When you stand next to Dwayne Johnson, who’s around 6’ 4”, 265 pounds, has huge arms (the left one is beautifully tattooed) and an even bigger smile, you immediately forget his real name, and start thinking of him as The Rock, the former WWE wrestler who liked to drop “The People’s Elbow” on his opponents as a finishing move.
I got to chat with him in Honolulu, where he grew up. The topic was supposed to be his new family-action film “Journey 2: The Mysterious
Island,” but we first got around to his upcoming match at Wrestlemania against John Cena.
“I quietly retired from wrestling,” he said. “But I’m still passionate about that business. So I’m going back, but the idea is to do it for just one night, and create the biggest match in the history of the WWE.”
He also talked about that intricate tattoo, which covers part of his arm, shoulder, and chest.
“It’s directly related to my grandfather, who was a high chief of Samoa (the late wrestler Peter Maivia), and had a similar tattoo. But it was from the lower part of his chest all the way down to his knees, 360. They did it old-school style. It was inside the butt, and you have to lift your privates so they can tattoo in there. To go through that type of pain, it’s very spiritual.”
And yes, he talked about “Mysterious Island,” the sequel to 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”
Johnson stars in the new film, as the smart and muscular stepfather to a troubled teen (Josh Hutcherson), who’s determined to find the real island
he believes Jules Verne based his novel on. Johnson also served as co-producer on the film.
“My contribution to the movie was to make sure I had as many zeroes in my contract as possible,” he said, then smiled and added, “It was to get
involved from the ground up, and create my character from the ground up. I wanted more control of the movies that I star in where it makes sense and it’s appropriate.”
The movie is aimed at 8- to 10-year-old boys, and most of that audience will be talking about Johnson’s “pec-popping’ skills, which are on full comic display in 3D. But there’s also a point in it where The Rock grabs a ukulele and croons a nice version of “Wonderful World.”
“It’s a gift,” he said of his singing, again laughing. And he really does play the uke.
“I grew up in a musical family,” he said. “In Polynesian culture, people love to play ukulele, love to sing and dance. It was my idea to sing and to play ukulele in the movie.”
Watching the Rock do this onscreen got me to thinking. I mean, there I was in Honolulu, with ukulele shops on practically every corner. So I signed up for lessons, and in short order was able to play “Happy Birthday,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and some unpronounceable traditional Hawaiian song.
But back to Johnson. He’s got two more “Fast & Furious” films coming up, the next G.I. Joe movie, a bodybuilding thriller directed by Michael Bay and, he hopes, a biopic about country singer Charley Pride.
“I want to do it all,” he said. “Direct, produce, the goal is to always continue to be diverse. Sometimes we hit homeruns, sometimes we don’t, but we always swing for the fences.”