Dwayne Johnson Interview – GET SMART

     June 16, 2008




What’s great about posting an interview with Dwayne Johnson is…you all know who he is. I don’t have to explain his history in the WWF, or how he’s transitioned himself into being a family film leading man, or that he agreed to play the third lead in Get Smart to showcase his comedic skills. Most of you know that already…


But for the few that don’t…opening this Friday is “Get Smart.” The film is an action comedy that stars Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway as his partner – Agent 99. As you can probably tell by the name, the movie is based on the show from the 60’s. In the movie, the headquarters of Control (the agency where Steve and Anne work) has been attacked, so it’s up to the newly promoted Maxwell Smart to figure out who is responsible and stop the evil group KAOS from completing their goal of world domination. Needless to say, comedy and action scenes ensue.



So to help promote the film, I recently participated in interviews (it wasn’t just me) with a number of the cast. The one below is with Dwayne Johnson.



During our time with Dwayne we discussed making “Get Smart,” his future projects, what he looks for in a movie and a lot more. If you’re a fan…you’re going to definitely like this interview.



As usual, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. And one last thing…if you want to watch some clips from “Get Smart,” click here.



“Get Smart” opens this Friday at theaters everywhere.




Question: Hi Dwayne. So, for Get Smart, you’re the successful secret agent here. So to get into your mindset for this, did you think of James Bond.



Dwayne Johnson: A little bit. I thought of James Bond. I also thought, well, here’s a guy, a pretty successful guy at what he does and yet he has a dark side. For me, it was just, my process for all my movies is to just get really close with the director and just make sure we’re on the same page, we share the same vision for the movie, the same tone. And you know, it was a character I was excited to play. And physically too. When I first started thinking about the character, how all our characters came together, the thought of Steve Carell and myself just side by side is just funny, and it made me laugh from the get go. And then it was funny on the page and I thought well, we had a pretty good shot of making a good movie. Or a funny movie.



Q: What was it like kissing Steve Carell?



Dwayne Johnson: It was like, you ever have warm apple pie with cold ice cream too, and you find that balance where you’re oh, uhhh [laughter]. Um. Hey, you know, it was great, it was great. Not too many men can say that, have a nice big lip lock with Steve Carell. It was great. The length I go, the committed actor. Jack Gylenhall did it, Will Smith did it, I thought it was my turn to kiss a man.



Dwayne, I know you’re a big fan of self-deprecating humor, so this was obviously a chance to do that, with bumping into the wall and kissing Steve. How did you approach scenes like that and is that something you get to do in the Witch Mountain movie also?



Dwayne Johnson: Approaching scenes like that, well, I love self-deprecating comedy, it’s my favorite kind of comedy, and I think that if there’s ways that we can do that and inject that in some of these movies, like those two scenes you mentioned, that’s great. Um, in the Witch Mountain movie, sure, there’s a lot of self-deprecating comedy as well, and I think if I can find, strike a balance between finding some arrogance with the characters, regardless of whether he’s successful or doesn’t have much, like in Witch Mountain, a cab driver in Las Vegas, but still try to find a balance of a guy who has a little bit of arrogance yet it’s not offensive, and he’s a little endearing and he can be funny–I always try and find that balance where we can.



Hi, Dwayne. Talk about shooting that final fight scene on the railroad tracks with the truck and how much of that was you and Steve and how much of it–



Dwayne Johnson: Well, it was all me and it was Steve’s double. You know, that was, again, the length I go as an actor. Some guys just don’t want to commit themselves, but, no, that was a lot of fun to do, and I think with a movie like this, everybody was so excited to come together and actually do the action. And Steve, you know, those guys are committed actors. Steve and Anne Hathaway, and they did a lot of their own stunts. I think they might have done most of their own stunts. And it was great to do. You get a director who really wants to put together some great action, we had a great stunt coordinator too, as well, and then I think when you have all those elements coming together, and again, you know, I talked earlier about everybody sharing the same vision for the movie, just in terms of the action I think is important too, cuz there are some great action movies out there that have raised the bar, and I always talk about them. From the Bond movies, the last Bond movie to the Bourne series, was tremendous. And especially the summer, this is a pretty good summer with some pretty good, high quality action stuff, so you want to make some action sequences that compete.



If you could talk specifically about that fight scene, what you had to do. I know you do so much of your own stunts, was there any–



Dwayne Johnson: I do all my own stunts. I’m kidding.



Was there any point where it was too much–maybe just take us through it.



