IAR INTERVIEW: Dwayne Johnson Talks 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation,' WrestleMania 29, 'Fast & Furious 6,' and 'The Expendables 3'

Tuesday, 26 March 2013 13:00 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR INTERVIEW: Dwayne Johnson Talks 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation,' WrestleMania 29, 'Fast & Furious 6,' and 'The Expendables 3'

Can you smell what The Rock is cooking? Hollywood sure can!

Over the last few years, the WWE wrestler-turned-actor and major box office draw, now known simply as Dwayne Johnson, has made a career of joining sequels that need a little help invigorating their franchises. It began with Fast Five, the fifth installment of The Fast and the Furious series, which went on to be the most successful film in the franchise so far. He also breathed life into Journey 2: Mystery Island, which was the sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth. The actor will soon be seen in Fast & Furious 6, the follow up to Fast Five that opens in theaters on May 24th, as well as Journey 3: From the Earth to the Moon, which will be in theaters next year. But first, Johnson is saving yet another franchise with his turn as the beloved G.I. Joe character Roadblock in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which is the sequel to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and will open in theaters on March 28th.

While the first film, which is of course based on the popular Hasbro line of toys, comic books and cartoon series, was a box office hit earning over $300 million world wide, it failed to score with critics and longtime fans of the property. Now with Johnson on board as well as action legend Bruce Willis (A Good Day to Die Hard), the Joes are back with a more action orientated film than its predecessor, which was criticized for having too many comedic elements. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is directed by Jon M. Chu (Justin Bieber: Never Say Never), and revolves around the Joes being framed as traitors by Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), who is still posing as the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) in the aftermath of the first film. Cobra Commander eventually escapes from prison and takes all the world leaders under control, aiming their advanced warheads at innocent countries around the world. It is now up to the few Joes left, which include Roadblock, Snake-Eyes (Ray Park), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), Jinx (Elodie Yung), and General Joseph Colton (Willis) – the man the team is named after – to stop Cobra Commander and Zartan, who are being aided by Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-Hun) and Firefly (Ray Stevenson), before it is too late.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, along with a few other members of the press, at a roundtable discussion to talk about his work on G.I. Joe: Retaliation, as well as his April 7th match with John Cena at WrestleMania 29, Fast & Furious 6, and possibly appearing in The Expendables 3. The extremely popular actor discussed his new film, how he has become the film franchise savior, preparing physically for his role, being a fan of G.I. Joe as a kid, what he wanted to incorporate and also not use from Roadblock’s mythology, working with the cast, teaming up with fellow action superstar Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum’s resemblance to his wrestling archenemy John Cena, returning to the WWE for WrestleMania 29, how he is preparing for his fight with Cena, Fast & Furious 6, whether or not Eva Mendes will appear in the film, if the rumors are true that Jason Statham will have a cameo in the end credit scene, and if he is open to joining the cast of The Expendables 3.

I began the discussion by asking Johnson what has made him the go-to guy in Hollywood for joining sequels that need a little help reinventing themselves. “One thing I have ... a decent smile,” he joked. “The idea is if I can come in and add value, and help elevate it, then I’ll consider it and do it. The franchises that I have been able to be a part of have been some already successful franchises, long running franchises, for example like Fast & Furious. With GI Joe, it was very, very special. It had a deep-rooted cool connection with me because I played with GI Joes and was such a big GI Joe fan when I was younger.”

“I had a massive collection of GI Joes and Star Wars action figures,” he continued. “So to get the call a year and a half ago about becoming a Joe, and leading the Joes, and having the opportunity to go in and number one, pay homage and respect to the mythology, and then number two, hopefully make a better movie than the first, was great. Because sequels are tricky, and in this case the first movie came out and it made a lot of money around the world but also I felt that, and we all felt that, there was room for a better movie.”

Since Johnson mentioned that he was a big fan of the property as a kid, I followed up by asking him if he was specifically a fan of the Roadblock character. “I was. It was Roadblock, Duke and I got to be honest with you, my favorite at that time was Snake Eyes,” he said. “So between Snake Eyes and Boba Fett for me, I was in heaven. With a little Han Solo thrown in, and some Duke as well. So again, I’ll go back to getting a phone call, ‘hey, we want you to be part of this? What do you think?’ I loved it. So coming on the set, and not only that but there was a cool moment where I had a scene with Snake Eyes and it was just that. It was very cool, very surreal, and the inner turbo nerd in me who has grown into a big turbo nerd came out on set.”

I also asked the actor if he considered adding any of Roadblock’s particular characteristics from the cartoon like his love for cooking. “He was a big cook in the cartoon. He also spoke in rhymes. So there were some things that didn’t have to go into the movie,” he joked. “In our version of it we touch on the cooking thing a little bit, and there is a deleted scene where I’m cooking, and you’ll see that on the DVD, Roadblock’s cheese balls.”

Next, Johnson talked about how he prepared physically for the film. “This was a very long prep. It was probably ten to twelve weeks of dieting and training because we just got to remember that Roadblock, and if any of you are familiar with the mythology of the comic books or the cartoon, Roadblock was a very established character who nobody looked like in the line of GI Joe. So I thought if we had one shot at bringing him to life then I wanted to come in in pretty good shape.”

