DWAYNE JOHNSON'S LOCALLY FILMED ACTION FLICK SAN ANDREAS HITS THE BIG SCREEN
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.