Dwayne Johnson Talks Race to Witch Mountain

The star of this new Disney film talks about his acting career

Race to Witch Mountain brings the chase to DVD and a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack starting today, August 4 and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has provided us with a little chat with the film's star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Here's what the former professional wrestler-turned-professional actor had to say about his new film and his career.

You have been acting now for 10 years. Did you ever imagine you would do so well so quickly?

Dwayne Johnson: I knew it was going to take time and 10 years went by pretty quickly. From the very first time I stepped on a sound stage to do That '70s Show till here we are with Race to Witch Mountain. Ten years ago I knew that I wanted to be a good actor as I wound down my wrestling career. I hoped to find good material that would work and be entertaining.

And being part of Disney must mean you are ensuring a place in movie history?

Dwayne Johnson: Sure. That is a great way to look at it. I wanted to create opportunities to work in all genres. Ten years ago I was only being offered action material and I wanted to be in comedy, drama and family films. So the opportunity to work with Disney was one that was very exciting. Unlike any other studio Disney is very brand specific. Becoming a parent had changed my perspective and then working with Disney made me realize the power of that brand. When you want to make a family film then Disney does it pretty good around the globe. When you work so closely with them you realize the joy that brand brings to people. It is cool, unique and very special. I love my relationship with Disney.

Apparently, a key person in helping you decide to do Race to Witch Mountain was your daughter?

Dwayne Johnson: That's correct. I was a fan of the original growing up and I had the opportunity to watch it with my little girl before Andy [Fickman, director] had called me. So, two weeks before he called me we were watching it and then I received the call from Andy suggesting we remake Race to Witch Mountain and it was very easy for me to sign up. The idea of working with Andy again [after The Game Plan], the idea of teaming up with Disney again to make a big family adventure type of movie... and then the cast came along - Ciaran [Hinds] came on board, Carla [Gugino] came on board, the kids came on board, the dog came on board... so it was very, very easy for me to sign up.

More and more sports stars seem to be moving into films, do you have any words of advice for them?

Dwayne Johnson: I would just say that I could share what served me, which was trying to find the best material that I could possibly find and make it better. When other celebrities and sports stars, or people that are successful in another area, cross over into movies, they're always encouraged to bring that same tenacity and that same relentless drive that you had to make it. You have to apply that to acting. So, for me 10 years ago when I got into acting, it was important for me to become a good actor, but I also knew that I had to commit myself. And in order to do that I had to solely focus on one thing and try to work with good directors.

Was it a natural move from wrestling to acting?

Dwayne Johnson: There is a great amount of acting in wrestling and wrestling is a great form of entertainment. For me that training ground was really invaluable because I did not go to school for acting. I went to school for football and studied criminology.

How did your father - who had wrestled - take it when you told him you were going to be a wrestler?

Dwayne Johnson: Not very well. We lived the life that you saw in the movie, The Wrestler. That essentially was my dad. The character that Mickey Rourke played so wonderfully was my dad. So when I graduated from college and had an opportunity to play pro football, naturally it was easy for my father to say he did not want me to wrestle. He had nothing to show from a wrestling career. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment and he did not want that life for me. But instinctively I thought I had something to offer that world of entertainment. It took a little of convincing him but eventually we worked together. But being a parent I understand where my dad was coming from.

Why did you study criminology?

Dwayne Johnson: I studied a lot of things. At college they used to joke they would have to create a special major because I studied so many different things. I had some terrific criminology majors. It might also be connected with my very chequered past when I got into trouble a lot and had multiple arrests.

Given your past what was the defining moment that sent you on the straight and narrow path?

Dwayne Johnson: There was a defining time. For a lot of years I struggled to stay on the right path. I had multiple arrests by the time that I was 17. The last time I was arrested, my parents came down to the police station to get me. My parents were struggling at that time, even to put food on the table. That was a lot of stress at that time and I was adding to it. When they came to the police station I remember their disappointment. For years the disappointment had never bothered me but for some reason this time the disappointment in their eyes moved me. And that was when I realized that I was causing a lot of pain for my parents and I did not want to continue to do that. About the same time I had a run-in with the high school football coach. I did not even play football at that time but I had a run-in with him when I wanted to use the bathroom. I did not want to use the students' bathroom because it smelled of smoke so I went to the teachers' bathroom. He came in and said I could not be in there. I was very arrogant and said I would leave in a second. He told me again to get out and eventually I brushed by, putting on my best mean face. That night it dawned on me what an ass I was. The next day I sought out the teacher and apologized for being such a jerk. He shook my hand and asked me to play football. That guy became such a great figurer in my life, a mentor. He has since passed away but he saw potential in me when I did not see much potential.