The actor also discussed working with the rest of the film’s ensemble cast. “Well, they were great. Anytime I think you have a cast where there are a lot of characters that you are portraying, and you bring in a lot of actors, and many of the actors are stars in their own right, that can be tricky too. Because with that comes whatever ego or baggage and what happens a lot of times is that they don’t gel. I’ve been in movies before where there has been a big ensemble,” he explained. “In the case of GI Joe, the camaraderie between everyone was really awesome. What I think supported that is everyone coming on board like the new guys on the block including myself, and Bruce (Willis). When there is already an established brand that is beloved I think that everyone goes into the project excited and wanting to have fun.”

I followed up by asking Johnson what it was like for him to team-up with fellow action superstar Bruce Willis in the film. “Bruce is a guy who I’ve admired over the years and who I’ve looked up to when I was younger. You know watching him in Die Hard, watching him in Moonlighting, by the way I was such a big fan where he had such great charm with Cybil (Shepard) and those episodes were phenomenal. Then of course seeing him in Die Hard and I remember when I saw his turn in The Sixth Sense, I thought he was phenomenal. He’s a great actor and he brings great weight and gravitas to certain roles. I think having Bruce Willis in this particular role was excellent.  The reason why we all call ourselves Joes is because of General Joe Colton, so he fits into this role perfectly.”

“When I first started in Hollywood years ago, he was one of the few guys who was so supportive and publically supportive of my transition,” he continued. “Then when I met him and we hung out and had dinner, he was so insightful and supportive. In our private moments he said, ‘Hey, this is going to be great for you, you can do it, you got to work hard, which you do, and it will be yours to have basically. You have to go out there and work it, and it’s going to take a long time. If you want to have a career, it’s going to take a very long time.’ I appreciated that insight so much because you don’t get that. You don’t get that as your coming up in Hollywood because everyone is vying for a position and everyone is very competitive, so for him to do that I will never forget it. Then to have him in the movie with me, it’s awesome.”

Another reporter brought up the fact that many people think actor Channing Tatum resembles Johnson’s wrestling rival John Cena, so he asked the artist-formally-known as The Rock if he ever teased Channing about that on set. “I wouldn’t insult Channing’s mom by saying her favorite son looks like John Cena,” Johnson joked. “I never gave him any crap about that. I really didn’t even notice that actually. But I really enjoyed working with Channing,” he continued. “He’s a great guy, as you guys know. I’m sure you’ve all sat with him before. I’m happy for him. He is the sexiest man alive … till next year. But I love the guy and I’m very happy for him. I was very happy with our chemistry on screen, it really popped out and I enjoyed that.”

The actor went on to discuss his upcoming match with Cena at WrestleMania 29 and returning to the WWE. “I’m excited about that but I’m really excited for WrestleMania. For those of you guys that don’t know, I have WrestleMania coming up. It’s going to be in two weeks at MetLife Stadium. I’m going in as WWE Champion so for me it is a thrill. Not only that, but also more importantly than a thrill it is an honor. This goes back to three years ago when Vince McMahon and I started talking about coming back and the best strategic plan for how I could come back and what was the overall goal. The overall goal is for me to give back to a business that provided me an awesome platform to entertain. But then also, in me giving back, bring more eyes to the WWE and the superstars that work so hard. So we lined up three WrestleManias in a row and this will be the third, so I’m very excited about it.”

“The prep has been tough and challenging because its been setting up rings in multiple cites, wherever I am at, down in Florida, in New York, and on the west coast,” Johnson continued to explain. “It’s bringing in guys, having my physical training camps with those guys, just to make sure I’m staying in ring shape, and then balancing out shooting and promoting movies. But I’m so excited about this show for a lot of reasons. There have been twenty-eight other WrestleManias over the years, but this is very special because I know what it means to the fans, and I know what it means to the McMahon family to be in New York. It’s such a cool thing. My grandfather wrestled for Vince McMahon’s dad so there is a nice lineage there. I’m really honored to go in and in my own way have this match and give back to not only the fans, the company, but also give back to the WWE’s number one hero in John Cena. Even though he gets booed, he is still the man so I’m happy to get in the ring with him.”

Changing the subject from wrestling to cars, I asked Johnson about Fast & Furious 6. I began by saying that one of the best parts of Fast Five was his surprise end credit scene with actress Eva Mendes. So I asked the actor if Mendes makes a return appearance in Fast & Furious 6, and if the rumors are true that action star Jason Statham will appear in the end credit scene teasing his possible role as the villain in Fast & Furious 7. “I like that. You go right for it,” Johnson laughed. “No Eva,” he confirmed. “And to the other question … I’m not sure, we’ll see,” he said reluctantly.

Finally, with rumors of Statham appearing in Fast & Furious 6, and Willis co-staring with Johnson in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, I asked the action star if he was open to appearing in The Expendables 3, since Sylvester Stallone has been trying to get him to join the franchise since the first movie. “I am open to it,” he replied. “But they are not ready for me!”

G.I. Joe: Retaliation opens in theaters on March 28th.

To watch our exclusive video interview with D.J. Cotrona about G.I. Joe: Retaliation, please click here.

WrestleMania 29 premieres April 7th on Pay-Per-View.

Fast & Furious 6 opens in theaters on May 24th.

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