With Dwayne Johnson’s Faster opening November 24, we’ve partnered with a bunch of other online sites for Faster The Chronicles. The seven chapter series features exclusive interviews with the stars and filmmakers of Faster, and each one offers a clue to winning The Ultimate Guy’s Getaway trip for two to Las Vegas, which includes roundtrip airfare, hotel accommodations (2 nights) and $1000 in FAST cash. If you’d like to enter, head over to the official Faster Facebook page.
Since we’ve been covering Faster extensively over the past few months (click here to read our coverage), you know this is Johnson’s return to kicking ass and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve said many times that while I understand why Johnson made those family films, I’ve always thought he should be one of the biggest action stars on the planet.
Anyway, for the final chapter of Faster The Chronicles, we landed an exclusive interview with Johnson. During our 45 minute phone interview, Johnson talked to us about making Faster, who he plays in Fast Five and what the movie is about (he was filming in Atlanta when we spoke), how he got involved in The Other Guys, his thoughts on 3D, would he be interested in The Expendables 2, and, of course, I asked about Peter Berg and will we ever get a Rundown 2. Hit the jump to check it out:
Before going any further….a few things. First, while I was only scheduled to talk with Johnson for 15 minutes, he talked to me for over 45 minutes. Trust me, this is not the norm. At all. While you always hear about the people that are tough to work with, I want to take a moment to thank Johnson for being one of the best. He really is one of the nicest people I’ve ever interviewed in Hollywood.
And regarding the interview, while I like to pull interesting quotes, since this interview covered so many things…it would be impossible to try and summarize it here in the intro. All I can say is, Johnson talks about everything he’s been involved with over the past year and if you’re a fan, you’re going to really enjoy reading what he had to say.
Finally, for more on Faster The Chronicles, here’s Chapter 6 on IGN (Moon Bloodgood) and Chapter 1 on ComingSoon (screenwriters Joe and Tony Gayton) and here’s the interview I did with Johnson on the set of Faster. Johnson also recorded a short video intro for the interview:
Note: This interview was done a month ago. That’s why I didn’t work in any Journey to the Center of the Earth 2 questions.
Collider: I think if I’m not mistaken you might be busy shooting a movie right now.
Dwayne Johnson: [laughs] Just a little bit but it’s all good, man. How you doing? Are you in L.A.?
Yeah. I literally got back from Brazil yesterday.
Johnson: Oh, great. How was it?
Brazil is a very, very interesting country.
Johnson: Yeah. [laughs] Were you down there on a film set or were you down there vacationing?
I was visiting my partners who run the website Omelete.
Johnson: I see. Is it a place you think you’ll go back to or no? Is one time enough?
I was there a few years ago. I’ll definitely go back. They have the world cup in a few years.
Johnson: Ah, ok. Got it.
Actually, are you guys heading down there soon?
Johnson: Down to Brazil?
Well, maybe you’re not. I don’t know. I thought you’re movie might be.
Johnson: No. You know, we were going to shoot down there on location but with the tax benefits that Puerto Rico ended up coming in and giving us, we couldn’t pass that up. I think with the immensity of what the exteriors were going to be with the big favela chases were I’m chasing Vin through the streets and I have a very big military vehicle. It’s a 10 ton gurkha. It just wasn’t feasible to get all that into Brazil. So we were down in Puerto Rico for about a month and half and we shot everything there. So Puerto Rico will play for Rio.
There we go.
Johnson: They tried, though. They went down there and they scouted and spent money but there was just no way to work it out.
Johnson: Ok. Sure. Yeah. I remember that day.
So the first thing is, you were fantastic in The Other Guys, which is obviously not about Faster, but I wanted to throw that out there because I haven’t had the chance to talk to you about it since the film came out. You and Samuel L. Jackson had great chemistry and it was just really funny stuff. Can you talk a little bit about working on that project?
Johnson: Sure. Thank you for that. Sam and I had talked about doing something together for years now and the opportunity came up. We thought we could come on, have some fun, and tear up New York City in the process. I had a lot of fun with Sam and really enjoyed working with that guy. He’s a great partner in every sense of the word, both on and off screen to act with and to have fun with. I’ve always been a big fan of Adam McKay’s movies and always wanted to work with Adam and this came along and I thought it would be a fun little opportunity. In terms of Will, I had worked with Will twice. The first two times I hosted Saturday Night Live, Will was a cast member there and we always had a great time in the skits. Again, it was another one of those guys that we always thought “Wow. We’ll like to do something together”. So, you know, the opportunity came along and I read it, loved it, and wanted to do it.
What’s funny is you can’t really talk too much about your character in that film without revealing the big joke.