Is all that why you give back and do stuff for charity?

Dwayne Johnson: Sure. I have some great blessings that I am grateful for every day. I know how important it is to have people who believe in you even when you don't believe in yourself. I believe in the potential of kids and trying to enhance that. So if I can give back then I will. My university helped shape me.

Do you also have to put your ego to one side in Race to Witch Mountain, because having been successful in one area you now risk being upstaged by two kids and a dog?

Dwayne Johnson: Sure. But that's something I hadn't realized. In every Disney movie I do there just happens to be a dog in it too. And I realized that regardless of how good your performance can be within the scene, if you're in the scene with a dog, then pretty much all eyes are on the dog.

You've now moved on from WWF and are known as Dwayne Johnson rather than The Rock. Do you find yourself being recognised more as Dwayne the actor, rather than The Rock?

Dwayne Johnson: Well, I can tell you that it just took time. I knew it would. But it all comes down to performances for me, so regardless of what the name is, whether it's The Rock - which is my nickname and people call me that all the time - it's no big deal. So, whether it's The Rock or Dwayne Johnson, in terms of being recognised I just think that the goal was to be recognised as a good actor. So, I don't put much thought or weight into the name, or the name change, or what it is, or what does it mean? It's just a nickname.

You make an unlikely cab driver. What jobs, unusual or otherwise, have you had to do in the past to make ends meet? And what would you do if it all ended tomorrow?

Dwayne Johnson: When I was first starting out my first job was washing dishes from 3pm to 11pm, and I did that three nights a week and was paid $3.45 an hour. And I had to split that with my grandparents, because my grandmother at that time was my parent. I did that for a couple of years. But probably my most unusual job was as a cart collector at one of those big department/grocery stores. I had to go around the parking lot collecting these carts. And if that wasn't bad enough, I had to wear a bright orange smock. It was just so sexy. If it all ended, I would concentrate on continuing being a good dad.

What did you like about the original Witch Mountain?

Dwayne Johnson: I saw it when I was about 10 or 11 and the great part about that movie was that it captured my imagination. The kids in the original were empowered and they had these really cool powers. They were doing a lot of really cool things to some really bad guys. I think anytime you empower children it's pretty exciting.

How do you feel about the promotional side of making movies. Do you like playing to the crowd at junkets and is that something you've brought with you from the wrestling world?

Dwayne Johnson: I do enjoy that. I think, for me, making movies has not only been an incredibly collaborative process but there's three big parts: pre-production, shooting itself and then post-production, which leads into marketing. And if you're passionate about the movie and you believe in it, and it would make sense that you are having done it, then you want to get out and promote it. It makes it a lot easier when the film is good and people are enjoying it.

Having worked with a live audience for so long as part of your wrestling career, would you ever fancy turning your acting attentions to a role in the theatre?

Dwayne Johnson: You know, Andy and I have talked about that in the past. We would like to do it and I would love to do it. I understand my co-star, Ciaran Hinds' love for theatre because that's his background. My theatre was spending six years working live in front of 20 or 30,000 people. And in terms of comedy that was also my stand-up stage every night. I was able to tell these great jokes and perform these long monologues and if it bombed in front of 20,000 people you learned quickly! And if you are halfway smart, and you could really listen to the audience, you could really learn a lot. So, that for me was a great platform and the opportunity to work in theatre would be fantastic. I'm sure it will come up.

What ambitions do you have?

Dwayne Johnson: I would like to continue to work in all different genres. The possibility of doing a musical would be wonderful too. As long as I can do something that I am passionate about and that I can really enjoy and the audience can enjoy. That is where my enthusiasm comes from.

You can see Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as the cab driver Jack Bruno, who gets the fare of a lifetime in Race to Witch Mountain, which is available on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack today, August 4.