Mega-star wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has always loved film, but he didn't always want to be an actor. In fact, he didn't always want to be a wrestler. His first career choice was to join "the family business"... criminology.
It was a noted criminology professor at the University of Miami that prompted The Rock to rethink his career path.
"The professor was like, 'You're going to have a hard time being anonymous.'"
Looking at the 6 foot 4 inch, 265-pound behemoth, it's pretty safe to say that his professor was making the understatement of the year. But The Rock doesn't morn over the criminology training that was never meant to be.
"I wanted to do that, but things just happened and I went another route in life, as we often do." The Rock's "other route" brought him to the WWF ring where, to the delight of his legion of followers, he's been dubbed by some as "the greatest sports entertainer of all time."
And that naturally lead him to his other love, movies. From a young age, The Rock has always been passionate about cinema. And the movie that started it all? STAR WARS.
"When I saw it for the first time, I was blown away. Blown away! With my feeble imagination, that struck a cord even with me! That turned me into a big fan. Growing up my favorite toy was a big Darth Vader. I also had a Boba Fett, which was good, but I never got the big one, I had the little one."
The Rock also remembers being impacted by RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and Sylvester Stallone's ROCKY. In fact, he counts Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones as one of the inspirations for his wrestling character.
"He was very tough, but with comedy involved. And at times, he would wink at you, so to speak."
The Rock's fans everywhere are gearing up for his first turn as a leading man in THE SCORPION KING a role that he made famous during a brief appearance in THE MUMMY RETURNS. And The Rock has done everything in his power to ensure that the film gets a wide audience.
"I wanted to be positive that when you went to see THE SCORPION KING, that you suspend your disbelief, that nothing was going to take you out of [the setting which is] 3,000 B.C. It was very important. My fans are very passionate and very loyal and they'll go see the movie; and I love that, but then, there are other people... people beyond my core audience, and I want them to be able to enjoy the film as well."
The Rock believes that his film will be more than just a cheap excuse to put a popular wrestler on the screen. "I want to showcase a little bit of depth." And this admirable desire seems to be something that test audiences are responding well to. "[Test audience members] are very surprised. They're like, 'Wow, we weren't too sure what we would see.' That was a conscious decision. No idiosyncratic nuances, no wrestling, other than the little thing in the harem scene. And I'm not too gratuitous with showing my body except for a couple of moments in the movie."
One would think that The Rock would consider himself an old pro at acting because of all his experience bringing his wrestling character to life. But he says that wrestling acting is so different from film acting that it didn't really prepare him to make a movie.
"In WWF, you only get one take because it's live. It makes a big difference and you play to 20,000 or 30,000 people. You have to play to the guy in the front row just as much as you play to the guy in the very top row. So, the expressions are very big, everything is very big and almost comical sometimes. You have to tone it down in film. And in film, you have the luxury of choices. You know, 10 takes, 15 takes, whatever it takes. It might be a pain during the day, but at the end of the day, it's certainly well worth it."
Setting aside, The Rock does concede to a few similarities between the two acting styles.
"They both offer you a very intoxicating feeling. On film you can perform and even though you're performing for the crew, basically, and the camera guys and everyone else on the set; still, to me, that's a live audience and they're there and they're watching you whether it's a 100, 200, 300 people, they're there. 20,000 people, it's the same thing."
Plus some of The Rock's stage combats skills, as seen on the WWF, were of benefit to his co-stars. Michael Clark Duncan, who plays one of The Scorpion King's major allies, claims to have learned much from The Rock, like how to "look like you're pushing when you're not really pushing."
Of his WWF stage training, The Rock says, "Yeah, it helped me. There is an advantage there, definitely, in how to play certain hits and how to sell certain hits and give certain hits and things like that. So, it definitely helped me, and we had great stunt coordinators on this movie that really helped us a lot too."
And his training applied to safety issues. Despite all the stunts that he personally did, The Rock was never once injured.
"I was very lucky, I was very lucky. My feelings got hurt a couple of times," he jokes, "but that doesn't matter."
Check back soon for part two of our profile on The Rock.