As of 2016, Dwayne Johnson – a once desperately poor petty criminal – is officially the highest paid actor in the world; earning an eye-watering $64.5 million. A man who developed a career in sports entertainment, smack-talkin’ and eyebrow-raisin’ his way through the day-to-day, scored more than $10 million over the likes of Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, and Leonardo DiCaprio. On paper, The Rock’s meteoric rise to Hollywood dominance reads like a fairytale – a true rags-to-riches epic which is destined for the biopic treatment – but in reality it is quite the opposite. Dwayne Johnson is the very epitome of practicing what you preach; to fulfil the promises you make, and to attain the goals you set.
In a world in which living the “Hollywood lifestyle” – the fame, the money, the cars, the clothes – comes to so many who have achieved or provided absolutely nothing (seriously, we talk about some people just for the sake of talking…), the 44 year-old, 260lb titan brings a truly grounded and modest approach to postmodern celebrity. It is often said that Johnson is the hardest working man in show-business, and that is no understatement. He is attached to some twenty motion pictures between 2017 and 2020, as well as starring in and/or hosting multiple television shows, co-managing his production company Seven Bucks Productions, fulfilling his global press quota in which every major release has a world tour, maintaining a new marriage and baby as well as caring for his elder daughter, consuming his seven-meals-per-day nutrition plan, and ensuring he can fit two-hour heavy workout sessions in each day, too. Perhaps The Rock runs to different time than the rest of us mere mortals, because just reading all of that is enough to feel exhausted…
When you take a step back and look at just how much Johnson does – how much he offers both the industry and more importantly, the audience – it isn’t hard to see why he is the most successful performer on the planet. In fact, it is entirely fitting. If anyone deserves such rewards for such craft, it is he. Throughout his prosperous wrestling career, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Peter Maivia, and father Rocky Johnson, The Rock became a principal figure of the WWE’s Attitude Era – arguably the most celebrated period in the franchise’s history which spawned Superstars including Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, and Mankind. His role inside the ring and upon the turnbuckle was far more than to drop The People’s Elbow and slam The Rock Bottom however, he was the man on the mic: the voice that the people responded to and resonated with. In the WWE, Johnson was dubbed “The People’s Champ”, but in Hollywood, he is The People’s Movie Star.
Johnson maintains such a rich interaction with his fans worldwide thanks to his influence on social media. Many sources – namely Forbes – state that his presence on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook is one of the core factors why his movies make the staggering figures they do; more so than any amount of studio advertising campaigning could wish to accumulate. The internet age proves a double-edged sword for creatives. It gives them the opportunity to open a window to the world, showcasing the development and construction of a project, but it also makes many wish to shroud their work in secrecy; cloaking it from public consumption. Johnson is very much the former – giving his near-100 million collective followers – unprecedented access and insight into his world and life. So much so, that every single day on-set he leaves hours later than everyone else because he tells audiences where he is so they can come and meet him.
Check out his Instagram feed and you’ll see more videos and pictures of a celebrity cuddling kids and wrapping a bicep around mother than any other famous person on the planet. The more snooty of us would perhaps consider Johnson’s affiliation with his fanbase as a coy marketing plan, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. He is kind, warm, and humane, which in turn heightens his revenue and box-office dominance. As capitalism goes, his is the most unintentional and sincere. Many fitness experts also claim that Johnson’s social media feeds play a huge role in educating and supporting those with their training. He regularly uploads footage of workouts, and offers key advice and tips by replying to questions posed.
His latest movie is Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Moana – a ravishingly beautiful spell of pure aqautica – which taps into extremely personal themes for Johnson. A man of Samoan and Polynesian descent, he plays demigod Maui who must embark on a treacherous voyage across the ocean with the titular character, a headstrong young women who is heir to her father’s tribe, in order to restore balance to the land, sea, and shore. Not only is the film one of the very best titles of 2016, it also bares much cultural importance. It teaches Western audiences about heritage and tradition, about respecting your roots, and knowing your role (pun intended) within a community. As much of a passion project for legendary directors Ron Clements and John Musker, this is something profoundly expressive for the actor himself, and it shows throughout. It is humbling to hear that Moana has not only amounted huge critical acclaim (we loved the movie, and you can read our review right here), but also that it is amongst the most successful Thanksgiving-weekend openings of all-time. The most American holiday in the calendar, and cinemas are filled with audiences watching a picture about native multiculturalism.
So much of Moana‘s pull is the attachment of Johnson. If he wasn’t in the movie, Disney wouldn’t likely have taken such a risk and opened over this weekend, but they have confidence in his draw, and it paid off. Since arriving in Hollywood, he has dramatically altered the playing field; so much so that there will be equal numbers who know him from his humble WWE days, and those who wouldn’t have a clue. Not since the likes of Tom Cruise has their been such a magnetic force in stardom – a presence with unfathomable work-ethic and performance quality – who makes the production and distribution of mainstream multiplex filmmaking just that little bit less mechanical.
The world simply adores this shiny-headed, middle-aged, sleep-deprived everyman because of who he is, and what he represents – not just as a star, but as a human being. Not every girl wants to grow up to be Kim Kardashian, but a heck of a lot of boys want to grow up to be Dwayne Johnson, and quite rightly so. The Rock is showing Tinseltown that there is no place for a “jabroni” here…
Moana opens in UK cinemas in 3D and 2D from Friday, 2nd December.