodyguard/aspiring actor in BE COOL, a cameo in RENO 911! THE MOVIE, and a major role in Richard Kelly’s ambitious sci-fi satire SOUTHLAND TALES.”

detail.673ee91aDaniel Roberts, writing in Fortune, says, “You could argue that Johnson fully emerged as an actor with BE COOL in 2005, in which he played a gay bodyguard with an Afro. It was the first time he acted opposite A-list stars (Uma Thurman and John Travolta) and, more significantly, it helped establish that his groove was in action comedy.”

To establish himself in this new genre, Johnson moved into family films. Yamato continues: “The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment became The Most Electrifying Man In All of Entertainment by shrewdly trading in his crowd-pleasing brand of brow-raising brio for a relatable strain of All-American humility.

“That transformation started as The Rock went Disney as a footballer with a daughter he never knew he had in THE GAME PLAN, his first family flick and his last credited picture as ‘The Rock.’ The movie made $147 million worldwide, making it the most successful Johnson-fronted film to not feature violent action at the time.

“Then came GET SMART, RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, and TOOTH FAIRY with a dose of friendly neighborhood brawn for the whole family. A scene-stealing blip of an appearance in 2010’s THE OTHER GUYS was a stroke of perfect casting: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson as the NYPD’s hotshot star cops.” In 2012 his JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND drove to a $335 million gross.

Having introduced himself to the family market, his next move was back to action films. His career was turbo-charged when he joined the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise in FAST FIVE. The picture helped boost his action cred, but Johnson was also widely credited with rejuvenating the Furious series.  The nickname ‘Franchise Viagra’ stuck, and he repeated the magic in G.I.JOE: RETALIATION the next year. After two more FURIOUS films, Dwayne Johnson finds himself standing on the entertainment mountaintop.

Smart career choices and the blessing of the box office gods don’t fully explain his success, however. Clearly he began with an extraordinary charm and charisma, qualities that audiences embraced from the beginning. Roberts tells us the story: “Johnson went from being so poor as a kid that he and his mother were evicted from their home, to Division I college football, to World Wrestling Entertainment, to Hollywood, to being the highest-grossing actor of 2013. How he did it is a case study in determination…

“The only child of a Canadian father and a Samoan mother, Johnson grew up like an Army brat, living everywhere from California to New Zealand to Texas, because his father, Rocky Johnson, was a professional wrestler and traveled the circuit. At age 15, Dwayne and his mother were living in a small studio in Honolulu when they came home to an eviction notice and a lock on the door. Their rent, at $180 a week, was too much for his mother, who cleaned hotel rooms. ‘It broke my heart,’ he says. The pair had no choice but to move to Nashville, where his dad was wrestling at the time. ‘I remember saying to myself, ‘I will do anything and everything I possibly can to make sure we never get evicted again.’ But what does that mean—what does it mean to be successful? Well, the successful men I admired all built their bodies.'”

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 2.40.40 PMJohnson played football in college, hoping for a pro career. He joined “the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. That didn’t work out either; he was cut after two months. Broke, jobless, and embarrassed, he flew from Canada to Miami and called his father to drive from Tampa to get him. On the ride home, he emptied his pockets and found just seven dollars (hence his company’s name: 7 Bucks Productions).

“Johnson had never planned on going into the family business, and his father initially forbade it. But once he moved back in with his parents, and after weeks of depression, it seemed the obvious move. Rocky told Dwayne he had nothing to offer the sport; Dwayne, hurt, felt differently. ‘Looking back,’ he says, ‘I understand that he was thinking, ‘Man, I wrestled for 40 years, and this is what I have to show for it: a tiny apartment in Tampa. I don’t want this for you.’”

“It turned out that Johnson had a lot to offer the sport. He began wrestling in small-time matches as Flex Kavana, made it to the WWE in 1996 and took the name Rocky Maivia, and went on, as The Rock, to become the biggest superstar televised wrestling has ever seen. Fans of the ‘sport’—which is part verbal performance, part dance, and all theater—loved his charisma and family backstory.”

