Earlier this year I got to visit the set of Dwayne Johnson’s Faster while the production was shooting here in Los Angeles. Since most of you have seen the green and red band trailers and read my set report, you know Faster is Johnson’s return to action and I couldn’t be happier. While I understand it’s good for Johnson’s career to expand his audience and that’s why he made family movies like The Game Plan and Race to Witch Mountain, I’ve always felt he should be one of the biggest action stars on the planet. Hopefully Faster will be a big hit and Johnson will stay in the action genre for awhile.
Anyway, while on set, a few of us got to participate in an interview with Johnson in between takes. He talked to us about what they were filming that day, working with the rest of the cast, the cars he drives and his gun (which is a .454 Casull nicknamed the Bear Stopper), director George Tillman Jr., and a lot more. As always, you can either read or listen to what Johnson had to say after the jump:
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get the interview with Johnson. You can either read the transcript below or click here to listen to the interview. Faster opens November 24 and it also stars Carla Gugino, Billy Bob Thornton, Maggie Grace, Jennifer Carpenter, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Moon Bloodgood, and Tom Berenger.
Finally, I’ll have more interviews for Faster soon so check back for those.
Dwayne Johnson: Yeah, exactly. Sure, absolutely. I’ve done a couple movies, in the past, where it fit for the character. But, if we have to cover it, it takes about an hour or so.
A lot of people are excited about you getting into the action genre. What was it about this project that got you back into this kind of film?
Dwayne: The script spoke to me, right from the beginning. It came across my desk about a year and a half ago, maybe a little bit more. I read it, I loved it and I loved the character. I’m excited to get back into this genre. Getting back into the action genre is like going back home. It’s great. I loved the script. I loved that the characters were well-written, against a simple back drop and simple storyline. It’s about, “You took something from me, and now you’re going to pay.”
Can you explain the scene we saw today?
Dwayne: Prior to this scene, the second individual who I track down and kill is an older guy, who is a pedophile. I wind up killing him and, through the gun fire and all the noise that you heard, the little girl that you saw today just comes out.
So, there are four people that you go after, and this was the second?
Dwayne: Yes. The next one will be a bouncer at a strip club, and the last will be an Evangelist.
What would you say your ratio is, of words spoken to bullets fired?
Dwayne: Good question! Words spoken to bullets fired is 1 to 25.
Does your character have a lot of backstory in the beginning, or does it just start with you in prison?
Dwayne: Correct. It starts with me in prison, and the backstory will start to unfold, as the movie goes on. You’ll start to see it when we start doing flashbacks. You will start to understand why the Driver has become who he has become.
You get to wear jeans and a t-shirt while the Killer wears custom made suits. Is part of the pleasure of it that it’s Blue Collar Driver vs. White Collar Killer?
Dwayne: You have these really fantastically written characters. In the case of the Driver, there’s no sophistication at all. Basically, the story is about two brothers, and one of those brothers is ripped away from me. The brothers love each other dearly. He’s the only thing I have in my life, but he’s ripped away and killed. I have to go away and serve about 10 years in prison and, when I get out, the four men who were responsible for that suffer the consequences of taking my brother away from me. Story wise, Oliver’s character is smartly written in. Without getting into too much detail, you can probably figure out how he comes to be and how the match-up comes to happen.
What was it like to work with Tom Berenger as the warden?
Dwayne: It was a pleasure. I’ve been such a fan of his, for a long, long time now. I found out that he wanted to play the warden, loved it and we shot that scene in about half a day. It was great. That’s the very first time that we see the Driver with the warden and he’s quoting the prophet and saying, “I want you to get help. Do you have any questions?” And, my answer is, “Yeah, sure, where’s the exit?” Working with Tom was great. Not only is he a great talent, he’s a great storyteller too. He’s had stories for 15 or 20 years, or longer, in the business and outside of the business. It was a treat for all of us to sit around and talk shop. It was guys being guys.
Since you went to driving school to learn various maneuvers, do you actually get to use anything that you learned in the film?
