Opening this Friday is Dwayne Johnson’s new family film Tooth Fairy. If you’re looking for another Rundown, this is definitely not for you. But if you’ve enjoyed Johnson in films like Race to Witch Mountain and The Game Plan, this is another in the family friendly genre. Here’s the synopsis:
Dwayne Johnson is The Tooth Fairy, also known as Derek Thompson, a hard-charging hockey player whose nickname comes from his habit of separating opposing players from their bicuspids. When Derek discourages a youngster’s dreams, he’s sentenced to one week’s hard labor as a real tooth fairy, complete with the requisite tutu, wings and magic wand. At first, Derek “can’t handle the tooth” – bumbling and stumbling as he tries to furtively wing his way through strangers’ homes…doing what tooth fairies do. But as Derek slowly adapts to his new position, he begins to rediscover his own forgotten dreams.
To help promote the film, last week I got to attend a small press conference with Dwayne Johnson and Julie Andrews. They talked about making the film, why they wanted to be involved, what they have coming up, how they feel about watching their previosu movies, and a whole lot more. If you’re a fan of either Dwayne Johnson or Julie Andrews…you’ll like this interview:
And if you’d like to see some clips from Tooth Fairy, click here.
Question: Julie, you write children’s books and you have a great imagination, so I wonder if your character’s life philosophy was very much like your own as far as not destroying children’s dreams?
Julie Andrews: Yes. Actually the charm of the script, the moment I read it, was I completely identified with some of the books that I do attempt to write and I was thrilled because it has such a gorgeous message. It really is — that we shouldn’t destroy our dreams. We should always hold onto them. I was immediately — you couldn’t be more right.
It seems to me that the criteria for you to select a project these days is that you want to have fun. Would you say that’s fair?
JA: I think it depends on what each piece is saying and it really depends on the script as much as anything else. But yes, this one really resonated. That’s what I’m trying to say. I think it really resonated — if one’s fortunate enough to have a script slide across one’s desk these days, it’s about does it resonate, do I feel I can help it and do something for them and with it and this one was very easy, thanks to Dwayne and our director Michael Lembeck, to say yes to.
You seem to be having a lot of fun with Dwayne in some of these scenes. Was it fun playing a hard ass CEO?
JA: Yes. I loved it. I mean, it’s very hard to tell this big guy off and the wings were a problem too. (Laughs)
We loved to see you flying again, by the way.
JA: Thank you. I needed to brush up on that a bit. It took a bit of effort this time.
One of the great messages was also having the need for somebody to encourage you and build you up in life. Did any of you have one person or people who were especially instrumental in encouraging you in your personal or career pursuits?
Dwayne Johnson: I did. I was really fortunate enough to have a couple of people in my life when I was younger. I’ve talked about my past before. I was a bit challenged when I was younger to stay on the right path. I was fortunate to have a couple of people in my life — a wonderful mom and a couple of adult figures, father figures in my life at that time who saw potential in me even when I didn’t and who always embedded the thought of trying to get better and becoming a better person, becoming a better man and what that really meant and certainly trying to find integrity along the way. So, I was really fortunate to have that. To bring it back around to the script, when the script came around and I read it, it really resonated with me and the thought of the impossible becoming the possible, that resonated with me because I’m an example of that. So, for me, it was very, very special.
Dwayne, did you have a fun time playing hockey in this movie? Speaking of the impossible, was it a challenge?
DJ: (Laughs) Speaking of the impossible, me on ice. Yes, I did. I had a wonderful time with it. I had a couple weeks to learn how to ice skate. For the majority of the movie, I had wonderful stunt doubles who were skating for me. A couple of years ago, unfortunately, I had ruptured my Achilles [tendon] and I had to get it reattached so my mobility in my ankle has been pretty stiff along the way. So we could safely say that my ice skating is not up to Olympic standards by any means but I did have a blast.
Julie, as sort of a follow-up to the first question, what sort of novels, films or stories fired your imagination as a child?
