By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
After a preview screening of The Rundown at the Loews Cityplace theater last week, wrestler The Rock showed up for a Q&A session, which I had the misfortune of moderating: It’s hard to lead a group discussion with 500 people when nine of 10 questions begin, “Uh, can I have your autograph?” (The other one was: “Are you still going to wrestle?” It was asked seven times.) But The Rock, born Dwayne Johnson into a family of wrestlers (his old man used to tangle with Fritz Von Erich), was gracious enough to fulfill every request, even a query from the kid dressed in a shirt covered in flames who seemed to be speaking in veeeerrrrry sssllooooowwww mooottttiooonn. “Y’all must have some good weed in Texas,” said Johnson—and yes, Rock, we surely do, so I hear. The next day, Johnson, dressed in a gray velour sweat suit, sat for a longer interview. There was, to the best of my knowledge, no doping involved.
After the screening last night, you said you don't want to be a celebrity who acts. Is that difficult, given your success as someone who's made a franchise for himself being larger-than-life?
I'm well aware of my celebrity prior to getting into film, and I don't want to be considered someone who just banks on celebrity. I'd rather be a decent actor and work with good actors and just continue to take little bitty steps of growth and challenge myself in little ways and take swings for the fences. Sometimes I'll come up short, and we all fail at things, but as long as I can succeed in little ways, then I'll just continue to count my blessings.
Are you surprised by how much you like acting and, frankly, how well you've taken to it?
There's no pulling wool over anybody's eyes: I am new and still growing, and I want to be good. I have no ego. I have no problem waiting around and watching somebody else work and getting their advice and asking them, "Why'd you do that? Why'd you say that? Why'd you do this? Why'd you say it like that? When I read your line in the script, I would have thought you'd have read it like this." And somebody like Christopher Walken, for example, will say, "Well, it just came from here."
He's Christopher Walken. He just can't help himself. The Rock has a certain amount of baggage, and I assume one day you'll make a movie where you don't hit anyone, and The Rock might get in the way. Maybe he's better left in the arena and it's time to let Dwayne Johnson get top billing.
I never really thought too much about it. I did in the beginning, two or three years ago. I thought, "Well, should I be The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, Buckethead Jones?" But then I started to overthink it, so I just figured, "Well, you know, just go by The Rock and just see what happens."
When you did Saturday Night Live in 2000, were the producers aware of your comedic skills?
I'm sure they were aware of the popularity factor and going, "Oh, yeah, we might get decent ratings with this. He's probably a guy who's got a little bit of a sense of humor, but he's probably also a guy who takes himself very seriously, who's very vain." When I got there on Monday morning, the majority of the scripts were all wrestling scripts, and finally I said, "Guys, you know this is great," but what I told [producer] Lorne Michaels was, "The wrestling thing I get--it's very convenient, very easy. But if you wouldn't mind challenging yourselves, let's write other scripts." So the next day it was, "OK, how do you feel about dressing up as a woman in drag?" No problem. "Or playing Papa Peepers and humping a guy's leg?" OK, no problem. "How do you feel about being gay?" No problem, let's do it. Then I thought, "Man, I'm gonna dress up like a monkey, hump this guy's leg, play a gay guy? I don't know." Then I got a hands-down gangbuster reaction from fans, and I was like, "Thank you, that's so great. " --Robert Wilonsky
Since Beverly Hills, 90210 went off the air in 2000, there's been a void in our hearts. But when they ditched the Peach Pit, they left us with no fix for our bad, overly dramatic-television addiction. Ah, but where there was once darkness, now there is light. The O.C. , a new show on Fox aimed at teens but loved by all, has picked up where the West Beverly crowd left off...and taken the genre to a whole new, more debauched level. Here's how they stack up.
90210: Not much for the first few seasons, with the exception of Brenda losing her virginity to Dylan, but we saw that coming, because that Shannen Doherty is a whore. By the end, Vanessa Marcil did get it on with Brian Austin Green, showing you how far the show's standards dropped. Worse yet, they actually hooked up in real life.