It took effort to convert the charm into stardom. One thing observers agree on is “how hard Johnson works.”

He takes each role seriously.  Speaking to comicbook.com about the upcoming role in SHAZAM, he says “It’s a mythology that I love. It’s been with me for almost 10 years now. What made me choose Black Adam  was, I just felt like Black Adam was inherently more interesting to me, because I felt like there were more layers to Black Adam, starting out as a slave, then ultimately becoming the anti-hero that we know today. But I’ve always said that’s got to be earned.”

He means earn the respect of the audience. Johnson tells Fortune: “From wrestling in flea markets (making $40 bucks a match) to used car dealerships to barns, to breaking attendance records in every major dome in the U.S., I learned that the most important relationship I will EVER have in business is the relationship I have with my audience. Pay attention to who you do your business for.” He earns his fans’ respect twice: in the performance of the role and in the marketing of the film.

Roberts explains: “Hollywood teems with hardworking actors, of course, but Johnson  goes further than most. He’s not done when the cameras stop rolling. He takes each movie’s promotion into his own hands, pushing it to his 56 million fans across social media, a platform that film insiders say is more valuable to a Dwayne Johnson flick than any ad campaign.”

Meslow concurs: ” the range of talents Johnson has displayed on the big-screen is just one half of the cocktail that has elevated him to superstardom. It’s the inherent likability Johnson shows off-screen — which he cannily harnesses on Twitter (8.7 million followers), Instagram (14.8 million followers), and Facebook (49 million likes) — that has earned him such an unusually loyal fandom.”

8fdb2cb7b90a58a3361cdded32d5e5efcc34e008His creative use of social media elevates his media reach. Last week, for example, he set a new Guinness World record for the Most Selfies Taken in Three Minutes. “The Furious 7 star broke the record at the UK premiere of his upcoming disaster flick San Andreas, snapping selfie after selfie with fans and revelers on the red carpet outside of London’s Odeon Leicester Square,” gushes US magazine. Traditional media outlets drool over this kind of publicity efficiency.

Johnson manages to be sincere in the process. Meslow says: “Following Johnson on social media feels like an actual window into his day-to-day life: unusually chatty, heavy on pictures, and full of upbeat affirmations about the best ways to live a happy life. … Johnson spends a lot of his social media platform promoting his various film and television projects — but first and foremost, he’s always promoting Dwayne Johnson.

Last week, Johnson scored a huge viral hit by serving as the officiant at a surprise wedding for Nick Mundy — a writer and fan who just happens to have 33,000-plus Twitter followers.” wlrockhandprints1And he turned the Chinese Theater hands-in-cement ceremony into an opportunity to thank Steven Spielberg, telling Reuters: “This man who has inspired me over the years, inspired movie-making and created characters that I loved…this man told me: ‘you’re going for it, and just keep going for it.”

The other piece of advice he treasures came from director Phil Joanou: Protect the thing that allows you to do what you do. Johnson rephrases it: “Around every corner always protect the engine that powers you.” (Fortune.)

Mostly, Dwayne is having fun, and it’s rubbing off on everyone. John Patterson sums it up in his SAN ANDREAS review in The Guardian: “As he has refined his brand, Johnson has stepped out. His recurrent appearances on SNL, playing Hulk-like, shape-shifting Potus “The Rock” Obama, have been ridiculously endearing (especially whenever he flings Ted Cruz out of a window), and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen him lip-sync Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off with Jimmy Fallon (“Oh Jimmy, your ass is gettin’ ready to know Tay-Tay!”). There is an unadulterated joy to be derived from watching a performer make all the right movies, one after another. Vive Le Rock! ” roc17_3

 

Paul Giamatti Keeps New ‘SAN ANDREAS’ Trailer Down To Earth

dwayne_johnson_as_ray_in_san_andreas-t3The new trailer for SAN ANDREAS has popped. It features a more subdued tone than disaster movies usually adopt; this one centers on relationships, not hysteria. There’s plenty of destruction on display, of course, plus extraordinary heroics from Dwayne Johnson. But the overall feel of the piece is grounded, almost elegaic. It celebrates the effort of the victims to help each other survive the catastrophe.

