People love movie stars, but with most of them, they have a very specific brand and identity to them. When people see a Tom Cruise movie, they expect a spy adventure with crazy stunts. When people see a Will Ferrell movie, they expect a goofy comedy with slapstick and Ferrell acting like an idiot. But in today’s crop of movie stars, there’s only one whose resume has an unpredictable edge, appearing in multiple genres from action to comedy to family. I’m of course talking about the WWE superstar himself, Dwayne Johnson. Ever since his theatrical debut in 2001’s The Mummy Returns, Johnson has become a global superstar and the highest-paid actor in the world, and it’s hard not to see why. Men, women and children have all been entranced by his charisma, looks and kickassery, and he’s already attached to dozens upon dozens of upcoming projects.
However, what makes Johnson’s career even more interesting is how his film roles have evolved over the years. Many may not realize it, but the projects Johnson picked within certain timeframes of his life all had some sort of underlying theme or idea within them, whether it be genre or how he identified himself. So now, with “The Fate of the Furious” now in theaters, let’s take a look down memory lane and see the wild and wacky career of Dwayne Johnson. Do keep in mind that many of these eras of Johnson’s film life can and have intersected in the past.
Dwayne “The Action-Comedy Man” Johnson
Believe it or not, Johnson wasn’t the mega superstar we know him as today. “The Mummy Returns” was a huge hit, but he wasn’t the selling point, and when he was casted as the lead in the spinoff film “The Scorpion King,” the movie did okay but nothing spectacular. As such, Johnson had to find some work, and seeing as he was still a newcomer, he had to get attached to projects in order to make ends meet. So Johnson was attached to many smaller mid-budget movies in spite of his work, and almost all of them were either action movies, comedy movies or both. Thus, films like “The Rundown,” “Walking Tall,” “Be Cool,” “Doom,” “Get Smart” and “The Other Guys” were released. While the former two rested solely on him as the leading man, Johnson mainly went into the supporting roles. Many people knew who he was through his work in the WWE and the aforementioned “Mummy” movies, but he was still more or less there for stunt casting. He was recognizable and popular enough, but no one truly took him seriously as a leading man and actor. It also didn’t help that his next batch of movies were a little…juvenile.
Dwayne “The Family Man” Johnson
The most common type of celebrity kids look up to the most are sports stars. They’re rich and they get to play games that they love to play with their friends. So it’s only natural Johnson was able to find great success in family films. In 2007, not only did Johnson guest star on the hit Disney Channel show “Hannah Montana” and the dank meme known as “Cory in the House,” but he appeared in “The Game Plan,” a family comedy about a football star discovering he has a long-lost daughter. It wasn’t a good movie, but it was a decent hit at the box office garnering almost $150M worldwide, and seemed to show Johnson wasn’t just some fad or a wrestler struggling to get a film career. Since then, Johnson attached himself to other PG movies, consisting of “Race to Witch Mountain,” “Planet 51” and “Tooth Fairy.” Again, none of these movies are considered classics, but they all made decent numbers in the box office and again showed Johnson was still able to be an appealing lead, at least among children and families. But again, none of these movies really achieved huge blockbuster status. No, it wasn’t until 2011 Johnson became the superstar we know him as today.
Dwayne “The Franchise Man” Johnson
After the blockbuster success of 2009’s “Fast & Furious,” Johnson was attached to the 2011 sequel “Fast Five.” When it was released in April 2011, it became a monster hit and became the highest-grossing film in the franchise at the time, and while it’s debatable how much Johnson helped with the gross, it definitely shows he was more than just some goofy guy who appeared in cheesy kids movies. As a result, studios now decided to take Johnson and test out his chops as a leading man and pair him up with popular franchises ranging from books to toys to movies. And that was when things got crazy.
The next year he starred in “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” where Johnson booted off Brendan Fraser from the first movie, in an ironic passing of the torch. “Journey 2” then became an even bigger hit than the first movie. “G.I. Joe Retaliation” came out the following year and followed suit. Johnson also signed on to several more “Fast and Furious” films, with the sixth and seventh one both increasing on the grosses of their predecessors both domestically and worldwide.
And nowadays, Dwayne Johnson has attached himself to so many other franchises it’s almost impossible to count. As stated, Johnson will be attached to “Fate of the Furious” as well as the 9th and 10th installments of the series coming within the next few years. This summer will also have Johnson star alongside Zac Efron in a comedic adaptation of the hit TV series “Baywatch” and this holiday season will have Johnson star alongside Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan in a sequel to the 1995 film “Jumanji” with the subtitle “Welcome to the Jungle.” April 2018 has “Rampage,” based on the hit arcade game of the same name. And this is just the films with a release date. Johnson is also rumored to play The Wolfman in Universal’s upcoming Monsters Cinematic Universe which will be ironically kicked off this summer with “The Mummy” starring Tom Cruise, is attached to play the world’s first superhero Doc Savage, will play DC villain Black Adam in the upcoming adaptation of “Shazam,” and will appear in a remake of the 1986 cult film “Big Trouble in Little China,” to name just a few.
Even more impressive is how in spite of his blockbuster status, he still keeps some of the roots he had before he became a superstar, making action movies like “San Andreas” (which will also become a franchise as a sequel is in the works), action comedies like “Central Intelligence” and family films like Disney’s “Moana,” which will likely be a huge cash cow franchise for Disney, considering it has a princess.
As The Rock’s superstar status flamed up from sedimentary to igneous, it’s important to recognize how powerful Dwayne Johnson is in Hollywood. In just 15+ years he went from a wrestler to the biggest name in movies, and he had done so through his comedic talents, action prowess and likability amongst men, women and children. So while people may not consider him as an incredible actor among the likes of Jack Nicholson or Tom Hanks, The Rock has cooked up an incredible resume, and I for one can’t wait to see more of his projects in the future.
photo credit: Den of Geek http://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/dc-comics/234138/dwayne-the-rock-johnson-is-definitely-playing-a-dc-superherobut-who