One of the reasons why G.I. Joe: Retaliation looks better than the first film is, quite simply, Dwayne Johnson. I’m of the opinion that if you want to make any franchise better, all you need to do is add The Rock. Look what Universal did with Fast Five…they added Johnson and it’s the best of the series. And in the G.I. Joe sequel, Johnson has been brought in as Roadblock and he’s front and center leading the Joe’s against Cobra.
During a fantastic group interview on set when the production was filming in New Orleans, Johnson talked about how he got involved in G.I. Joe, why he wanted to play Roadblock, the WWE, his weapons, working with director Jon M. Chu, the Fast and Furious franchise, interacting with his fans on social media, and so much more. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
Dwayne Johnson: Great. It’s a great character. It’s a lot of fun. The character’s a lot of fun. You start to understand the mythology of the character, how he fits into the G.I. Joe world, so it’s been a lot of fun. And this version of Roadblock, where it’s a bit more “boots to the ground,” badass.
Boots to asses? That’s what you Tweet every day.
Johnson: [laughs] I was gonna drop that.
Does he still have his flair for cooking and all that?
Johnson: He does! We’ve made sure to pay homage to all the important details that made him interesting in the world of G.I. Joe and then adding some more layers of that, too. I love that fact that he loved poetry and he could rhyme like Jay-Z. How’d you know that?
The sizzle reel, it was great.
Johnson: Was it cool? I haven’t seen it.
Johnson: I love that. Those are all fun, cool layers to him. And then you add the element that he could rip somebody’s fucking face off. That’s fun.
So this is part of the new SAG rule that you get to be in every franchise, right?
Johnson: It is, yes. We just made it, it is a rule. I okay’d it, great rule.
Training wise, you were pretty thick in Fast Five. What’d you do this time around? You look a lot leaner.
Johnson: I leaned out for this quite a bit. The training changed, but still intense and still a variety of different workouts that we did. But I wanted to lean out for this. At the same time, preparing for Wrestlemania which is along Part 2. So it all worked out.
Are you going to accept John Cena’s olive branch?
Johnson: Is that what you call it? [laughs] I can’t say yet.
How does it feel to be getting back into all that after years away doing films? Are you ready to get thrown around again in the ring?
Johnson: There’s nothing like that. I’ve always missed that part about the WWE, which was the interaction with the fans and the physicality. On set, we can put together great action sequences, great fight sequences, but at the end of the day, I can’t take the other actor and plant him through the ground. I can do that in the WWE and there’s nothing like the live crowd interaction that that provides to me. So to be able to get back on that platform and to be able to do both, and to go back and create special matches and special events for the fans, like at Madison Square Garden and like at Sun Life Stadium for Wrestlemania, that’s special.
So what’s going on in the scene here right now? You’re chasing Firefly?
Johnson: Mmhmm, chasing Firefly. This is the lead in to really a massive action sequence, a third act action sequence. Coming up here…Ripsaw, the fastest tank in the world. Beats a ‘vette out of the blocks. It’s crazy. You can actually see it on YouTube. It’s unbelievably fast. So anyway, that leads into an incredible boat chase sequence and then leads into a big final fight at the end. It’s a really long extensive sequence that you guys are seeing and this is the beginning of it.
Can you talk a bit about how you got involved with this project? Was it something you went after when you heard they were making another one? Did you go after it or did it come after you?
Johnson: Shit comes to me! [laughs] No, Paramount and Lorenzo [di Bonaventura] had come to me with the idea about joining the franchise. The pitch they had I thought was great. The first movie was really successful. I think this version of it…after sitting down with him and Adam Goodman, who’s the president over at Paramount, seeing their vision and what they wanted to do with this and how they wanted to make this movie was really appealing.
It seems like your career has had a nice balance between family-friendly stuff and action-heavy stuff. This is the marriage of both. It’s a toy line but a serious take on it.
Johnson: Mmhmm, I agree. [laughs]
How is it lugging around that .50 caliber gun?
Johnson: It’s great. That thing, it’s a beast. Let me show you guys. Should I pick it up? Oh, they won’t let us. I’ll show you the rounds it fires. Yeah, I get to fire this. The cool thing about that gun is it’s never been seen before on film, held, hand-held. Until I come along.
When you had that meeting at Paramount, did they come at you with this particular character or give you a list of characters you could play?
Johnson: There were a couple of characters. This one, in particular, made sense. Not only did this one make sense, but there was a lot of latitude and leeway to, again, pay homage to the qualities that made up Roadblock, but also being able to add to that to make it even more interesting and make it fit me more.
Who on set are you most excited to be going head-to-head with, as far as physicality? Is there anybody that can take you on like Vin Diesel?
Johnson: You think Vin took me on? [laughs] The great part about this role is there is a slew of bad guys who we have these great action sequences with at the beginning of the movie. Firefly is great, Ray Stevenson. I’m most excited, not necessarily to go toe-to-toe with them, because there is no toe-to-toe with them, but to join Bruce Willis. We’ve been buddies for some time and to be able to come together like this in this type of role…do these guys know what Bruce is to the movie? Joe Colton? Okay.
Jon [Chu] was telling us about the preparation process where you go in front of a camera and you do a lot of improv. Can you tell us about your experience with that?
Johnson: That was a dynamite process that he had. With all the directors I’ve worked with, they all have their own great processes, which you guys know; you’ve met them over the years. He would essentially shoot a documentary and he approached it like he’s shooting a documentary. He came to the G.I. Joes and he wanted to know all about the G.I. Joes, specifically Roadblock. We did that for about two or three days. I thought it was incredibly helpful and it was really cool and I appreciated that.
Would you let him put it on the DVD eventually?