Johnson: [laughs] When I was reading it, it was funny because I knew we weren’t going to be in it for too long but I didn’t quite know. I didn’t want to be told like how we actually got out of the story, but when I read it I loved it. It’s a great big fun moment and a great big fun absurd moment.
Have you seen the film with an audience?
Johnson: I haven’t seen it with an audience. I saw it with a smaller group, but no. How was it?
It gets a very, very, very big laugh.
Johnson: [laughs] That’s awesome. That’s great.
Jumping into Faster, obviously the project is a return for you to kicking ass and doing action movies. When we were on set, you mentioned how this was going to be the beginning of going back to the action path. Is that still the predominant goal for you right now?
Johnson: Well, the goal was to get back into a space where I can be physical and where the tone of it could be “I want to grab you by the fucking throat.” If I got back into the space I wanted it to have that type of intensity. We did Faster, which of course you were on set with, and I’m doing Fast and Furious and developing some other projects now. I was just waiting for the right time to get back into the space. We might have talked about this together on set, but I was just waiting for the right time to come back into this space and have it done right. When I got back into the action genre I wanted it to be right. In my interpretation of right is to go in, be physical, be dominant, and hopefully create characters that could be pretty memorable.
When you look back on filming Faster, what is the one thing that you take away from that shoot?
Johnson: I would say, for me, getting up and going to work was a thrill because it was the thrill of hunting a bad man down. In this case, I was hunting multiple men down. So “the hunt” if you will and all of the individuals I was hunting down. Those moments will stand out because there was a different interaction with every single one. So that stands out to me. The car chase sequences were a lot of fun and they stood out. The interaction with Billy Bob Thornton and myself and Oliver Jackson. I would have to say that and all of the things I just said. Also, I think from an actor’s perspective talking with director George Tillman every morning about the character and about the story. He’s a very detailed director who I loved working with. Characters are important to him. Nuances are important to him, even working within the backdrop of Faster. So, I got to tell you, everyday was a blast.
One of the things that I took away from being there was that it felt like a 70s kind of vibe. Have you seen the final film? Does it still reflect that mentality and that tone?
Johnson: Absolutely. That’s great memory. Yes. That was important. That was important to George Tillman. That was important to all of us. To make a movie that had the tone and had that feel and that texture to it. You know, frankly, it was those movies of the 70s that inspired us, inspired the writers, and inspired the performances. So that was important to us to keep that and after seeing it I can say that we did a pretty good job of accomplishing that and I can’t wait for you to see it. When do you see it by the way?
I actually don’t have that information yet but I’m sure that it will be soon as the movie comes out in November.
Johnson: Yeah. Absolutely. I’m pretty sure you’ll see it.
I’m sure you’re familiar with Twitter.
So I asked the people who follow me on Twitter this morning if they had any questions for you and I got a few.
Johnson: Oh, great. Ok.
The first thing is, a lot of people asked if you were asked to do The Expendables 2, would you be interested?
Johnson: [laughs] It all depends on the material. I’ve known Sly for a long time now and he’s a buddy of mine so it all depends on the material. By the way, I want to take a moment to congratulate him and all of the guys in the movie for kicking ass two weeks in a row. So, yeah, it all depends on the material.
Johnson: [laughs] I’m asked about that all the time. It was one of those movies that I think resonated with people. I think people love the story, people love the action, people love the balance and the infusion of comedy. People really enjoyed that character. I really enjoyed playing that character and I loved working Peter Berg. So I think that Hollywood and the movie making process, as you know, always comes in different waves and how movies are made and what types of movies are made. So maybe there will be a second coming of that movie one day down the line. I would love to do it, though.
Is it to the point where so many people are asking you about it that it’s almost like you just want to pick up the phone and say to Peter, “dude, I’m asked about this everyday.”
Johnson: Well, I know that he’s asked about it everyday too because every time we get to together we talk about it. Generally within the first ten minutes of our conversation is “Do you know how many people ask me about making The Rundown again with you?” and I’m like “Yeah, man. I get it asked all the time.” So, you know, who knows? As with everything, it always comes down to story and if Universal would be willing to take that and relight that fire and Pete can come on board, we can see what kind of story we can create. If it’s interesting, intriguing, cool, and entertaining then I’m sure there will be a lot of hands being raised saying “Hey, let’s try to make this for a great price and entertain the fans.”
Director Edgar Wright has a new favorite tagline and he told me to mention it to you. He said to ask you if slow justice is no justice.
