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September 2007
An Interview with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Director Andy Fickman

An Interview with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Director Andy Fickman

By Tara Harris

September 24, 2007

Having played football while in college at the University of Miami and then having a go at wrestling afterwards, it was only a matter of time, now that he’s in the acting world, that someone would give Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson a role where he could go back to the past. Dwayne recently played a football coach in his last film, ‘Gridiron Gang,’ but his latest film, ‘The Game Plan,’ has him playing the game.

His character, Joe Kingman, is living the ultimate fantasy: he's rich, famous and the life of the party. But this dream is suddenly sacked for a loss when he discovers the 7-year-old daughter (newcomer Madison Pettis) he never knew he had – the product of a last fling before parting years ago with his young wife. Now, during the most important time in his career, he must figure out how to juggle his parties, practices and dates with the newfound ballet classes, bedtime stories and dolls that come with his daughter.

While speaking to BlackFilm.com, Johnson, along with Director Andy Fickman, talked about the making of the film, the football scenes, and learning ballet. Pinpoint customers who are looking for what you sell.

You did The Rock Block on the Disney Channel after this project... Are they all related?

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: Yes, we shot all of that about a month or so after we wrapped The Game Plan. It was an attempt to synergize the movie with those shows and with The Disney Channel and it was a very big collaborative effort, which was great. That's the way Disney is, and therein lies the power of that brand, Disney.

Andy Fickman: Madison got cast in Corey in the House after we cast her in The Game Plan, so what ended up happening was, when we found her she had just done a little bit like commercials and a couple episodes of Barney. So then that sort of helped and they said, well wait a minute - Corey in the House is gonna be happening and the movie is coming out at the same time. So it really was great. I think a lot of times with bigger stars, they don't necessarily want to get involved with this sort of cross-promotion. And from the very beginning on the set, Dwayne was very excited about the notion of that. So it was a big deal for Disney to have Dwayne wanting to do that.

Dwayne, can you talk about the appeal of the character, and the general appeal of who this guy is and what you like about him?

DJ: That's a good question. From the get-go, I thought, wow, what a great character to play, and from scratch. It's great when you can create a character like this from scratch, and be collaborative with the director and everybody on board. But for me, personally, I love comedy, and I love self-deprecating comedy. Physical comedy is great, dark comedy is great, but self-deprecating comedy, for me, always takes the cake, so to speak. It's great when you can laugh at yourself, and I think we all should. And there are different moments, for me putting on the ballet outfit, to the shake in my hair, to the bubble bath, I mean, you name it. (laughs) Just thinking about it now, it's funny. That appeals to me. Being a parent, being a proud daddy - I have a little six year-old girl at home who challenges me every day, just like Madison challenged me in the movie - I wanted to make a movie that she could come and see. I mean, of course the goal is to make a big family comedy, a big, broad comedy, but for me personally, selfishly, I had the chance to take her to go see a movie, a Disney movie at that, and play a character like this. There were a lot of elements that fell in place to this that made it very, very comfortable for me to make that.

Did you take anything out of your wrestling experience into that movie? You know, like, it's me and I'm The Big Guy...

DJ: No, I'm just naturally like that, just very naturally arrogant, basically. (laughs) Absolutely. All of the photos in the movie are from my house. As a matter of fact, I have them all up on my ceiling because when I wake up, I like to look at myself. (laughs)

How did you like working with that huge, wall-sized photo every day?

DJ: That was great. Let me tell you something, that's wonderful for the ego.... every day, to come to the set and there's a huge picture of yourself that covers the entire wall. It's absurd. But you gotta love it. Now I believe it's in your room, right? (turns to AF)

AF: Actually, it's on my ceiling so I can throw darts at it! (laughs)

Can you talk about you and your character's Elvis obsession?

DJ: I love Elvis. The moment I sat down with Andy, I said, "Do you love Elvis?" and he said absolutely, and we went for it. It was another fun way of adding a layer to the character that might be interesting. Again, I love self-deprecating comedy...it's great. I love the fact that he was singing to her in a sweet and very tender moment and she's like, "I think you sound like a wounded moose." I love that. I love comedy where the joke falls back on me. For me, as an actor, to sing in a movie and play the guitar, it's not funny. It's really not funny. But the joke makes it funny when it falls back on me.

Do you have a favorite Elvis song?

DJ: Are You Lonesome Tonight is my favorite, Love Letters...

Do you like the live version, or which one?

DJ: There are many live versions of Elvis singing Are You Lonesome Tonight. There's this one where he laughs and where he can't stop laughing. It's great.

Are you really that bad of a singer?

DJ: Am I that bad of a singer? I am. I can't hold a tune. It's movie magic in the studio. (laughs)

AF: I've done a lot of musicals, and I've done a lot where an actor wants to pre-record their songs so when he records it, he can go in with the pre-recording and we can fix everything. That's him playing the guitar, that's him singing, and he was spot on. We didn't do any mixing. Everyone who has seen his performance has been so happy about it, and it blew everybody away.

Were you comfortable with the green leotard you had to put on?

DJ: What's funny is, I put that outfit on, we were about two hours away from shooting, I was like wow, this is really tight. It was made for me, but it was the first time I tried it on. And I tried it on and it was very thin and very tight. I was like hmm, boy, this is a Disney movie. So I went to see Andy and I said, "Andy, can you come and look at this really quickly, because we were about ready to shoot." And I open it up and he's like (gestures) "Can we start to cover this up..." And we started to add layers.

