The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - VICKY ROACH

It might be hard to imag­ine, but for­mer WWE wrestler Dwayne John­son is dwarfed by the el­e­men­tal forces un­leashed in San An­dreas, a $100 mil­lion dis­as­ter movie shot here on the Gold Coast.

And the 1.96m, 106.5kg star of Her­cules and Fast & Fu­ri­ous 7 wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The phys­i­cal­ity I brought to the role pales in com­par­i­son with Mother Na­ture,” says John­son, who per­formed many of his own stunts.

Re­unit­ing John­son with direc­tor Brad Pey­ton (Jour­ney 2: The Mys­te­ri­ous Is­land) and pro­ducer Beau Flynn (Her­cules), San An­dreas sim­u­lates a cat­a­clysmic earth­quake along the in­fa­mous Cal­i­for­nian fault line in bone­shak­ing 3D.

But at the heart of the story is an in­ti­mate hu­man drama in which John­son’s char­ac­ter, a he­li­copter res­cue pi­lot, and his es­tranged wife (Carla Gug­ino) race against time to res­cue their stranded daugh­ter (Alexan­dra Dad­dario).

“The stakes don’t get much higher,” says John­son, ac­knowl­edg­ing the sto­ry­line’s par­al­lels to his own. “There is a very unique re­la­tion­ship be­tween a dad and his lit­tle girl. That’s one of the rea­sons I loved this script.”

John­son re­mains friends with his for­mer wife and manager Dany Garcia – the cou­ple an­nounced their “am­i­ca­ble split” in 2007, say­ing they in­tended to spend the rest of their lives to­gether as best friends.

“We felt that if we were go­ing to go through the trauma and sludge of di­vorce, then we wanted to be bet­ter at the other end of it,” the ac­tor says. “One of the in­ter­est­ing things that we did was not stay to­gether for our daugh­ter. And I am not say­ing that there is a right way or a wrong way, but that was the best way for us.”

If any­thing, says John­son, his re­la­tion­ship with 13-yearold Si­mone has got stronger.

Garcia was re­mar­ried last year, to strength and con­di­tion­ing coach Dave Rienzi.

“We were all at the wed­ding, which was awe­some,” says John­son. “But then it just put more pres­sure on me, be­cause my girl­friend – of seven years – said to me, ‘Hey buddy, I think it’s time’.”

At the time of go­ing to press, John­son has yet to walk down the aisle a sec­ond time.

On a pro­fes­sional level, the 43-year-old ac­tor would ap­pear to be sim­i­larly loyal.

San An­dreas is his third col­lab­o­ra­tion with Gug­ino (Race to Witch Moun­tain, Faster) and his third with Flynn (who also pro­duced Jour­ney 2).

“In Hol­ly­wood, there are some good peo­ple and some not-so-good peo­ple. I have worked with the not-so-good ones in the past and I have reached a point where I can work with all the good ones,” John­son says. The re­spect is mu­tual. “(Dwayne) works so hard,” says Flynn. “He im­merses him­self in the role and the re­search. “He just re­ally gives it all.” When John­son first ar­rived in Hol­ly­wood, the WWE wrestler then known as The Rock was ad­vised to shrink him­self into a more con­ven­tional lead­ing man mould.

But even af­ter he stopped work­ing out, the col­lar on John­son’s stylist-se­lected shirts still chaffed.

About five years ago, John­son de­cided it was time to switch tack and man­age­ment.

“I felt it in my gut that I needed a change.”

John­son was wise to trust his in­stincts. Prior to chang­ing man­age­ment, his act­ing ca­reer had hit a com­mer­cial cul-de­sac (The Tooth Fairy, Faster).

By 2013, he was named the high­est-gross­ing box of­fice ac­tor by Forbes on the back of Fast & Fu­ri­ous 6, G.I. Joe: Re­tal­i­a­tion and Pain & Gain.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, John­son says, he still has to pinch him­self.

The Instagram photo he posted aboard the Warner Bros pri­vate jet on the way to Cine­maCon in April doc­u­mented such a mo­ment.

“I get on the plane. I go to the bath­room. And I can see – lit­er­ally on a sil­ver plat­ter – my tooth­brush, my tooth­paste, my mouth­wash, my gum. I didn’t ask for it but it was very spe­cific. Some­body had found out ex­actly what I like. I started to laugh. I thought, ‘Holy (ex­ple­tive)!’

“I never take this stuff for granted. I mean, I was evicted from my house when I was 14. We strug­gled a lot. Now all of sud­den I have got things on a sil­ver plat­ter. And here’s what’s crazy: I didn’t touch it. I left it there and just ad­mired it.”

San An­dreas opens to­day


Dwayne John­son and Carla Gug­ino in a scene from San An­dreas.

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