Dwayne Johnson: Um…no, because I felt very safe and comfortable in the environment with all the, with the stunt coordinator and his team of people around us, making sure everything was safe. But you know, that was really, that was a great stunt, and if you’re into stunts and physicality like that as an actor, you look for days like that. We’re on a railroad track and we were going 50, 60 miles an hour. We were harnessed into the SUV, and you know, having our fight scene as the car’s going that fast, not only is it challenging, but again I think the key with that is to make sure that the actors feel safe and comfortable. And with the stunt coordinator we had and his team, everybody felt very safe and again we were harnessed in, buckled, we really weren’t going anywhere, and then you lay out the fight scene and you rehearse it a little while and you get on that camera car and go.



There still is a logistical challenge of a different kind when you’re fighting in a confined space, isn’t there?



Dwayne Johnson: Sure. Well the challenge is you’re on a moving vehicle, number one. Are you talking about on top of it? Well sure, the vehicle is moving at a really high speed, so you want to be careful, and at the same time, you just want to make sure the action is rooted in reality and everything you play, you want to make sure that it’s played in a realistic way, and at some point too, you always want to find the balance of making people smile and making them laugh as well.



Did you have a chance to either meet or speak with Buck Henry and/or Mel Brooks? And also, did you watch the TV show, probably in syndication since you’re so young, but did you watch the show when you were a kid?



Dwayne Johnson: I watched the show when I was a kid and I was a big fan of the show. I did not get to meet those gentlemen; I would have loved to have met them too as well. I just watched Young Frankenstein the other day, too. Werewolf! Uh, and yeah, so I was a big fan of the original, but I didn’t get a chance to meet those guys and when they first approached me with the idea about–when they first said they were going to remake Get Smart and make it into a movie, you know I think immediately our reactions are, and the natural understanding reaction is like oh, uh, here we go, you’re messing with something that’s great. You’ve got to be careful. But the material was great, all the elements came together, it was a director who I wanted to work with for some time, I really enjoyed Pete’s work in the past, and Carell, of course, I love. And Anne Hathaway came on and the Alan Arkin signed on, which was wonderful, so it kind of all fell together.



Can you talk a little about the idea or have you ever thought of Dwayne Johnson, secret agent? And what kind of secret agent do you think you’d make? And I have a follow up.



Dwayne Johnson: Uh oh. Uh, what kind of agent do I think I’d–



A secret agent. Could you keep it secret?



Dwayne Johnson: Oh, I can keep many secrets, so I would be a phenomenal secret agent. I love secrets. Um–



But would it be a secret? Wouldn’t everybody know you?



Dwayne Johnson: That’s a great point. I would have to go incognito I think. What was the follow up?



What are you working on now?



Dwayne Johnson: I’ve got about four weeks left on Race to Witch Mountain and we’re shooting in Vegas and then after that I’ll be out for about a month or so and then I’ll do a big comedy called Tooth Fairy, which I’m excited about.



Are you in this next film going to continue on your path to really challenge yourself so that people will see you in a way they haven’t seen you before? We’ve been talking to you for so long and watched you plot this course and actually do it really successfully. We see people do it and then they pull back because they get like freaked out. You haven’t done that, you’ve continued to move forward and go well, whatever, I’m doing it. Is that going to be the case with Witch Mountain and the one after?



Dwayne Johnson: Sure. I think I understand–you’re talking about growing? Yeah, well that’s always the goal. And especially for me, too, because when I first started acting in movies, I think it was in 2000, I didn’t have, my background wasn’t in theater and my parents weren’t movie executives so I didn’t have that connection. But I thought I did have pretty good instincts and I loved the entertainment world and I loved performing in the world that I came from, just in terms of television. That world allowed me, I think that benefited me greatly. Just that type of four hours of television every week was my theater. I was able to perform in front of large audiences, 20, 30,000 people at a time, really a guerilla style of shooting that we’d do, and so you know, the goal is to always grow and the goal too is to always have a really large degree of movies that go from genre to genre to genre. And I love the idea of having the ability to go from action to drama to comedy, back to action comedy or back to drama, and hopefully find a little bit of success in all of these movies and you know, I think about actors who I really admire who have done, who have had that type of career that I really aspire to have, like your Tom Hanks and your Will Smith and George Clooney, these guys who you know, have a really wide foundation of work that they do. And you guys know those guys anyway. So you know, I love the idea of having that ability, and you step up to home plate and you don’t always hit a home run, sometimes you do, sometimes you fail. But the goal for me is to be that type of actor and to continue to grow and entertain. You know, with a movie like Witch Mountain, again, it’s with Disney and I love that and I love the elements we’re able to combine, a contemporary action movie, take some of my grittiness and intensity of the past, that I’ve done in my action movies, and combine them with elements that frankly that I really love and appreciate, like family and heart and humor and touch of fantasy. I love that. And the Tooth Fairy, of course, is going to be all new, different experience, which is going to be great. And then after that, there are a couple of dramas too, by the way, that we’re developing, so, maybe that’s the case.