This tone is anchored by a short but pivotal appearance in the trailer by Paul Giamatti. At about a minute and twenty seconds into the spot he says his only line, “Yes, that is exactly what I am saying.”maxresdefault His delivery makes the impending chaos suddenly real; his authenticity and authority legitimize your fear, and you feel the terror is unavoidable. That is a lot to accomplish with one line of dialogue; that is the kind of added value an Oscar nominee caliber actor can bring to a supporting role.

The song in the new trailer is also extremely effective, a haunting cover of CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ performed by Sia. Sia

Here is the Warner Brothers description of the film:

After the infamous San Andreas Fault finally gives, triggering a magnitude 9 earthquake in California, a search and rescue helicopter pilot (Dwayne Johnson) and his estranged wife make their way together from Los Angeles to San Francisco to save their only daughter.

But their treacherous journey north is only the beginning. And when they think the worst may be over…it’s just getting started.

The action thriller “San Andreas,” from New Line Cinema and Village Roadshow Pictures, reunites Dwayne Johnson with director Brad Peyton and producer Beau Flynn, following their collaboration on the global hit “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.”

The film also stars Carla Gugino (“Night at the Museum,” TV’s “Entourage”), Alexandra Daddario (“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” TV’s “True Detective”), Ioan Gruffudd (“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”), Archie Panjabi (TV’s “The Good Wife”), Hugo Johnstone-Burt (Australian TV’s “Home and Away”), Art Parkinson (TV’s “Game of Thrones”) and Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti (“Cinderella Man”).

“San Andreas” is produced by Beau Flynn (“Hercules,” “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”). Richard Brener, Samuel J. Brown, Michael Disco, Rob Cowan, Tripp Vinson and Bruce Berman serve as executive producers. The screenplay is by Carlton Cuse, story by Andre Fabrizio & Jeremy Passmore.

The creative filmmaking team includes director of photography Steve Yedlin (“Looper”), production designer Barry Chusid (“The Day After Tomorrow”), editor Bob Ducsay (“Godzilla”), VFX producer Randall Starr (“Into the Storm”), VFX supervisor Colin Strause (“The Avengers”), and costume designer Wendy Chuck (“Twilight”). The music is by Andrew Lockington.

“San Andreas” was shot on location in The Gold Coast and Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The film is slated to open in theaters in both 3D and 2D on Friday, May 29, 2015.

New Line Cinema presents, in Association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a FPC Production, “San Andreas.” It will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.san-andreas-poster

Happy Birthday Dwayne Johnson—Here are The Rock’s Best Comedy Moments

DwyaneJohnsonBallerIn honor of Dwayne Johnson’s birthday,  Bill Bradley at Huffington Post is celebrating 10 of The Rock’s best moments. But Bradley missed my favorite: the “Bring It On” scene from BE COOL.

Everyone talks about Dwayne’s ability to bring intensity to action movies; he earned the nickname “Franchise Viagra” after he injected new life into FAST FIVE  and GI JOE: RETALIATION .

Not enough appreciation is shown for Dwayne’s comedic skills. In this hilarious scene from the sequel to GET SHORTY, he steals the spotlight from John Travolta and Uma Thurman. Gay Samoan bodyguard Elliot Wilheim (portrayed by The Rock} breaks into Edy’s (Thurman) house to demand an impromptu acting audition from Chili Palmer (Travolta), who has become a Hollywood film producer. Elliot performs a scene from BRING IT ON. He also does the People’s Eyebrow, his signature gesture from his days in the WWF/E. Check it out:

Dwayne commits fully to the character. Notice how closely he listens and reacts to every word Travolta says. Dwayne is one hundred percent invested in the scene, and that makes him very funny.

