Can you smell what Dwayne Johnson is cookin’?
The famous wrestling catchphrase may not have the same ring to it when you replace Johnson’s birth name with his nickname, “The Rock,” which he acquired while grappling in the World Wrestling Entertainment for eight years, but now the former WWE champion is a different man in pursuit of a different image.
Focused on his acting career, Johnson hasn’t been in the ring since 2004. Not only has he lost the nickname, he’s also dropped a few pounds of muscle to place him in the running for roles that don’t pigeonhole him as the go-to-guy for all things action-packed.
He starts this new transformation as a secret agent in the Steve Carell vehicle Get Smart, a remake of the 1960s TV show. During a phone interview with the Current, Johnson talked about shedding his wrestler skin and what it was like locking lips with Carell on the big screen.
We’ve seen the evolution of your name from The Rock to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and now to simply Dwayne Johnson. How does it feel to
finally let go of the wrestling persona?
The truth is I was just hoping there was a smart, easy way to make the transition happen. But people still call me Rock; people call me Dwayne. It’s not a big deal with me. It’s just a matter of being billed as Dwayne Johnson now.
You want to be viewed as a serious actor now. How do you prove to studios that the action genre isn’t all you can do?
By doing your best to be diverse as possible. When I first got into the acting business, the only material I was getting was action material, and I understood that. I was just hoping eventually I was going to get the opportunity branch out into different genres. It always comes down to material.
So, comedies are your genre of choice right now?
You know, we found some pretty good success with The Game Plan in the family-comedy genre. Hopefully, we’ll find some with Get Smart in the action-comedy genre. There are a lot of different chains in the compound that I can work with. When you step up to the plate, you always want to swing for the fences and want to hit a homerun.
As Agent 23 in Get Smart, you have no reference point to look back to in the ’60s TV show like everyone else. How do you create a character from scratch and fit him into what is already there?
It’s a fun challenge. I think there is a great benefit in starting a character from scratch. My main goal was for Agent 23 to fit nicely into the ensemble that worked so well in the TV show. To work with a titan like Alan Arkin, and then Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway, they made it really easy to do.
Any advice for Steve Carell before production, since you’ve been an action star before and this is his first outing?
`Laughs.` The advice I gave to Steve was don’t punch me in the face. All jokes aside, Steve is a committed actor and a committed actor can
pretty much do anything. He was right on the money. I also give credit to Anne Hathaway, who was a real trooper and got down and dirty every day.
And Steve Carell as a kisser? Sensual or sloppy?
`Laughs.` Very sensual, with a hint of warm chocolate brownies.
I know you compete with him for Anne Hathaway’s attention in the movie, but in real life who do you think gets the girl at the club, Dwayne Johnson or Steve Carell?
`Laughs.` Uh, hands down Steve Carell, because he gets them all very drunk and tells them very bad jokes. •