Dwayne: Sure, yeah, in a big way. There are a lot of shots that we’re setting up, that we’re getting ready to do, in a couple weeks from now. I’m going 80 or 90 mph, doing 45’s on a dime, doing 180’s, doing reverse 180’s. We’ll do all of that. It was important for me to learn as much as I can, in the limited time we had, in order to not cut away and have the audience know that it’s me in the car. That was really cool. We had a stunt driving specialist, who’s responsible for teaching a lot of actors how to drive in these big car chase sequences. I spent the day with him and his guys, and it was a lot of fun. My character is pretty proficient at driving and behind the wheel.
What’s tougher to handle, a Chevelle SS or Billy Bob Thornton?
Dwayne: It all depends on what day you get Billy Bob. He’s such an interesting, intriguing guy. He’s very talented and he’s very passionate about what he does, especially when he locks into a role that he really loves. He read the script, loved it, sat down with George Tillman and Bob Teitel and they met for an entire day on the script. This was a character that spoke to him. His character has a lot of layers of complexity. He plays a cop. I’ve been a fan of Billy Bob for a long, long time. We both have an infinity for traditional old school, outlaw country music. If I wasn’t in Hawaii, then I was all throughout the South, living in Nashville, Memphis, Atlanta, Charlotte and Tampa, so my country roots were pretty strong, ever since I was 5 years old. We had that to talk about. And, he’s another great storyteller. He’s a talented guy, who’s very intriguing and very passionate about his acting and, certainly, about his music. He’s a cool guy. He’s really, really cool.
Why is your character in jail and why has your brother been killed?
Dwayne: We were involved in a robbery and the robbery went awry.
You were committing the robbery?
Dwayne: That’s right. Yeah, we were. We weren’t being robbed. They’d be pretty foolish people to try to rob us. So, the guys who we were involved with turned on us, and they execute my brother and shoot me in the back of the head, but I live. Through that, we get busted and that’s why I have to go away, but the guys wind up getting away. Now, 10 years later, they have families. One is a telemarketer, one is a bouncer, one is a pedophile and one is an Evangelist.
So, the scar on the back of your head and on the one on your cheek is from being shot?
Dwayne: Correct. I was shot in the back of the head, and it exited out my cheek. There’s a metal plate in my head now.
Dwayne: The money is of no concern to me, whatsoever. I started out with nothing. In terms of the character, my brother was the only thing I had. My only interest and my only thought is to make the individuals pay. I really loved my brother dearly. You’ll see, as the story starts to unfold in the movie, that the money is of no interest, at all.
How is George Tillman as a director, and how does he compare to some of the other directors you’ve worked with?
Dwayne: George is great. He’s a very smart, passionate director, but we often hear those words about directors. George is very studious. As an actor, you can have your own backstory and prepare all the details that you need to know for your character. George is one who will give you pages and pages and pages of notes and backstory as well. The one thing that I find really satisfying about working with George Tillman is getting into specific details about character and spending hours talking about it. When you’re in sync with the director, on the type of movie you want to make, the arc of the characters, how the characters intertwine and interact, plotlines and story, and things like that, it really makes a difference. George is one of those guys who comes from a very articulate, studious background. He cares about his material. Oftentimes, in movies, the art always reflects the artist, but his filmography is pretty diverse, to writing and directing Soul Food to Men of Honor, and then to Notorious and some of the other various projects that he’s produced as well. I love working with the guy. He’s got a producing partner, Bob Teitel. I’ve really enjoyed the process. If I can work with those guys again, I certainly will.
In that scene you were shooting today, do you see the Killer or do you hear him?
Dwayne: What happens is that, peripherally, I see the girl come out, which gets my attention. Once I see her come out, just for a moment, I look up and I clock the Killer. The only reason why he doesn’t shoot me is because the girl is in the way. She’s in his eye line. I’m closer to her, and I start to advance on him and push her out of the way.
So, his character has some morals then? He doesn’t just go kill innocents?