BE COOL also stars Vince Vaughn, Harvey Keitel, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000), Danny DeVito, Steven Tyler and Christina Milian.

HuffPo’s 10 best moments include other comic high points:

1) When he lip-synced to Taylor Swift’s SHAKE IT OFF on Lip Sync Battle, pitting his skills against Jimmy Fallon :

2) The time he played ukelele and sang “What a Wonderful World:”

3) When he turns into The Rock Obama:

Head on over to HuffPo to see the other 7.

Happy Birthday Dwayne!

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Furious 7 Is Fastest Film to Earn $1 Billion: Why?

Furious+7+Movie+Poster The Magnificent Seven: Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriquez, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges and Jordana Brewster in Furious 7.

Furious 7 has grossed  $1 Billion at the global boxoffice faster than any other film. It reached the milestone after 17 days in release. In doing so, it broke the record previously shared by Avatar, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and The Avengers. Each of those films reached $1 Billion in 19 days.

What has driven this success?

THE ACTION

The Christian Science Monitor asks: “So what makes the film series so successful? It’s not reviews from critics  – some moviegoers will always want to see fast cars and fights…” David Sims in The Atlantic agrees: “From Fast Five on, each film has thrived by trying to top its’ predecessors outrageous stunts and balletic set pieces.” Sandy Schaefer of Screenrant calls the Furious films a “Superhero franchise in disguise.”

And yet, audiences seem to accept the stunts as being grounded in reality. No caped crusaders or aliens or genetic mutations explain the incredible feats. Schaefer again: “the crew… must wrestle with matters like parental responsibilities, love, greed vs. generosity, and their obligations to other people, all of which are presented in a context that reflects life in the 21st century.” These characters are real people, so the crazy things they do must be possible. The moviegoer can think “I could do that.”

DIVERSITY

Time notes: “In any other series, a handsome white guy like Paul Walker would be the sole hero…  And ostensibly, Walker was the star of the first two films. But by the fifth installment, he was just one of an impressively diverse entourage that included an Italian-American man, a Japanese man, two black men, a Latino woman and an Israeli woman.” The cast of each installment includes someone for everyone; no matter who you are, you can find a character to follow.

But it isn’t simply that there are many ethnic groups or nationalities represented. These actors also bring loyal fans.

Dwayne Johnson earned the nickname “Franchise Viagra” after joining the ensemble in Fast Five. That installment improved by 72% at the box office over the previous film in the series. Perhaps his added muscle and action credibility contributed to the energy that he brought, but he also appeals to the Pacific rim and urban audiences in North America. 150406093858-furious-7-fire-780x439                                                  Dwayne Johnson in Furious 7.

Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges boasts an army of worldwide fans due to his phenomenal success as a hip hop recording artist.. He has sold 14 million albums, and those fans like to come to the movies too. 2011-topic-music-ludacris                                                                     Ludacris.

The women are strong characters as well. The Atlantic points out that “although it feels ridiculous to say this of a brand that never shies away from featuring a montage or two of girls frolicking in bikinis, its female characters are strong, flinty, and individually defined. While other major franchises like Marvel struggle to incorporate women without reducing them to helpful sidekicks, heroines like Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) felt fully developed from the get-go.” Time also applauds the treatment of women characters, saying “as it turns out, women can drive fast too. Fast & Furious has been surprisingly progressive when it comes to gender equality. Letty throws a punch as hard as Dominic. And when we meet an attractive female hacker (played by Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel) in the latest installment, one male character is quick to admonish another who assumes that only nerdy boys can be programmers.” No surprise that 49% of the audience in North America is female.

Significantly, 75% of the audience in North America is non-Caucasian; over half of that amount is Hispanic. “The importance of diversity of the ensemble cast in the Fast and Furious franchise has been an integral part of the success of the brand,” says Rentrak box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, as quoted in the Hollywood Reporter. “There is literally someone within the cast that is relatable on some level to nearly every moviegoer around the world, and this has paid big dividends at the box office.”