Is Tooth Fairy Disney too?



Dwayne Johnson: No, Tooth Fairy is going to be Fox.



Can you talk a little bit about Witch Mountain and who you play, and then also what’s your costume like for Tooth Fairy?



Dwayne Johnson: Um–



Are you the Tooth Fairy?



Dwayne Johnson: Absolutely. I am the tooth fairy. Um, what’s my costume like in Witch Mountain?



No, what’s your costume like in Tooth Fairy?



Dwayne Johnson: Oh, you’re like forget the Witch Mountain question, tell us about the tooth fairy.



Tell us a little bit more about Witch Mountain, how did they rework it–?



Dwayne Johnson: Well, it’s set now, it’s a contemporary action comedy, family adventure, too, you could also call it. And we set it in Vegas and I’m a cab driver in Vegas, and of course the two kids with the powers, they get in my cab and then the race is on. And we really treated the movie like a Disney ride, so from the moment you get on, the ride begins, it happens just like that. And hence the title, Race to Witch Mountain. We played around with a couple of titles, we wanted that title, it was very fitting for the movie and there’s really a relentless drive with the movie. And it happens right away, just in terms of the race, and for me, I love the idea of a guy who has, doesn’t have much now, but he’s made a lot of mistakes along the way, and he gets the opportunity to make a decision that is a very defining decision that happens to allow him to save the world.



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Could you talk a little bit about what you thought the coolest thing in the series was, if you had a favorite episode?



Dwayne Johnson: The coolest thing about the Get Smart series? The coolest thing for me about the Get Smart series was always the, was always the comedy, and what I mean by that was always just the self-deprecating comedy, I love that. Because even with the iconic character that Don Adams created, there was still a great sense of, assuredness to him, and he was a little bit arrogant in his way and of course it was always self-deprecating also, but of course he would always get the job done too, he was very proficient as well.



Wasn’t he really dumb?



Dwayne Johnson: See, I never thought he was dumb, that was the thing. My interpretation wasn’t that he was dumb, no. I thought that he was bumbling at time, you know, but he would still get the job done.



Were you attracted to Agent 99?



Dwayne Johnson: Who wasn’t? Yeah, sure. Either of them. Well, because I know Annie now personally, I think Annie’s great. She’s beautiful and intelligent and you know, she can kick ass too, so, it’s what I like in a woman.



Dwayne, can I ask you about working with Steve Carell, and were you a fan of his from the Office, and were any of the scenes hard to do, did you ad lib? And were they hard to do because you were laughing?



Dwayne Johnson: You know, it’s funny, I honestly, I never got Steve Carell’s comedy, and it was just one of those things where–only kidding. They’re like oh really? No. I love Steve Carell. Of course, I was a really big fan of the show and I was a big fan of the original show too, with Gervais. But Steve was great to work with, and you know the great thing is, we were all funny in our way, and merging all of us together on the set and in this movie was great, we all learned from each other, and all the dynamics really meshed well. And you guys know this because you cover a lot of movies, but a lot of times when you get a lot of actors with different personalities they don’t always mesh that well, but I think everything meshed really well and we just had a great time. You know, between Steve Carell and Alan Arkin–especially Alan Arkin–they are Titans to me, and they were great to be around and great to learn from. It’s like being around your favorite professor or your favorite family member who’s just–your grandfather, who’s telling you great stories. That’s what those guys were. And you know, Alan in particular–Steve was as well–but Alan in particular, just very gracious with his, not only with his comedy but just very gracious with his time. Especially with me because it was like sit down, let me ask you questions. Really, jeez, more questions. I was like yes. He’s great though.



You said that it’s you and the director, that’s how you get the job done here. Was there an equivalent to the director in your wrestling days? And now all these years later, how did you actually make the crossover? Who helped you?



