Spoilers for Rampage follow below.
While Dwayne Johnson’s Rampage opened atop the box office last weekend, the Warner Bros. film at one point almost lost its marquee star. The video game adaptation marked a reunion between Johnson and his San Andreas director Brad Peyton, with Johnson filling the role of a primatologist whose friend George, an albino gorilla, is exposed to a pathogen that mutates him and two other beasts—a wolf and a crocodile—into gigantic monsters.
As the film progresses mayhem is unleashed on the U.S., destruction ensues, and it’s up to Dwayne Johnson and his giant gorilla to save the day. But Johnson nearly quit the film when it was offered to him because of its conclusion. In a Rolling Stone profile (via /Film), Johnson reveals that in the original Rampage ending George died, and he was having none of it:
“So the script comes in, and I’m reading it. And at the end of it – George dies! I’m like, ‘No. Did I miss something? George can’t be dead.’ But I go back, and yeah.”
Johnson then went on to explain why he didn’t like the ending::
“I don’t like a sad ending. Life brings that shit – I don’t want it in my movies. When the credits roll, I want to feel great…We had a big meeting where they gave me all the reasons they thought George should die. He sacrifices himself saving the world. Killing these animals who had ill intentions to harm mankind. He sacrifices himself like a brave soldier. OK. But this is a movie! There’s a crocodile the size of a football stadium – we’re not making Saving Private Ryan.”
The actor elaborates on how happy endings are a key part of the films he makes, and the relationships he has with his fans:
“My problem is I have a relationship with an audience around the world. For years I’ve built a trust with them that they’re gonna come to my movies and feel good. So every once in a while, you have to drop this card, which is: You’re gonna have to find another actor. We need to figure something out, otherwise I’m not gonna do the movie.”
This is incredibly fascinating insight into the “Dwayne Johnson Brand,” for lack of a better word (which was the topic of discussion on the most recent episode of The Collider.com Podcast). In an era where movie stars have been replaced by franchises and known IP, Johnson has keenly established a brand in which he himself is the IP—people come to Dwayne Johnson movies to see Dwayne Johnson. It doesn’t always work out, as evidenced by Baywatch, but in addition to solid hits like Central Intelligence you get something like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which becomes a worldwide phenomenon.
This isn’t to say Johnson would turn down a Steven Spielberg movie just because it has a sad ending—as his career progresses he might start moving into more dramatic, darker territory. But for now, Johnson is focused on making audiences happy, and a happy ending is an integral part of every project he chooses. So, uh, spoiler alert for Skyscraper I guess—he saves the day.