Johnson: Slow justice is indeed no justice, my brother. And believe me, you want to be on this side of my gun. [laughs]
Twitter user named “Unclemax” wanted to know that he’s heard that you’re a very nice guy. Don’t you realize you can crush your enemies so that you don’t have to be so nice?
Johnson: You know, I heard a long time ago that it’s nice to be important but it’s even more important to be nice. I grew up in a world where there were a lot of big physical guys…and woman [laughs] so it’s always important to be nice to me.
Actually, breaking the interview for a second, you are one of the nicest people I’ve interviewed in Hollywood. Do you get that from people where people say that to you? You’re extremely grounded and just a super nice person.
Johnson: I appreciate that, buddy. Thank you. Yeah. You know, I get that all the time and what a compliment. Thank you. I got to tell you, it’s easy. Not only do I think being nice and kind easy but being kind, in my opinion, is important. It’s easy to be a bad ass, it’s easy to act like a bad ass, easy to act like a tough guy, it’s easy to be a diva, and it’s easy to be self absorbed. I think in this business, and you know this, you and me together have come across many that are self important and self absorbed. They think their tough. The list goes on and on but to me, I always just find it more important to be nice and kind.
I definitely agree. I think it also goes over well. You look at the actors in town who maybe don’t have a great relationship with the press or aren’t that nice and their careers will sometimes sputter out.
Johnson: Yeah. Sure. Exactly. I think eventually, like all of us, our reputations precedes us. For me, personally, life is too short. If I know someone is not nice, not kind, an asshole – I generally don’t want to work with them.
I don’t blame you for that. I definitely want to ask you, you’re an executive producer on Racing Dreams. So how did you get involved with it?
Johnson: We came in financially. We came in on the financial end to give a little bit of support and I saw a version of the documentary and I was so blown away with what director Marshall Curry had put together. I was so intrigued and fascinated by these kids that Marshall was showcasing and following. Their drive and their quest to be great at something at that age really resonated with me. My partner and I decided to get involved and we were very moved by the story and very proud of it too.
I noticed on the “always accurate” IMDb that the project is also listed as a future project. So are you sort of thinking about remaking this as a Hollywood narrative?
Johnson: Well, DreamWorks had optioned the movie rights. I know those guys over there and they have been great. Those guys love the story as well. We all collectively feel that there’s a really intriguing movie in there to be made that I think would resonate with audiences all around the world. Even though it focuses around race car driving, it also focuses around family and an individual’s desire to succeed and to be great. In this case what I think makes it intriguing is that these individuals are twelve, thirteen, fourteen year old kids which I think is pretty incredible. So, yeah, the guys over at DreamWorks have picked it up for a movie option and whenever they crack the story.
I don’t think there are many films that aim at that sort of demographic. You know, the twelve to fifteen year olds. The stuff like The Goonies when I was growing up.
Johnson: Right and, you know, kids who want to do well who aren’t entrenched in the latest fashion, the latest style, the latest blackberry device, iPhone, or anything like that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I think when you talk about kids who are trying to find a great balance of doing something and being good something in life – I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase that. I agree with you. There’s not a lot of stories out there like that so when this came along, I loved it. I had the chance to meet and spend time with the real kids from the documentary and their families and they’re all wonderfully supportive families for what their kids want to do. Those teenage kids are special because they’re getting after it. At that age, they’re getting up, going to school, and they’re really getting after it.
I saw the documentary at ShowWest and thought it was great.
Johnson: Yeah. Wasn’t it cool? I had a chance to meet them and their families and it’s really impressive. I think in this day and age, and you know this because I’m sure you come across a lot of entertainers and lot of people in the business, there’s a lot of young adults out there where it’s important to them to be famous and not necessarily be good at anything. So you see young adults like these young adults that you saw in the documentary. Is it important for them to be famous? Well being famous comes along with what they want to do and what they want to do is be great at racecar driving. I was really impressed with it. I’m glad you saw and dug it.
I actually couldn’t agree more with what you just said – the amount of people that just want to be famous to just be famous. I could not agree more. I definitely want to ask you, how did you get involved with Fast Five? Was it a hard sell or was it something that you really wanted to do?
Johnson: There were a couple of variables that attracted me to it. The first variable was to get back in business with Universal. It’s a studio that I started my career with. They were the first studio to believe in me when I was making the transition ten years ago into acting and helping me create opportunities in The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King, and The Rundown with Peter Berg. I wanted to get back and do business with them. Then the goal was to create a character that could hopefully be interesting and intriguing to people. I wanted to take that character and pit him against Vin Diesel’s character who, within that franchise, has a beloved following and is a beloved antihero. The notion of me working with Vin on screen was always interesting to me, but not as partners. I thought it was important for us to go at it. That’s what I wanted to see. So the script came in and I thought the introduction of my new character was really good when I first read it. Then I spoke with Vin and I spoke with the executives on the movie. I spoke with the director Justin Lin, who I really like. So the variables were there, we created it, it all felt good, and that’s when I jumped in.