JA: Obviously, I had a wonderful tutor that traveled with me because I was very busy working as a child, so I had a lovely lady that finally set me straight and knew that I loved to read and she introduced me to all the classics. But, my father was a teacher and he, at about age 9 or 10, took me into a bookstore and said “I’m going to buy you a book and here’s what seems like a good one.” And it is the book that I’ve had the great fortune to republish, to bring back to the public here in America because it had not been published for many, many years. It’s a tiny little book. If you think “Watership Down,” but maybe even better, it’s a nature study and it’s called “The Little Gray Men” and it is by an author who literally only signed his initials “BB” and that book has probably influenced my writing and set a standard for me probably because my dad gave it to me, probably because it’s beautifully written. It is a little classic.
Dwayne, I want to know what in your opinion is the best thing a parent can do to encourage their kids’ dreams?
DJ: Well I think there are a number of things that you can do to encourage your kids’ dreams but I do believe in speaking by experience of having a lot of help along the way, stumbling in the past. We’ve all stumbled and we certainly all deserve to get up and walk again. And now, being a proud parent, me and my partner, I would probably say to understand the power of potential and the power of belief and believing in yourself and finding a settling with yourself and being comfortable with who you are and how important that is. And, as you step every day and we’re going to see challenges, we going to see failures, we should certainly learn from the failures and be gracious with our successes too as well. But I think the important thing our little girl’s mom and myself have to pass onto our little girl would just be believing in herself and being comfortable with herself.
Julie, I recently read your autobiography and it’s a beautiful book.
JA: Thank you.
How cathartic was it for you to write that and are we going to see a Part 2 anytime soon?
JA: I’m not sure about the Part 2. A lot of people have very nicely but kindly been asking but I’m not sure about that. I’ll have to think about it. But it was cathartic and I didn’t forget. I’ve had a number of years to think about it and dwell on what it is I might like to say and I did want to be truthful because it seems silly to write something and not just say it as it was. It was cathartic but it was also something that I have lived with for years and none of it bothers me in any way. It’s something I’ve just said “Well that was my beginning. That was my existence.” So, I would never have finished it if it hadn’t been for my lovely daughter with whom I do write books sometimes and she encouraged and pushed and interviewed me and helped transcribe and really did an enormous amount of work that nudged me.
Was it too painful to relive some of those early childhood memories?
JA: No, oddly enough. You have to understand that I had dealt with them or thought about them for a very, very long time. Actually what was really painful was getting all my dates right. I mean, I’ve been around for quite awhile now — just remembering was it 1952, was it 1954, was it 1948? — and being sure that all the facts were right. Thank God for the internet these days because I’d never have gotten it right.
So you Googled yourself?
JA: Oh, a lot of times, believe me. Yeah. A lot of people knew more about me than I knew.
Julie, why would you think so hard about doing a follow-up book to your autobiography that’s about all your successes?
JA: Well I think everybody knows what happened after Poppins in a way. I took it up to Mary Poppins. I didn’t think many people knew about my early history and vaudeville. Moss Hart, the director of My Fair Lady, wrote a wonderful book called Act One and it was one of the great, great autobiographies. And, when I read it, I realized that I had learned something from it which is about a piece of theater history that I never knew anything about and thanks to Moss I did. And, it was the incentive. I had thought for years why publish a biography? I could always give it to my kids, but why come out with it? And eventually I thought not many people know about those early, last dying days of British vaudeville. If I could give them a picture of what that’s like, that was a reason to do the book.
Can you talk a little bit about working with Stephen Merchant and Billy Crystal. It seemed like those scenes were adlibbed in some way and they were just throwing things out there.
DJ: Stephen was wonderful. He’s an incredibly talented guy. There were times when we would come to the set and we’d say “Lem, listen, we have this idea. We’re going to have the most ridiculous, ludicrous fight ever and not throw a punch at all and he’s like, “Okay, let’s see it.” And, of course, that’s what you wind up seeing in the movie. And as far as Billy Crystal, you know, I had grown up admiring Billy. He’s such an iconic, comedic actor. Such an iconic actor. That’s why it was such a pleasure and honor to work with both he and Julie. So, from Billy Crystal, Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor and Robin Williams were all guys who I really admired growing up and to be in a scene with Billy was fantastic and he’s very personable.
