It’s pretty safe to say that Dwyane Johnson has come a long way since his early days as the professional wrestler Rocky Maivia. Today ‘The Rock’ is one of the most sought after movie stars and a bona fide A-lister. The Rock has been named to Forbes list of the 100 most powerful celebrities and his attachment to some movie franchises has basically saved them.
When Johnson first started appearing in movies, he aimed to distance himself from his wrestling character. As the actor has matured, he’s accepted the fact that professional wrestling was the catalyst to his movie success. After swearing off wrestling for awhile, the Rock has even returned to action in the ring, realizing it serves as a unique vehicle to promote his upcoming movies. Another thing that studios like about working with Johnson is his willingness to travel to promote a movie, something that can be attributed to being familiar with the nearly year-round tour schedule of the WWE. Even though the Rock is set for life now, even if things weren’t always looking up for the mega-superstar.
The Rock’s Early Years
The Rock almost had a professional career in another sport as he was a highly regarded defensive lineman earning a full scholarship to the University of Miami during their heyday. Unfortunately a knee injury sidelined Johnson and he was replaced by eventual NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. The Rock still entertained thoughts of making a living playing professional football but he was passed over by every team in the NFL draft. Johnson finally signed on with the Canadian Football League but was cut only two months into the season.
The Rock Quote: “In 1995 I had 7 bucks in my pocket and I knew two things – I’m broke as hell and one day I won’t be.”
Dwyane Johnson’s grandfather, father, and several of his uncles and cousins are professional wrestlers and since football failed Johnson decided to partake in the family business. His father was hesitant of Johnson’s decision at first but eventually agreed to train Dwyane himself. In 1996 Johnson debuted as Flex Kavana, earning about $40 per night in the United States Wrestling Association.
The Rock Quote: “Success isn’t overnight. It’s when everyday you get a little better than the day before. It all adds up.”
The Rock’s hard work and determination eventually paid off and he made his way to professional wrestling with the pinnacle of the sport, the WWE. Talent on the WWE roster starts off making about $100,000 to $300,000 per year and the highest paid wrestlers receive ‘only’ about three to five million dollars per year. The toll it takes on the body 250 days per year left the Rock looking for other avenues to make money. His charisma and natural good looks made the foray into acting a logical step.
The Rock Says…Let’s Go To The Movies
Dwyane Johnson cut his acting chops by performing on Saturday Night Live and in TV shows such as That 70’s Show and Star Trek: Voyager. Dwyane Johnson’s first major movie role was in April 2002’s release of The Scorpion King. The movie itself drew mixed reviews but critics fell in love with Johnson’s performance, immediately dubbing him the new face of Hollywood action films and their predictions would appear to be spot on. For his performance in the movie The Rock made $5 million dollars which is a record for an actor making their film debut, not a bad alternative to falling off a steal cage or getting hit with a chair.
The Rock quote: “Think back 5 years ago. Think of where you’re at today. Think ahead 5 years and what you want to accomplish. Be Unstoppable.”
Action Star and More
Dwyane Johnson had the body and the looks to do similar roles to the Scorpion King for the rest of his movie career. The Rock is never satisfied though and got the chance to show off his comedy chops in his next film, 2003’s The Rundown. Johnson played a bounty hunter that was commissioned to bring a zany man back from the jungle. The Rock had good rapport with his castmate Seann William Scott and has an especially funny seen where Johnson eats a paralyzing jungle berry. The movie did perform under budget but the Rock cashed in over $12,000,000 for his role.
Having further cemented his success as an action star with films Walking Tall ($15,000,000) and The Rock decided to switch to more dramatic and family friendly roles. Johnson signed on for The Gridiron Gang, The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain, and the Tooth Fairy pushing his price tag per movie up to $20,000,000.
$20,000,000 may sound like a lot just to appear in a movie but the Rock is earning a reputation as a franchise saver. Take for instance the 2009 film Fast & Furious which made over $300,000,000 worldwide. Not a bad stake but when Dwyane Johnson signed on to appear in Fast Five the return was over $600,000,00 at the box office. The Rock made about $32.6 million on the film which doubled the profits. Not only that it has led to Fast & Furious 6 being produced, almost as a spin-off of the franchise and experts are predicting the numbers could be in the same ballpark as Fast Five.
The G.I. Joe franchise has signed on The Rock as well as Bruce Willis in an attempt to save that floundering franchise but only time will tell about that film’s success. The Rock has slowly made his way back to the action star roots, appearing in movies such as Pain & Gain and 2014’s Hercules as…Hercules.
Forbes reported that in 2012 The Rock cleared over $36 million dollars. This is the same man that only about 15 years ago had to sleep on a mattress that he found in a local dumpster. When The Rock said it was 1995 and he was broke but he soon wouldn’t be…it turns out that prediction was rock solid.