I saw some set photos that were taken in Puerto Rico. You’re a large individual, but you looked really large in this movie. Like you had really muscled up a little bit. Is it sort of like when you’re going up against Vin Diesel you’re hitting the gym a little more or is that you wanted your character looking intense on screen?
Johnson: A little bit. This guy is a hunter and he’s the best at what he does. He hunts down bad men and brings them in dead or alive. It’s what he does. There are a lot of individuals out there who I know, and you may or may not have met them, who work for certain sectors of the government where they have economy, freedom, and they are bad ass individuals. I wanted this character to have all those elements. I wanted that at the sight of him, if the individuals who he was hunting saw him, they would know that he has the ability to rip their fucking throats out and rip their face off. [laughs]
I like that a lot.
Johnson: [laughs] Good. To your point, by the way, I think in terms of the intrigue of seeing both of us on screen together – Yeah. I trained my ass off for this role. Got up every morning at 4’oclock in the morning and jacked iron for about an hour and half to two hours. Which, by the way, continues. When you talk to producer Neal Moritz, he’ll tell you. That is how I start my day. By getting up, training, and really getting after it because you have two guys who are considered to be physical guys. There are not a lot of times that an opportunity like this will come around. You had guys in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. All these actors, whether they were considered action stars or not, they were considered physical and powerful guys. There are not a lot of opportunities to see those guys on screen together. We saw it in Heat with Pacino and DeNiro. While I love that movie. I think that was the last time….
To interrupt you for one second, Pacino and DeNiro did Righteous Kill but that is not a Heat.
Johnson: Yes. That’s right. That is not a Heat. We are at ages where we can be physical and being physically dominant is important. So, anyway, to bring it back to what you said – Yeah. I worked my ass off for this because I knew that we got one shot at creating something cool and bad ass when me and Vin go at it. It’s a great opportunity and I was going to grab it by the balls and be dominant.
I saw some photos of Vin and he looked like he got himself together for this thing too. Is it sort of like you guys were having a friendly sort of chess match about who can make their arms the biggest?
Johnson: I’m not quite too sure about that. [laughs]. I had my process. He has is.
I’m joking around by the way.
Johnson: Yeah. Of course. But we were well aware of the opportunity of what this is. You would be a fool to not take advantage of it. This goes back into my days of playing football or my days of wrestling. It always comes down to prep and preparing. It’s an advantage when it comes to physical activity where you spend 95 percent of your time preparing for the moment and when the moment comes, it’s 5 percent. That’ comes in your game. That comes in your matches. Whatever it is. So in this case, it’s preparing for months and months for whether it’s a big fight scene or a big chase sequence. This is a part I love just in terms of prepping and being ready.
As a fan, I’m really excited to see you guys. I’m excited to see you in the franchise and to see you guys going at it. I actually think that your addition to the cast really makes this film a lot more interesting.
Johnson: Thank you, man. Chris Morgan, who wrote it, wrote a great script and a great character. The goal when I first came on was to steer the movie in a smart and compelling way. I’ve been very happy with everything that we’ve been shooting.
A lot of people are wondering where in the time line the movie takes place.
Johnson: Yeah. It happens in real time. It happens after the last one.
That’s what I was thinking but there were a lot of people thinking that it takes place earlier.
Johnson: I think maybe they thought it takes place earlier because a lot of the popular folks from the past movies are back in this one. So maybe that is what lead to the confusion. Unless if I’m missing something, which I don’t believe I am, we pick it up from the end of the last movie.
Could you talk a little bit more about the character you play?
Johnson: Sure. He’s a DSS federal agent, but a very unique federal marshal. When the government needs to track someone down, they call him. I have a group of men who I work closely with for years who all specialize in very specific arms and tactical training and we hunt bad men down. [laughs] And we have a lot of fun in the process of doing it. Again, I go back to the vehicle. It’s a massive vehicle and a great juxtaposition to everything that you see within the movie. Just in terms of the fast cars they have. This is an assault vehicle that we loaded off the cargo plane when we landed in Rio. So, anyways, the character is that. He’s the government’s version of the best bounty hunter on the planet. I got to tell you, I loved every moment of playing this character.
I definitely have to ask you, when you are in a Fast and Furious movie do you get to drive your own personal car in it and did you have a vote on what you get to drive?