He’s such a sweetheart as you all know.
DJ: He’s wonderful.
Julie, how do you feel about being referred to as a cultural icon? Do you still feel comfortable with that definition?
JA: Comfortable? I’m so flattered. I don’t believe it for a second but I’m very flattered. Everybody is very, very kind. I guess if you stick around long enough.
You obviously don’t see yourself as a cultural icon?
JA: I don’t and neither do my kids. (Laughs)
Duane, there’s a contradiction in the film where your character says “Don’t believe in your dreams” which is kind of like the Keith Richards “Stay Off Drug” ads. Was it hard for you to play someone who had no belief whatsoever in the possibility of dreams? Or is that part of the pleasure of it for you?
DJ: No, it wasn’t necessarily hard for me to play that because I knew where we were going at the end of the story and I knew we were going to tell a nice story and by the end of the story my character would have changed through the events in the story, so no, it wasn’t difficult at all.
What about Seth McFarland’s involvement? How did that come to pass? And was that quid pro quo with your appearance on Family Guy last week?
DJ: Well I’d been such a big fan of the show, Family Guy, and Seth, and of course his home was at Fox. The executives over at Fox had come to Lem and said “Hey, what do you think about this idea?” Lem was like, :Great. We’ve got a great part for him.” And, of course, Seth and I became buddies after that and I said, “Any time I can return the favor, if you can let me come on and play, I would love to.” And that’s what you saw.
Dwayne, what about the costuming in this? Nobody but somebody who’s very strong in their masculinity could be wearing what you were wearing. Were you comfortable in those costumes? Did you have fun with them? How do you feel when you wear a tutu?
JA: The first day I saw him he was in a tutu.
DJ: That’s right. Pink. I said “Hi Julie! I’m in pink.”
JA: He was pretty in pink I have to say.
DJ: Thank you. I felt fine. I think any time, and certainly they can attest to this as well, anytime you set out to make a comedy, I don’t think you should put parameters on it. If you’re going to make a comedy and if your sole interest is in making people laugh and feel good and entertaining them, then you check your ego at the door. So, for me, it was pretty easy.
Julie, do you plan on writing any more children’s book. Where is that part of your career?
JA: That’s very, very much a part of my career. We just had a wonderful book that I’m very proud of come out. It was last month, I think. Two months ago, sorry. It came out just before Christmas and it was an anthology of poems and songs and lullabies and I have to say very proudly, it’s been on the best seller list for children. I think it was on there for 9 weeks, the New York Times Bestseller List. So, I’m thrilled. And there’s another one coming out in May and I have another couple that I’m working on right now. So it’s very much ongoing.
Would any of them make good movies?
JA: Well, I think so, but it’s from your lips to someone’s ears.
You were going to be performing with Ben (Kingsley). Have you recorded that yet?
JA: Oh, no. I’m doing a concert in May in London which is the beginning of a small but international tour and later in the year I’ll be going abroad.
Will it be here?
JA: No, I was here last year. It’s the same concert that I did at the Hollywood Bowl last year and around the country and I’m just taking it to Europe.
What size venues are you going to be performing in?
JA: I’ll be at Michael Jackson’s haunting house, the O2 Arena.
How’s your voice?
JA: I’m not singing. I’d like to be very clear about that. I have about five good bass notes, which is what I said last year to my audiences. I host the evening. I narrate it. I tell stories. I sing-speak as best I can. But if you’re looking for me to sing The Sound of Music, I could not, sadly. I wish I could. But I do come up with some surprises and I think the audience has a good time. I feel they do. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it.
Dwayne and Julie, do you guys watch your movies and how do you like watching yourselves on screen?
DJ: I’m fascinated by Julie’s answers. I’m just like this and I get lost in her answers.