Dwayne: No, not at all. He’s specifically after me, for a specific reason. It’s a great plot point, which will unfold in the movie.
Dwayne: There is, yeah, sure. There are a lot of layers to all of the characters. That’s why it was really so well-written. The writers referenced Bullet and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. When those guys write, they write ‘70s style, especially with the main character having one main, driven focus. It doesn’t get over-intellectualized. It doesn’t get too complicated. While the characters can be complicated and well-layered, the main point of the story is very straight-forward.
Did you have a lot of say in the car that you had in this film? Are you a fan of certain muscle cars?
Dwayne: The Chevelle, for sure. But, I’ve always been a pick-up truck guy. I drove a pick-up here, to the lot. A whole bunch of my buddies were always into muscle cars. But, when they presented me with this particular Chevelle, they gave me the background on it and told me why it was a muscle car and why it was cool. They also put Nitrogen boosters and things like that in it, where I’m able to go up against a Ferrari, and I think there’s a Porsche in the movie as well. As long as the car was fast and bad-ass and you gave me that big gun that I have, that’s all that I needed.
How is it to shoot that gun?
Dwayne: It’s awesome. It’s a Ruger Super Redhawk: Alaskan. It’s one of the biggest revolvers made. That thing is huge.
What caliber is it?
Dwayne: It’s a .454 Casull. It’s big. It’s nicknamed Bear Stopper. A lot of hunters take it when they go hunt big game because they’re able to pull it out quickly, if big game attacks them, instead of using their rifle. You could stop a bear, if you put that bullet right in the skull. It does a lot of damage.
You’re reunited in this with Carla Gugino. Do you have much screen time together?
Dwayne: Not at all, no. Unfortunately, no. She, along with Billy Bob, tracks me, but we don’t have a lot of time together. But, she’s nailing her stuff. She’s such a great actress. She does very well in this role, in this space, where she’s pro-active, smart, taking care of business and kicking ass where she has to. She doesn’t play weak well, at all, because it’s not in her DNA. So, I was thrilled when she was able to step in and do the movie.
Is this the beginning of you doing more action films? Have you already lined up what you’re doing after this?
Dwayne: Yeah, I’m going to hang out in this space for a little while and do movies that are a bit more dramatic, intense and physical. There are some things that we’re developing.
Q: Given that only so much of an action movie can be on the page, what do you look for? What makes you say, “This is an action movie that I want to do”?
Dwayne: If I like it. That’s obviously a broad answer, but the truth is that, if I like it, if I think the character is going to be fun, if I think the story is good and if it appeals to me, then I want to do it. Hopefully, it appeals to an audience out there, too. It’s tough to nail. I don’t specifically look for A, B and C. I just look for characters that are fun and that I’m going to have fun playing. By the way, that’s whether it’s drama, sci-fi, action, comedy, family movies or action-comedy. I just always want to have fun doing it. That’s the bottom line.
Now that Spy Hunter is getting started up again, are you still involved with that?
Dwayne: No. I was at one time, and that was exciting because I had been such a fan of the video game, for a long time. It was me and John Woo, for a minute. It would have been fun, though.
Are you still looking to play the Hawaiian king, King Kamehameha?
Dwayne: We’re developing that now, yeah. That’s very exciting. It’s a true story. King Kamehameha was the ruler of Hawaii, and it’s almost like shades of Braveheart with him. He was responsible for uniting all the islands of Hawaii. It’s an amazing story.
What will it take to get you and Peter Berg in a room to make The Rundown 2 happen?
Dwayne: I love Peter. He’s my buddy. I love Peter. I would love to do that. We essentially started our careers at the same time, around 2000 or 2001. He had that great movie, Very Bad Things. That was fantastic. I had just done The Scorpion King. And then, we went apart after The Rundown. I wanted to work in other genres and become a better actor. He wanted to work in other genres and become a better director. So, coming back and working with Peter Berg would be awesome. I would love to, whether it’s The Rundown, or whether it’s anything else. We’re constantly looking for something to do together.