Dwayne Johnson was better known as The Rock a decade back. That was the time when his image was something like this.
Being a wrestler in WWE, no matter how popular you are, and being a lead actor in Hollywood, is not at all the same ball game. When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson chose to try his luck in the world of movies, with his cameo appearance in The Mummy Returns in 2001, not many would have bet on him making it beyond a few movies here and there. When his brief appearance did create some ripples, and he landed his first full-fledged role in the spin-off The Scorpion King, even then only a few could have seen his career going much further. Dwayne Johnson’s titular role in this movie was something quite suitably created for his persona, that of a muscular guy who would have to yield the sword in a number of battles. It was in fact quite similar to the beginning of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career with the Conan movies.
The Scorpion King did decently well at the box-office, especially for a newcomer in this field. And thus began his acting journey! Johnson continued to be present on the wrestling circuit, and at the same time tried to plant his feet firmly in the lands of Hollywood too. He took up lead roles in mainly action films like The Rundown and Doom, and even though his movies weren’t turning out to be profitable for the studios, Johnson’s presence in Hollywood was increasing and his fan base was widening. This was the kind of period when Dwayne Johnson could have gotten stuck in similar kind of roles and limited his appeal. But wisely, Johnson chose to step out into newer things. Two sports movies elevated his star-meter in Hollywood. The first was 2006’s Giridon Gang where he played the role of a counselor at a juvenile detention center who tries to improve the lives of the inmates through the game of football. Then in 2007, Johnson returned to the same game in The Game Plan though with less drama and more comedy, as he plays a character who tries to be a father to a young girl whose existence he was not aware of for long. Ain’t this a cute pic!
This Disney flick was a big success for Dwayne Johnson, earning $197 million worldwide as against a production budget of only $22 million. Johnson had now successfully entered the realms of comedy! He starred next in a number of such light-hearted comedy flicks that did not need him to flex his biceps too much. Roles in Get Smart and Tooth Fairy along with the Disney sci-fi film Race to Witch Mountain started building Johnson’s reputation as an actor to be seen by the masses, as each of these PG / PG-13 category films did well at the box-office. One could clearly see Dwayne Johnson improving as an actor, and given the right script, he was managing to carry the movie’s burden on his shoulders.
The big jump in Johnson’s career path came in 2011 with his introduction to the ensemble cast of Fast Five. The idea of Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson in the same movie was something the fans wanted, which prompted this casting decision. The Fast & Furious franchise itself had seen a successful reboot with the fourth movie, and some fresh faces were much needed for the fifth instalment to keep the franchise interesting. So how’s this for a personality to add to a film about fast cars and heists and lots of action!
Johnson played the role of the cop Luke Hobbs who is in search of Dominic Turetto and his crew. He had now added more muscle, and seemed a formidable force in the film which was a huge success. Fast Five clearly brought forth the kind of screen presence that Dwayne Johnson can command. It laid the foundation to make him an even bigger action hero than when he had started his career in this line of work. Pretty much everything that Dwayne Johnson has touched since then has turned gold. In 2012 he was part of the action adventure film Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. But it is 2013 which stands out as his golden year till now.
In 2013, Dwayne Johnson graduated from being one of the most exciting prospects to one of the most bankable action heroes around. His movies had a combined box-office collection of $1.3 billion for the year, which was the highest for any actor in 2013! It does help that he has been quite prolific in front of the cameras with as many as four films hitting the theatres, and one more releasing straight on DVD. And of course, about 60 per cent of the year’s collections came from Fast & Furious 6 which is the biggest hit of the franchise yet. While he may not have been the leading man in this movie, he certainly was the one to look at in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. And his sincere acting as well as charm and exuberance gave the rather average movie, its moments of delight.
Dwayne Johnson is stepping into bigger shoes with each movie it seems, as Hercules releases in the USA this weekend. A role perfect for a former wrestler, it would also need the actor to give much more beyond the physical presence. Dwayne Johnson seems the best bet to lend more weight to the portrayal of Hercules, a character who channels his inner grief and personal anguish so as to emerge as the great warrior and hero which the tales have told us. It’s a big budget movie (at $110 million) which would be one of the biggest budgets that Johnson would have worked on where he is the sole star of the proceedings. The success of this movie, if that were to be the case, would propel Johnson onto a higher level of credibility and stardom. It would keep up the good work that has followed this actor for quite some time now. And one can never say that he is undeserving of the success and plaudits he has been receiving!
Dwayne Johnson, over the past decade, has come across as one of the most dedicated actors in Hollywood. He has worked his way up from scratch, has not been afraid to mix his roles around, and in the process has come across as likable and fun to watch and listen. His popularity and stardom cuts across generations and genders, and this can only grow further as long as he continues to work as hard as he has done in the past. There’s still a lot more to come from him. Till then, three cheers for the Rock!