Looking to put the latest sequel in your blockbuster film franchise on steadier ground? Dwayne Johnson will be your Rock.
After pumping up “Fast Five,” the fifth installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, the mammoth movie superstar in now hoping the addition of his heavy ordinance as character Roadblock gives “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” the firepower it needs to redirect that film series into a more serious, more intense direction. Johnson reveals his mindset when he enlisted in the Joes’ ranks, his method for maintaining that massive frame from movie to movie, and the thrill of actually becoming one of Hasbro’s iconic toy solidiers.
You’ve stepped into a pre-existing franchise a couple times now, and in a sense you are a bit of a franchise yourself as a movie star – you bring certain expectations in the action roles in particular. How do you merge those two things?
Well, we meet right in the middle. And I think with something like this with ‘G.I. Joe’ I got the phone call about a year and a half ago: ‘Here’s what we would like to do. We’d like to essentially re-boot, in a way. We’re still making a sequel, and sequels can be tricky, but we would like to re-boot, re-ignite, re-launch the franchise.’ The franchise’s first movie made a lot of money but there was room for improvement. There was a better movie to be made, so by the time I get on the phone with them they had already done their work in terms of understanding what I was going to bring to the table, to the franchise.
I get on the phone with them I think, ‘Can I help elevate this? Can I help elevate the franchise and can I bring something special and unique to it and can we create a character that people are going to like?’ We were able to do that, for example, with ‘Fast and Furious. ‘It started with that, and then ‘G.I. Joe.’ So I think it’s a meeting in the middle. But also, by the way, it is a lot of fun, I’ve got to tell you! The franchise ones are fun because there’s a great challenge in them for me because you’re dealing with an already successful property and a successful brand. So the challenge is how do you elevate something that is very successful already and how do we create something different?
How scripted was the banter that you had with Channing Tatum?
All of the dialogue between Channing and I – it’s all ad-libbed. In that scene playing ‘Call of Duty’ it was just completely ad-libbed, and I wasn’t too sure how I was going to play anyway and how good I was going to be at it and him too. And clearly he sucked and I was trying not to suck so bad, but yet trying to give him s**t at the same time. It was a lot of fun. In that chemistry between Channing and I, not only did it jump off on screen but we needed that. It needed to be nice and genuine and authentic and real. And we wound up like brothers now, so you can imagine what it was like on set and again we needed that to go where we were going in the movie. It had to feel real. The bond had to feel real.
Since you are doing back-to-back-to-back projects, do you constantly have to maintain your physique or do you get days off, months off, weeks off?
I certainly don’t get months off or weeks off just because of the consistent work. But dependent on the role, it will dictate the type of training that I do. So for ‘G.I. Joe’ it was probably anywhere between an 11- to 14-week diet, conditioning training – that type of prep which included diet, conditioning, training and also included the fight choreography and stunt planning, things like that.
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Preparing now for ‘Hercules’, which is an additional 14-week diet and conditioning prep, there’s a certain look. So I went into it committed and stepped up my game for ‘G.I. Joe’ because it’s already an established brand and already an established character, Roadblock. In the cartoons and in the series, no one looked like Roadblock and so you’ve got to look the part. In terms of ‘Hercules’ you want to pay attention and respect the mythology of ‘Hercules’ and there’s a certain look that a demi-god has to have.
You’ve had action figures before, but to be a G.I.Joe – what was it like when you got the prototype and saw that it was actually happening?
I played with the Roadblocks and the Snake Eyes, Cobras, Dukes when I was a kid, so to get these models in from Hasbro was a lot fun and very surreal. All actors – and everyone involved in movies – make movies for different reasons, and they’re inspired by different things. And in this case it’s a cool connection that I had because of my love for G.I. Joes when I was a kid. So to get these action figures – I’ve had action figures in the past, whether they were The Rock or the Scorpion King or some other characters that I have played, and they’ve all been cool and great. But to get my own G.I. Joe is extra cool because, if you don’t know, the very first action figure ever made was a G.I. Joe action figure - EVER, after the War. That’s a big deal, what it represented. So for me to get the images first from Hasbro, then the fun part is ‘Well, my quads have got to be a little bit bigger than this…’ or ‘You’ve got to make my arms a little bigger…’ or ‘Where’s the tattoos?’ We have tattoos on this one, by the way – very cool!
Are there things you used to do to your action figures that you hope kids don’t do to you?
Remove their heads! I used to do that all the time. I would remove their heads and I would put one head on another, so in my world that was very creative at that time. My G.I. Joes oftentimes would have the G.I. Joe body from the neck down and from the neck up would be Boba Fett or Han Solo.