Thursday, March 03, 2011

My interview with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson...

'The Rock' back on familiar ground
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated March 04, 2011 12:00 AM 

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Dwayne Johnson on his role in Faster as a man who has spent 10 years in prison and is out ready to take revenge: ‘I love it. It’s a man who I knew I wanted to become and to play.’| Zoom
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson “feels great” to be back on his familiar turf. The hulking action star is back in the action genre after doing a series of family comedies in a successful attempt to widen his appeal and broaden his fan base.

“It feels great. It feels great!” he exclaimed twice at the Los Angeles junket of his current movie, Sony Pictures’ Faster before Thanksgiving last year. “I read the script— I loved it! It was a man who I knew I wanted to become and play. I was excited to make the movie.”

“The goal for me has always been to have a diverse career — try to find variety — and not to be defined as the actor who only did one thing,” he explained. “I don’t think it is interesting for an audience if I just did only comedy or only action. Not only that, I can’t grow as an actor and get better but it does feel great.”

The actor looked good and is in his best form. Not only that, in Faster, he was able to display his tattoos, which had to be covered up by make-up when he did two successive kiddie movies: Tooth Fairy and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

It is no secret that in his youth, Dwayne was involved in a series of juvenile shenanigans. “I was arrested nine times by the time I was 17. Theft, assault, fighting — by all means, I should have been in prison,” he once told Men’s Health magazine and, quite interestingly, the character he portrays in Faster is a person who has spent 10 years in prison and is ready to take revenge.

“I identified greatly with him on a multitude of levels,” he said of his character, who oddly does not have a name in the movie but is only identified as Driver.

“The very first one and the most important and unsophisticated one would just be the notion of ‘you took something important from me — the only thing that I love and the only thing that I have, which is my brother, and you ripped him away. Now the only thing I have is the ability to make you pay for that,’ and that spoke to me and resonated with me because I would do everything to protect my family; go to the ends of the earth to protect them.”

In the movie, Dwayne plays a recently-released convict focused on avenging the murder of his brother during a botched bank robbery 10 years earlier. In prison, he collected all the information of those who wronged him and no sooner than he walks out of prison that the killing spree begins.

“I loved the challenge as an actor of playing a character that spoke very few words yet had a constant tension and elevated heart rate and pain which I thought would bring me great satisfaction.”

The classic eye-for-an-eye theme explored in the movie also brought a sense of familiarity to the former wrestling superstar who admitted that he subscribed to this kind of justice for a considerable period of time.

“I did. For a long time, I believed in that,” he revealed. “When I was younger I acted out on a lot of emotions and emotions like that are very vengeful… and nine out of 10, like everybody, ultimately we wind up sorry for that and oftentimes there’s a price to pay.”

“I’ve regretted a lot of things — specially acting out on emotions and being physical and violent,” he added. “I can tell you that what was profound for me was when I wronged someone I loved dearly and who loved me dearly, who committed themselves to me and they forgave me. And not only that, they loved me even more in a different way.”

“That was profound for me, that’s powerful. I’ve never been in that position before where I have been in a position where I had the opportunity to forgive people and sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. But then to be in a position where I’ve wronged someone and I hurt them really badly and they found it in them to forgive — that was very profound and powerful and I recognize that there’s great power in forgiveness.”

Asked how old he was when he had this realization, the actor turned a bit coy and thought hard for a couple of seconds before responding: “Oh, it was not too long ago. I wasn’t a kid. It was as an adult when this happened.”
Dwayne’s personal life was rocked by a scandal in 2007 when tabloids ran stories of his alleged extramarital affair that led to the dissolution of his 10-year marriage. He did not elaborate on the subject when asked but insisted that things can happen through life and “variables change” and “just be better, whatever it is.”

The actor shares top billing in Faster with Oscar-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton who also had his share of gossipy stories when he was still the husband of Angelina Jolie, who is undoubtedly the most famous woman in the world.

“It was great working with Billy Bob,” he said. “He’s an intriguing guy and he is very smart. I’ve been a big fan of his work. I love his diversity, I love the fact that he goes from Bad News Bears to Bad Santa.

Like Dwayne’s character in the movie, Billy Bob’s character is also not named but only referred to as the “Cop.” The cop is one of two men hot on the trail of the “Driver.” The other guy is a young egocentric hitman played by Brit newcomer Oliver Jackson-Cohen, likewise only identified as the “Killer.”

Asked if he can see himself doing the heavy dramatic roles similar to what Billy Bob has done in the past, the actor replied: “Sure, I would love that — if it came my way.”

“There’s an essence of drama that I get in these roles but if it was more, heavier drama, sure, but you know what is interesting? I don’t attract that. There are pieces of material, dramatic material I know that’s out there but as an actor I know I don’t have to explore anymore because I’ve explored it as a man and lived it.”

Out of his life’s experiences, Dwayne has learned when to compromise and accept what’s unchangeable and when not to. “I learned over time that there’s value in being open but I am uncompromising when it comes to family; when it comes to being grateful and being humble, I am uncompromising there.”

Just like his character, which is driven by a totally different goal but is essentially just acting on a sense of familial duty, the actor’s humility and graciousness struck this writer more than any others have before. “I don’t take for granted what I do,” he said. “I don’t take for granted sitting here with you all (referring to us journalists) and coming to this nice hotel. It’s a privileged life and I want to make sure that people who I influence around me feel that, too.”

Faster is still showing in theaters nationwide.

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