Dwayne Johnson: Um, you know, yeah, there was one particular guy who I’ve talked about. His name was Pat Patterson, who I modeled my character in Be Cool after him, very proud, gay man, very funny guy, and he’s like a father figure to me. So he was that guy where creatively we spent a lot of time together, and making sure that at the end of the day I understood the value of just wanting to simply entertain and taking ego out of it. And I think when you approach anything like that and you take your ego out of it, cuz ego is the great inhibitor a lot of times to success–you take your ego out of it and you go I just want to entertain, and what’s the best thing for the audience. How can I make the audience laugh, how can I make them angry or upset, and take them through, really, a myriad of emotions. So between him, and I also worked with a great writer, too, who I consistently challenged. You know, in that world–the great thing about that world, and this is where it really benefited me, the great thing about that world was just in terms of being creative in the writing, what was important to me was to always find humor in that world, because at that time there really wasn’t a lot of humor in that world of heightened conflict, over the top conflict. So I just wanted to find humor. So in challenging him, what was great was we got to a point where I would say to him there’s really nothing you can write that it think we can’t make work. You know, I always think that’s a great place to be. It’s a rare place to be, but in that world–somebody’s take recorder stopped–but in that world, that was a great place to be. So that’s why, I would write just so much and then in front of 20, 30,000 people, there’s an acumen that you have to have because it keeps you on your toes. If something, if the joke is phenomenal and it goes through the roof and 30,000 people love it, then you know immediately. If it bombs and it completely stinks up the place and you need to get out of there immediately, then you know that immediately too. How did I make the transition–I just thought that, you know, making the transition was number one, surrounding myself with good actors, even in my first role as Scorpion King we had Michael Clark Duncan, we had Grant Hesloff, who’s a great writer now too, as well, Bernard Hill–we had some great actors, and help, and a studio I think, that supported me, and a good director, too, that’s going to help me, and through that, I think that–as long as, I had to be fully prepared, as prepared as I possibly could be. It’s not that I was going to deliver an Oscar worthy performance, I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but as long as I could be prepared and give the best performance I could give, then I had a shot at it being decent.



Who was the TV writer you were talking about?



Dwayne Johnson: His name was Brian Gwartz, he was from MTV, and he still writes a lot of my stuff today, and he’s just great, great and edgy, and we’re always trying to find that balance, you know?



I was just going to say that when you started with the Scorpion King, you were this behemoth, and you seem to have downsized over the years and this is obviously intentional.



Dwayne Johnson: Sure.



Was it because as an actor for versatility sake–



Dwayne Johnson: Well sure.



–you just can’t be this huge guy, you’re limited to one type of part?



Dwayne Johnson: I think so. And I think, you know, there was just no need for me to carry all that weight, and a lot of that weight was from football. I played football for ten years. I played football for 10 years and I wrestled for an additional five, and you know, a lot of that weight was still there. And then once I got out of that, and started to change my training around depending on the role, then eventually I just lost weight and kind of trimmed down a little bit.



Can you give us an update on Shazzam? Might it actually be happening?



Dwayne Johnson: Yeah, I think so. Whenever you talk to Pete Segal, ask him, because I’ve been bothering him every month, what’s happening with it? But on both ends, there’s just so much going on. But I think they continue to write and rewrite that script. I would love to. I would love to play Black Adam.



So you don’t have any update as to–



Dwayne Johnson: No, I wish I did. I don’t. That’s why I said, if you talk to him, ask him, he probably has a better update on it.



And you didn’t tell us your tooth fairy costume, are you in a–what is it?



Dwayne Johnson: I want you to envision me right now, what would be the most funniest thing you could possibly imagine?



I don’t know.



Dwayne Johnson: Think of it backwards, yes. So inappropriate.



What did he say?



Dwayne Johnson: Yeah, yeah. And I will give you this. The funny thing is, I have a really bad shoulder injury in it and one of the wings just grows–one of the wings is a beautiful wing and is a little, messed up one that doesn’t quite grow correctly, making me fly around sometimes and fly into things. But it’s really, really funny, we had some great writers on it. Randy Singer has written the last draft, it’s fantastic. The same producers of the Game Plan are onboard now, Michael Lembeck is going to direct, and you know, Fox, I’m happy to tell you, they get it, they understand, we’re going after heart and humor and again a little touch of fantasy which elements I like, and I’m excited about it. It’s going to be funny.



How much did the Game Plan end up making? I mean, that’s such a huge hit.



Dwayne Johnson: Yeah, we made a great deal of money, it was really, incredibly successful. We were happy. You know, it was a smaller movie that we made and just hoping it would find an audience. You know, we had great competition with The Kingdom and the following week with the Heartbreak Kid, but is was just one of those movies that found a…I think touched a chord with a lot of audiences.



Will there be a sequel?



Dwayne Johnson: Not with that. But we’ve got the same director, Andy Finkman, who of course is doing Witch Mountain, who understands that, I think that great unique sensibility of heart and family and again touch of fantasy and everything that that means, and humor too as well.




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