Johnson: Well, they had presented to me the notion of “what would this man drive?” and we went through a couple of variations of vehicles and then landed on this gurkha. This military vehicle. It’s like double the size of a hummer and weighs ten tons. It’s a pretty impressive vehicle. In terms of driving my personal car, I drive a Ford pickup truck with big tires on it so I’m not too sure how that would fit in this franchise.
Bringing this all back to Faster, is it sort of now in your contract that you have to be in a movie with cool cars?
Johnson: [laughs] It’s not in the contract that I have to have cool cars in the movie, but having cool cars in a movie is a nice added element. I’ve driven some pretty cool cars in movies but I got to tell you man, I love driving the cool cars, but there is nothing like driving a pickup truck.
Another one of your projects is called Protection and I wanted to know if there has been any movement on that one.
Johnson: Yeah. We are developing a way. Richard Wenk is writing it. He’s come on it and has a great take on it. Richard, you may or may not know, wrote the latest Mechanic for Simon West. He also wrote 16 Blocks with Bruce Willis. He’s got a take on the movie and a great tame on this project. Simon is a great guy and I can’t wait to work with him. I’m excited about that project. So we are developing a way.
Do you know what you are doing next? Is that the goal for your next project or are you taking a break after Fast Five? Do you know what you are doing in the immediate future?
Johnson: To give you an idea about of what I’m doing, I got about three projects right now that I’m going to choose from and as they continue to develop rapidly I’ll probably within the next week or two pull the trigger and decide what I’m going to do next. There are a couple of variables that come with that like how ready the script is, how ready the studio is, and the opportunity we can create in just the business we can do and how big of an audience we can entertain. There are a lot of variables that go on under that. I’ll say within a week or so I’ll know exactly what I’m doing and we’ll go from there.
If you don’t mind me asking, you’re sort of playing in the PG-13 realm right now. Maybe Faster is R. (editor’s note: Faster is rated R)
Johnson: I believe we are going to get an R with that. From what I know with all the testing that we’ve done, and the tests have been very successful, but from what I know that is going to be a rated R movie.
I’m curious, are you willing and do you want to step into the hard R realm? Or you sort of just stepping over the line? What do you feel comfortable with right now with your career?
Johnson: That’s a great question. What I feel comfortable with is good material that we can elevate. Bottom line. Whether that is hard R, PG-13, great action, great comedy, intense action that makes it a hard R, or a family adventure. Whatever it is. As long as the material is good and we can elevate. There are no restrictions when I look at material like “It can’t be rated R. It can’t be hard R” I’ve done a couple of rated R movies. I think Southland Tales was rated R. I believe Doom was rated R and I believe Faster is going to be rated R. So no restrictions at all. Just good material that we can make a bit better.
What do you feel about the 3D revolution right now?
Johnson: I’m glad you asked that. I love the 3D revolution. I love the technology today that continues to push the envelope, continues break the new ground, and continues to raise the bar. I think the platform of 3D is going to be infused in multiple movies across the board more and more. I think we are seeing that and in some movies it feels like it works very well in that platform and in some not so much at this time. But I do believe that there’s going to be a time where all movies are going to be made in 3D and it’s just going to be a given, and that is going to be an exciting time.
Do you envision any of your immediate stuff that you are thinking about now possibly going 3D?
Johnson: There’s a few things that we are developing for the platform of 3D. I’m excited about it. Especially when you see movies that make the 3D platform come alive in terms of colors and sequences specifically written with the 3D in mind and to entertain the audiences in that way. I think James Cameron came along and really trail blazed with what he did. He really inspired a lot of studios, filmmakers, and actors to be better when they jump into the 3D realm. To try and elevate and make a great movie for the 3D platform.
My last question for you, what is like when you are filming in Atlanta? It’s not exactly celebrity central so what is like when you’re staying there and going to local coffee shops. Can you talk about being on location and interacting with regular folks outside of L.A.?
Johnson: Sure. You know, when I go on location I keep things pretty lean and mean. I have a very small team that travels with me. When I say lean and mean I mean we start at four, we go train, we got to the set, we take care of business. Afterwards, it’s Southern Comfort and dead cow. [laughs] Then we start all over again the next day. But being on location and shooting, whether its in Puerto Rico or Atlanta, it always reminds me of how really cool my job can be. Interacting with the fans is one of the best parts of it. I love it. We had a great time in Puerto Rico and we are having a great time in Atlanta. You know, Atlanta is a very special place for me too because I used to live in Atlanta years ago when I was a kid back when my dad was wrestling here. When I was wrestling we came here and we had a lot of kick ass shows in the arena here and at the Georgia dome. So there are a lot of great memories. I love Atlanta.