JA: We’re supposed to be talking…every time I answer a question, it’s not about Tooth Fairy and it should be. You were saying, do we watch our movies? (to Dwayne) You answer it.
DJ: I do. Sure. And I enjoy them and, for me, it’s a way to learn. I always want to continue to get better so, for me, it goes back to the environment I was raised in, in terms of athletics and always watching film and always going back and watching your performances to see how you can get better and see where you can improve.
Julie, do you also go back and watch your movies?
JA: I love to see the final cut or whatever it is that the director would like me to see and yeah, I’ll probably see if it we go to a premiere or something like that. But I don’t really… I mean, quite often I’ll turn on the television and something like Sound of Music will be on or Victor/Victoria and I might watch a moment or two. But I don’t actually sit down and say I’m going to watch one of my movies. No.
Dwayne, you’ve been making a lot of family friendly films over the last number of films. I think you did The Other Guys and you’re getting ready to do an R-rated action film. Are you sort of turning a corner and going back to making action films for the next little while? Could you talk about what your plan is for the future?
DJ: I’m sure. We had some really wonderful success in the family genre and it was a genre that I wanted to get in and I wanted to hopefully make some good movies and find some success too along the way and it’s just a matter of the material and the timing of the material that came in. If Faster, which I’m doing next with George Tillman and Billy Bob Thornton, if that had come in a year or two years ago, I probably would have done that before Tooth Fairy. It was just the timing of it. But, I enjoy…you know, this will now be my tenth year in acting. The goal was always to work in as many different genres as I possibly could and have a nice wide foundation of work and that type of base. So, for me, I’ve been very fortunate to work in a lot of different genres and now I’m going back to action which is great. You know, I love making people laugh and feel good and entertaining them. That’s wonderful. But there’s nothing like kicking butt too and I love doing that.
A lot of people loved The Rundown a lot. That’s something I hear about online all the time. Is that a film that if you could make a sequel to that, would you ever think about that?
DJ: Sure. What’s interesting is I think there’s storylines within The Rundown that I like and I think we could take that and then make a different movie out of it. But, you know, I had a great time working with Peter Berg and the other actors in it. It was great. But I think any time you can find an action movie that’s not driven by its action only, it’s based on a story and you get a great character or great characters that people are invested in, you get a chance to kick some butt along the way, every once in a while wink at the audience and have fun. But that was a great movie. If we could do a Part 2, sure.
Julie, are you in the Shrek movie?
JA: Yeah, that’s coming up.
How did you enjoy doing it?
JA: I’m not featured as much in this Shrek, but I am in it. It’s going to be lovely, I think, based on what I’ve seen of it which when you do an animated film you don’t see that much. But I have another lovely one coming out later in the year called Despicable Me with Steve Carell.
Who are you in that one?
JA: I play Carell’s mum. It’s maybe the nastiest character I’ve ever played.
Really? You’re going to play a bad woman?
JA: Well she’s a bad woman with a wonderful attitude. I mean, she’s so self-involved that she’s delicious.
That’s a summer film, I think.
JA: Yes, I think it’s coming out in July. Her name is Marlena. They said I could name her. She’s the ugliest looking wench you’ve ever seen. She thinks she’s just you know.
Do you do your own voice or do you change it?
JA: No, I did change my voice for this one. I did the most white bread (bred?) German Jewish English awful mother that you’ve ever heard. It was ridiculous but I was trying to balance with Carell.
You know, I interviewed Christopher Plummer a few weeks ago.
JA: Yes. He’s been so…
He doesn’t speak kindly of The Sound of Music.
JA: You know, I think he does these days. I think he used not to but he freely admits that he was young and foolish and thought he was being hip. Actually you catch him on a far day and he’s tickled to death.
You did a great interview of him on Bonus Features for the 40th Anniversary [of The Sound of Music] and you kind of brought him out of that whole thing.
JA: Yeah, he’s a pussycat really. He just likes to pretend to be a bad boy.
Well, you guys have worked together again since then.
Do you plan to work together once again?
JA: Anytime we could.