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GI Joe: Retaliation - Dwayne Johnson interview

GI Joe: Retaliation

Interview by Rob Carnevale

DWAYNE Johnson discusses what it means to be ‘franchise Viagra’ at the UK press conference for GI Joe: Retaliation and why it’s a great time to be him right now.

He also talks about his passion for GI Joe and Star Wars, why The Expendables aren’t yet ready for him and what his favourite moment of playing the character of Roadblock was.

Q. You’ve been described as ‘franchise Viagra’. The man who comes in to give movie franchises extra zip. Is that right?
Dwayne Johnson: The Viagra part? It’s interesting how it all came into play in terms of the franchises. It started with Fast & Furious and Journey 2 Mysterious Island and now GI Joe. But it really came down to whether I loved the script and whether I could come in and elevate it a little bit.

Q. Was that easy or difficult to do with GI Joe?
Dwayne Johnson: In terms of elevating it? It was… I think just working in that spirit and trying to elevate GI Joe was very easy because we had a filmmaker [Jon Chu] who was new to the brand. I love Stephen Sommers, who directed the first movie… he was my first director and he gave me my break in Hollywood with The Mummy Returns. But here we had Jon Chu who loved GI Joe, had a great passion and a deep connection to GI Joe, plus you also had the studio in Paramount that does franchises very well with Transformers, Star Trek and GI Joe. And they realised with GI Joe that there was room to elevate the franchise and make a better movie the second time around. You also had actors involved who all were very passionate about it and loved the mythology of GI Joe, so in that sense… the work was hard but having everybody in that spirit was great.

Q. This is pretty much the summer of Dwayne Johnson. Are you the busiest man in Hollywood?
Dwayne Johnson: I’ve been called the hardest working man in Hollywood – by myself [laughs]! It’s a very busy time and it’s a fun time. What makes it fun, for me and for audiences, is that it’s a bit like a buffet. So, whatever you want, you come and you’ll get that in terms of them being diverse. It’s also a challenging time in the schedule because anytime you have movies coming out, which of course you have to promote, and they’re fairly big movies… I’m also preparing for WrestleMania and for Hercules at the same time, so it’s a delicate balance of trying to balance the schedule out with all the press and also with the 12 to 14 week prep for Hercules and, of course, putting boots to asses.

Q. Are you going to beat John Cena again?
Dwayne Johnson: Well, yes. If I do, then it’s very real. If I lose, then it’s not real [smiles].

Q. What was your favourite moment in playing your character?
Dwayne Johnson: For me, I have a really nice connection with GI Joe and the mythology of GI Joe and the love that we have for it. It was why it was really important for us to respect and to really pay homage to the mythology this time around. When I was a kid I was GI Joe because… it was Star Wars and it was GI Joe. I was GI Joe and Snake Eyes and I was Han Solo and Boba Fett. For me, I had two cool moments. One was the scene with Bruce Willis where we’re looking at the tank and the audience doesn’t see what we’re looking at and Bruce says something to the effect of it not being driven in neutral. And the other cool moment, for me, was sharing a scene with Snake Eyes. One of the really cool things about the movie and the franchise is the duality between the reality of boots to the ground soldiering which transcends every culture that it relates to but then you also have the other side to that, which is the fantastical world of ninjas with Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, and these amazing sequences in the Himalayas that Jon was able to shoot. So, I would say that.

Q. If you put all the characters you’ve ever played, including The Rock, into a rumble who would be the last man standing?
Dwayne Johnson: My character from Be Cool, Elliott Wilhelm, because he was probably the toughest son of a bitch I’ve ever played who happened to be gay.

Q. You’re just the right age to be a Star Wars uber-fan. Have you put a mention in to your agent now that they’re making a new movie?
Dwayne Johnson: That’s interesting… there’s been a lot of chatter about Star Wars and myself. It sort of blossomed out of me saying that I was into GI Joe and Star Wars as a kid. I did this interview where the journalist said: “Hey, you should call JJ Abrams…” And I said: “Yeah, sure, I’ll call him.” And all of a sudden I was going to be in the new Star Wars. I would love to do it, sure, but again like the GI Joe franchise, there’s an emotional connection to Star Wars. So, Jedi, Sith… you got it.

Q. There’s another franchise that has a Rock-shaped hole in it and that’s The Expendables. Have you been approached?
Dwayne Johnson: I know those guys… Statham and Stallone are good friends of mine. As a matter of fact, I just saw The Expendables 2 last night and I can honestly tell you that they’re not ready for me…. they’re not ready for me. They’re still hunting people down, so they’re really not ready [laughs]. And what’s a Rock-sized hole anyway? I like that…

Q. If we were lucky enough to be around your presence on a Saturday night, what would we smell cooking?
Dwayne Johnson: Good question! Usually, some kind of sea bass with pineapple… egg whites. I don’t cook that well unfortunately. It sounds interesting. But I do egg whites very well.

Q. How was working with Ray Park? Was he a hero for you?
Dwayne Johnson: Ray’s a very special guy. He has a personality that lights up the room. He’s so incredibly warm and happy. But it’s interesting because he’s had this kind of tough life and he’s had to overcome a lot of challenges. But he’s turned into this tough guy who has a heart of gold and he trains his butt off. He loves what he does and his following is insane… it’s crazy. And the most insane thing about it is that we spent a lot of time in New Orleans and we went out a couple of times publicly, and no one quite knew who he was. And I would be like: “If you only knew… you’d go crazy!” But he’s a great guy.

Q. Upon any level, were you sort of thinking that doing this movie was upstaging Jon Cena’s one success in films? And is there anything you’d still like to upstage him with?
Dwayne Johnson: I can honestly tell you that coming down to New Orleans and shooting with this awesome cast… we’re all great friends now. So, John Cena was the last thing I was thinking of!

Q. Do you ever think of him away from WrestleMania?
Dwayne Johnson: Not as much as I think you do [laughs]. Only when I’m getting ready to kick his ass!

Q. You get to fire a lot of weapons but you seem to enjoy using your own muscle power the most. Is that fair to say?
Dwayne Johnson: I do enjoy that. I enjoy being able to drive the world’s fastest tank. It’s a big kick. I got to fire some pretty massive weapons. The fight with Ray [Stevenson] was pretty challenging because Jon had the idea of creating a fighting style that hadn’t been seen before on film. And that’s pretty lofty. So, we did this thing where we had two weapons at the same time where we’re trying to evade the bullets coming at you but at the same time trying to fire and kick and do our martial arts. So, Ray and I were working on that for weeks and weeks and weeks to try and get that down. It’s cool shooting guns and driving tanks but there’s nothing like good old knuckle sandwiches to the mouth! I enjoy that [laughs].

Read our review of GI Joe: Retaliation

Read our interview with Ray Stevenson and Jonathan Pryce