Johnson: Yeah, sure. I thought it was great. And we got into it, too. With D.J. [Cotrona], I don’t know if we shared it with you. We got into some heated moments and Jon just let the camera roll and we got into it.
Fast Five, huge, monstrous hit. Obviously they’re working on Fast Six, Fast Seven. Have you been talking to Justin [Lin] and are you coming back for those two?
Johnson: I’m coming back for the one. I know we’re trying to make Fast Seven if it works, sure. Yeah, there’s unfinished business. [laughs]
You had discussed with Neal Moritz about maybe spinning off the character. Is that still on?
Johnson: Did I discuss that with Neal or did you discuss that with Neal? [laughs]
You told me, actually, in an interview. Did you guys continue that conversation?
Johnson: That’s always an ongoing conversation, because it’s really such a cool character. Cool and it’s fun in that franchise, to introduce him. That conversation is always an ongoing conversation. That’s a great thing about working with Neal, too, who hustles to get his movies done and has a studio like Universal who ushered me into the business ten years ago. So there’s a relationship there. That conversation is always ongoing. But I think before going Fast…the story of Fast Six should be taken care of and fostered and making sure that’s good, because the bar was raised in Fast Five.
Johnson: Absolutely. We have a big show in Boston. The theme is “RAW’s Rock’d.” It’s November 14th and then that will lead us into Survivor Series for Madison Square Garden, which I’m so excited for that. Can’t wait.
We appreciated your tweeting of the photo of your first day on set. We’re all under embargo on here, so if you felt like reporting on visiting journalists, just throwing that out there. Nobody embargoes The Rock.
Johnson: That’s cool, we can do a picture. Hell yeah. That picture, it was funny, we’re out in the desert, we’re shooting, it’s the first week. The sun was going down and we had wrapped. I told my guy who handles logistics, I said, “Take a picture of this. It’s kinda cool.” I got up on the dune and I saw it and it was fucking beautiful. Well, there’s G.I. Joe. [laughs]
Can you talk about how that technology has changed your interaction with the fans? You embrace it, you seem to enjoy it.
Johnson: I really enjoy it, yeah. I enjoy it because I do it and that’s important. Even though I have a great social media manager and a great company who can create these ideas, it’s me, fingers to the keys. I think that’s important, that connection is important. But yeah, I enjoy it. And I’m fairly new to it, too. I started it in February. It took a while to understand, I think, the power of it utilized in the right way, especially when it comes to motivating people and inspiring them and making them laugh, too.
I think we’re at a different age in terms of how people feel like they have accessibility to actors or stars or musicians. You also have a direct feedback that didn’t exist 10 years ago.
Johnson: Right, which, in that sense, it’s great, because you can always have your finger on the pulse of what fans and audiences like and what they don’t like. I embrace it and I understand its importance and its power to me and my fans.
How did you know an hour before it was announced that Bin Laden was dead? Didn’t you tweet that? Did you personally pull the trigger?
Johnson: You don’t worry about that, all right? I just knew. [laughs] Yeah, it became a huge deal. We tried to do our best to quell it. We were getting calls from the New York Times and everybody was calling, wondering. I got some good friends.
From that incident, did you say to yourself, “I need to really think about what I’m tweeting now.” Did it change anything?
Johnson: No, I didn’t second guess it at that time, because there were individuals out there who knew, obviously. It was out there. I had just been fortunate enough to have people there when it went down. And I was excited and proud. In hindsight, I would have called the President and said, “Is it cool if I tweet this before your press conference?” [laughs]
With all this talk of franchise, if [Sylvester] Stallone called you about Expendables 3, would you want jump into something like that?
Johnson: It all depends. Yeah, sure. I like Sly. He’s been a buddy for some time. That continues to grow, too and I’m excited about that and I know a lot of guys are. I love the first one and I’m excited about the second one. Sure, if he needs somebody to hunt somebody down, he knows where I’m at.
Johnson: Any set that I’m on impresses me, cuz I’m on it. [laughs] It’s cool because it’s a massive facility that they have. Production had never gone in there to shoot. We were the first ones. There’s a lot of incredible history in there. It was great to go there and shoot and hopefully we didn’t fuck it up too much for the next production that might come in. “Rock was here.”
Was there a particular set that they built there that you got to fight in or that you really enjoyed?
Johnson: Good question. We’re actually going back, I think. I believe a lot of the first act is going to be shot there, which we haven’t shot yet. A lot of opening stuff. I know that they have shot there and I shot there, too, but there hasn’t been massive action sequences. That’s coming up. Our Helo was built in there and that was kind of cool. The Jay-Z speech was done in there.
G.I. Joe: Retribution opens March 29th. For more from my set visit:
- 25 Things to Know About G.I. JOE: RETRIBUTION from our Set Visit; Plus Video Blog Recap
- Director Jon M. Chu Talks Directing Action, Being a G.I. JOE Fan, Getting to Know the Cast, the Soundtrack and Possible PSAs on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
- Lorenzo di Bonaventura Talks Differences from the First Film, Walking the Line Between Reboot and Sequel, & More on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
- Byung-hun Lee Talks Training, Storm Shadow vs Snake Eyes, Weapons, Movies in Hollywood vs Korea and His Action Figure on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
- Ray Park Talks His New Costume and Weapons, Fight Sequences with Storm Shadow and Working with Elodie Yung on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
- D.J. Cotrona Talks Playing Flint, His Relationships with Lady Jaye, Duke and Snake Eyes, and George Miller’s JUSTICE LEAGUE on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
- Elodie Yung Talks Her Costume, Working with RZA as the Blind Master, Her Action Sequences and Director Jon M. Chu on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION