July 30, 2021 - 5:04 pm
His rock-solid empire was created in an old pickup at a particularly low period. Actor Dwayne Johnson was 23. His NFL dreams were in his rearview mirror and he was forced to move back in with his parents.
“I sat in the truck and took out my wallet,” he recalls during a Zoom interview from Los Angeles. “I had a five-dollar bill, a one and some change. I’m the optimistic type. I rounded up to seven bucks, which was the grand total of my wealth in this world,” he says.
“Now my production company and business is called Seven Bucks Productions,” he adds. “I try to never forget that day in the truck.” It’s not the only reason the actor, who remains arguably the nicest guy in show business, stays grounded. “Frankly, it takes far too much work to be an a–hole,” he says with a laugh.
Johnson, 49, doesn’t have time for an attitude. The pro-wrestler-turned-superstar has a hit TV series, “Young Rock,” as well as a tequila business, and he produces films like the new “Jungle Cruise,” opening this weekend. Johnson plays wisecracking Frank Wolff, a man of adventure who agrees to take Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and a group of travelers through a jungle on his ramshackle boat, where they find fun Amazonian creatures and supernatural elements.
Johnson’s real life has a magical element. In his spare time, he talks daily with his 200 million-plus social media followers and is father to 19-year-old Simone Garcia Johnson with first wife Dany Garcia and his two younger daughters — Jazzy, 5, and Tiana, 3 —with new wife Lauren Hashian.
His mantra: “I choose what to do based on what my gut tells me, and this idea to make as many people smile as possible.”
What was the appeal of “Jungle Cruise”?
It was about nostalgia for me. I had been on the ride as a kid. Many moons later, I rode it as an adult. I loved the calm and simplicity of the ride. This ride was built in 1955, which means it was Walt’s baby. That meant something to me. And then there was the film script, which was anything but calm and simple. It’s major action set in 1917. It felt like one of those movies I grew up on, like “Indiana Jones” or “Romancing the Stone.” It had that sweeping feeling of adventure, which is something I personally love.
Didn’t you go the extra mile to get Emily Blunt to do this movie?
Our director was flying to New York to meet Emily to hand-deliver the “Jungle Cruise” script. I said, “Listen, give her this video of me.” It was 25 minutes long. I said, “Emily, you are the only one who can do this movie. You’d be playing the female Indiana Jones.” I don’t think I was too strong in my asking, although at one point I did say, “Come on board this ‘Jungle Cruise.’ ”
How did you meet Blunt for the first time?
We met in a restaurant. Usually, these are quiet meetings, but I can’t help it. I walked in and yelled, ”Hey!” All eyes turned toward us. I’m sorry. I’m not the quiet type.
Any stunts gone wrong?
It was that heroic vine swing where the hero grabs the lady and takes off to save the day. Of course, it went to hell because I didn’t save the day. Instead, I would take off on the swing with Emily and try to make her laugh, which meant another take.
Do you have a motto these days?
Everything can feel like a struggle, but in the end, it’s about balance.
How has being a father of daughters changed you?
I think it got me in touch with my more vulnerable side. It’s OK for men to have that softer side. My 19-year-old daughter has taught me so much about being in touch with my feelings. Now I try to spend as much time with the girls as possible. It’s whatever they want to do. They are my heart.
You’ve been an inspiration to your fans — talking about the good and bad times.
I talk about it all because I’m like everyone else. I need to talk about my issues and my fears. To be able to get it out and even talk about it publicly helps me because I figure it might help someone else down the line.
Tell us a bit about your next action film, “Black Adam.” It has taken you 10 years to make this movie.
He’s a supervillain from the DC Universe. And, yes, Black Adam has been with me for over 10 years now. It gives you an idea of how passionate I am about the project and how focused Seven Bucks is about it. In 2008, we started talking about it. It was just one of those things that required patience. Also, I wanted to wait for the timing to feel right. I’m a different actor now, which is good. The man I’ve become has allowed me to bring my own life lessons to the DNA of this character. He is a man with deep layers. And resolve. He started out as a slave. He was also blessed with these powers that equal Superman.
What is the difference between a Superman and a Black Adam?
When you compare him to Superman, one believes in truth and bringing the bad guys to justice. In the case of Black Adam, he’s a supervillain who is an antihero; if you wrong him or harm his family or his people, he won’t send you to jail. He will rip you in half.
On a much lighter note, you have a whole Sunday to yourself. What’s happening at Casa de Rock?
My best Sunday is, I’m in Hawaii with the family. The sun comes up early and I’m outside watching it, thinking about life, getting my day started. I like to take that time. The family wakes up. We eat breakfast outside, and Sunday is my cheat meal, so it might be a lot of French toast or pancakes. And then the day is ours. We love to go fishing. I’m hanging out with the girls. We’re swimming. Nothing beats going for a tea party or having them sing along to “Moana” with me. It’s all about connection. Fame comes and goes. Family is forever.