AF: We went smaller. The first version we had wasn't small enough. That's a great way to ingratiate yourself with your cast on the very first day, you're walking around the set in your little ballet outfit. (laughs)

What did you take from your experiences with your own daughter that you brought to this? Were there any special moments and the way you dealt with them?

DJ: Oh sure. You bet. What a great question. I'm very, very lucky to understand what that blessing is, to be a parent, and not only to be a parent, but there's a very, very unique bond between a daddy and his little girl. And I recognize that now. And every day I recognize it, I live it, I embrace it. So that bonding process, and understanding that, made it very easy for me. I could easily take scenes from that movie and translate them right into my own real life. Same thing, from my life and translate them right into the movie, as well.

So it's because of those experiences that I had that allowed me to easily bond with Madison. And not only that, but easily appreciate her silliness, appreciate her crankiness when she gets tired, appreciate everything like that. Six years ago, before my little girl was born, if Andy had approached me about doing the movie, I still would have loved to have done the movie, I would still think it would have been just as funny; but I don't think, however, the emotion would have been there. Because I think that type of emotion, especially when it comes to kids, I think you have to have a kid if you're going to act it that well emotionally.

What about your lifestyle in the movie? This kid comes in, and suddenly, the house is a mess.

DJ: That's the way life is. It's the exact same way. I could clean my place and have it completely clean and spot-free, and as soon as my little girl comes around, there are toys everywhere and everything is left opened.

Are you a very patient parent? How patient are you?

DJ: I'm pretty patient. You have to be. The thing I love struggling with is the fact that it's a dictatorship in my house, and there's no democracy. (laughs) In our world as adults, we can control a lot of things. But yet with little kids, and she's six (daughter), democracy is out the window. This is the way it is. To see her actually strategize, and I see what's happening in her mind... I turn to mush.

Regarding the football scenes, did you have any input?

DJ: Sure. I was very lucky. I had a chance to play ten years of football with some great players, and we had a great football coordinator to help make sure the football was very real, it looked very real, I think also to Andy's credit because he comes from the world of theater, is he wanted to show football a tremendous amount of respect. More importantly than that, make sure that he showed ballet a tremendous amount of respect, too, to make sure that he always saw the parallels of the difficulty of both sports, on how both of them are equally difficult at the same time.

How challenging was it to learn ballet?

DJ: It was very, very challenging. I, like a lot of guys, a lot of my guy friends, kind of dismissed ballet for years. We were there with the Boston Ballet. I was blown away by the incredible amount of discipline that those little girls and little boys had, the hard work, the dedication. Andy brought this up 20 minutes ago. There was this amazing, respectful silence when we were done. We would rehearse every day for two weeks. We had, essentially, a ballet boot camp for a couple of hours every day, and at the end at six or seven o'clock, they had already gone through school and they would stay with me and Madison the whole time. There was this respectful silence that would permeate the air. And they would all come and individually thank us for our time. I love seeing that in today's children. I love seeing that type of discipline and that type of honor and respect.

AF: It was pretty awe-inspiring to see.

DJ: It was unbelievable, sure. I required Andy to do that every time I came onto the set. (laughs)

AF: I would always come in, thank him and give him twenty dollars.

As far as a football or as a wrestler, is the discipline as strict as it is in ballet?

DJ: The incredible amount of body control that it takes to be a ballet dancer is, again, mind-boggling to me. I never knew. I was very happy that I was exposed to that. It also reminded me that, for some of the greatest athletes in the world, ballet is one of their training regimens. For some of the greatest football players in the world in skilled positions, wide receivers and runningbacks, ballet is part of their training regime.

Can you talk about your fitness regime? Will you incorporate any ballet into it?

DJ: Well sure, Andy and I have the same fitness routine now. (laughs)

AF: We get up in the morning, and that's about it... (laughs)

DJ: I train every day. I have to. For me, the training, and a different variety of training whether it's outside or inside... I have to get away and for me, that hour and a half, I'm going to go right now as soon as we're done, is a way to get away. It's like a little sanctuary, too.

What does that involve?

DJ: Specifically, what's called Plyometric work, which is some box jumps and sprints, quickness agility drills, things like that, from that - cardio, legwork. Are you looking to do some fitness? (laughs) If you are, and I tell women this all the time... With women it's more of a lifestyle and a mental change because for women, and I'm surrounded by women, from my mom to just everybody, women have that great tendency to put themselves last and putting working out last like, "I've got so many things to do." So you've got to change your mindset and think, I have to do this first, make it fun, get a trainer, get a friend, get an iPod, do fun things. If you are, I'm not saying you are, but that's my suggestion. And I've suggested the same thing to Andy, too. (laughs)

Andy, you and Dwayne have now worked on a second film together. What is it that you like so much about working with The Rock?

AF: He's dreamy. (laughs) A director's dream is to get onto a set and have a collaborator. You can have action all you want, but at the end of the day, you need someone who is going to be there to work. Dwayne Johnson is an amazing actor because what he gives you is the comedy, the heart and the willingness to do all the things you guys are asking about. For a director, you don't work with an actor again unless you find that working with him is inspiring.

What do you think of Barack Obama becoming the first African-American president?

DJ: I think that would be tremendous. I had the opportunity to speak with Barack, and I think he's great. I'm very proud of him and all his success. If it does happen, then I think it's wonderful.

THE GAME PLAN opens on September 28, 2007


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