A crucial factor is the equal treatment of the cast of characters. The Guardian observes that Paul Walker was critical to that dynamic: “F&F could never have been the anomaly that it is – a racially egalitarian franchise – unless its lead-male white actor had been willing to accept his place in the ensemble. Walker never shook the boat, and seemed happy where he was as the series grew in popularity and became more ethnically predicated.”

GLOBAL APPEAL

Furious 7 features additional cast members Djimon Hounsou (born in Benin, West Africa), Thai martial artist Tony Jaa, Game of Thrones actress Nathalie Emmanuel (England), Elsa Pataky (Spain), Ali Fazal (India) and Jason Statham (England.) All appeal to international audiences. These international stars strengthen the world wide marquee value of the film, and are further supported by the international storylines and locales featured in the franchise.

The Atlantic charts the growth: “Fourteen years ago, the series started as a caper about illegal street racing in L.A. But over subsequent sequels, it offered up an adrenaline-pumping heist thriller, and eventually a bombastic action epic about international super-spies who just happen to drive cars really, really well,” becoming in the process “a global spy caper…” with “a hint of James Bond.”

FF3 was set in Tokyo, film number 4 traveled to the Dominican Republic and Mexico, Fast Five took place in Rio de Janeiro, FF6 has action in Monaco, London and Spain, and Furious 7 goes to Abu Dhabi. Yet the center of this universe remains Los Angeles. Exotic locations around the world are thus united with LA in the cinema sphere, admitting  viewers everywhere into the most exclusive pop culture club on the planet: Hollywood.

FAMILY

Ultimately, the diverse elements are held together by one core concept: family.

“While the ‘family’ of the Fast & the Furious crew is almost entirely blended, the symbolic significance of the unit has remained consistent throughout the ever-morphing series—it’s understood that these characters have each other’s backs in some fundamental, magical way,” writes Sims in The Atlantic.

He continues, “it’s certainly why these films have maintained such consistent charm over the years. No doubt future installments will be produced even without (Paul Walker), given the certain financial bonanza that awaits Furious 7. But the key to their success will be conveying that these stunt-driving international men (and women) of mystery are a genuine, live-in clan. As long as that continues, Fast & Furious can keep driving forever.”

Schaefer of Screenrant sums it up: “what really makes Dom as much a superhero as Batman or Iron Man – even without a costume (we’ll say his odd-fitting tight shirts don’t count) – is his higher moral calling and devotion to family.”

The right to belong to this group is extended to all, according to Vin Diesel, who told Entertainment Weekly: “It doesn’t matter what nationality you are. As a member of the audience, you realize you can be a member of that ‘family,’” he says.

Can The Rock save us from The Big One?

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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson will star in SAN ANDREAS, a new disaster film about a big earthquake that hits California. Surely he will save the day! The 3D film will start shooting next year for release in 2015. New Line will distribute. The studio is “aiming to out-Roland Emmerich Roland Emmerich with this project, envisioned as epic in scope.” reports Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter.

The ‘Big One’ may be even bigger than we imagine. As reported in the LA Times, recent “research showing a section of the fault is long overdue for a major earthquake has some scientists saying that the fault is capable of a magnitude 8.1 earthquake that could run 340 miles from Monterey County to the Salton Sea.

“Whether such a quake would happen in our lifetime had been a subject of hot debate among scientists. That’s because experts had believed that a major section of the southern San Andreas, which runs through the Carrizo Plain 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, would remain dormant for at least another century.

But that rosy hypothesis seemed to be shattered by a report in the journal Geology, which said that even that section of the San Andreas is far overdue for the ‘Big One.’ ”

The article continues: “Now, according to U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones, it is entirely possible that all 340 miles of the southern San Andreas could be ready to erupt at any time…Large quakes haven’t occurred anywhere on the southern San Andreas for more than a century, making it a sleeping giant that has been building stress for so long it could snap at any moment.”

Get ready.