Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stands at a unique position in pop culture. Over the next four months, he’s set to star in four huge movies (“Snitch,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “Pain and Gain,” and “Fast & Furious 6″). That would be impressive enough for any actor, but he’s also the reigning and defending WWE Champion. And on April 7, Johnson will take a break from non-stop press tours to compete at WrestleMania 29 at MetLife Stadium in the shadow of New York City, where a sold-out crowd of almost one hundred-thousand screaming fans will watch him battle John Cena in a heavily-anticipated rematch of their record-breaking first showdown.
But up first is “Snitch,” opening Friday, February 22. In the film, Johnson stars as the father of a teenager who inadvertently gets set up as a drug trafficker, and because of the country’s mandatory minimum laws, his son will be forced to serve a ten-year prison sentence. That’s unless he can hand over the drug dealers in a plea bargain. To save his son, Johnson’s character immerses himself in the world of drug cartels and sets up its most dangerous individuals (like Michael K. Williams, star of “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire”).
It’s a grittier, less action-based role than we’re used to seeing from “The Rock.” Moviefone spoke with the larger-than-life star about the state of drug laws in this country, gaining acceptance as an actor, and how he is trying to deliver something fresh in the squared circle.
What’s more intimidating: attempting a WWE comeback or having to act opposite Michael K. Williams?
(Laughs) They both pose their challenges. WWE is a space where I thrived and I loved, and I still do. I love connecting with an audience; that is the greatest thing about going back to WWE. Now acting opposite Michael, especially in this particular role, where he’s playing a heavy… he embodies his character from within, which we know from the past characters he’s played. Is it intimidating? No. Fires me up? F*ck yeah.
You’re surrounded by a great supporting cast in “Snitch,” does it still feel novel to be involved in these big productions, or do you now feel entrenched in the acting world on the level of someone like your co-star, Susan Sarandon?
We’re all in the acting business, and I’m lucky to participate in movies that are big, fun, global movies, but I’m also very fortunate to take part in a movie like this. It’s not a big-budget movie. Everyone involved in the project did it out of passion and were all really moved by this story. It never gets old, I love acting whether they’re big action movies or smaller dramas with action, like this.
“Snitch” isn’t afraid to make a political stand. What did you take away from the movie’s statements on the drug legislation in this country?
Change is a good thing. When you look at the minimum mandatory laws, especially first-time non-violent offenders, they get racked with ten years. That’s a tough pill to swallow. When these laws are put in place, they’re done for good reasons. They’re done to make an impact and be good for us as U.S. citizens. A lot of times, as it happens in life, we realize that we need to change. The movie sparks a lot of good dialogue. I do believe that change will happen. It won’t happen overnight, but it will eventually.
In “Snitch” you get to show off a dramatic side that I don’t think audiences have seen yet. As an actor, what’s the performance that you haven’t able to showcase yet, but you know you have in you?
That’s a good question. Playing big, heroic characters with heart is always a lot of fun. I enjoy making movies like that, and a lot of people love to live vicariously through those characters. In a role like this, vulnerability comes into play immediately. As an actor, you open yourself up emotionally and put a lot of trust in the hands of your director. I jumped at that opportunity. I also enjoyed playing someone who wasn’t necessarily considered “your hero” and in the face of adversity, doesn’t immediately stand up and save the day. He crumbles and tries to find his way.
The idea of wrestlers who transition into acting has been stigmatized in the past. Everyone views Hulk Hogan’s filmography with a little bit of cheesiness. But you broke the mold. What went differently for you?
I think what I did differently was in the approach. When I first broke into acting twelve or thirteen years ago, my approach was “I want to become a good actor.” I have an immense amount of respect for acting. I’ve always loved movies and was always fascinated by movie-making. But to become an actor, I wanted to commit myself. And to quote one of my favorite actors, Robert De Niro, “I just got lucky.”
The other big event you have on your plate is WrestleMania 29. There are dangers with doing sequels, so what are you doing to ensure that your rematch with John Cena doesn’t suffer from “sequelitis”?
We all have a plan. The idea of doing a “Rock vs. John Cena Part 2″ is intriguing and exciting to a lot of fans. And it’s intriguing and exciting to us too! So now the key is how do we execute the build-up? How do we present situations that are intriguing and entertaining to fans every week?
WrestleMania in New York at Giants Stadium is already sold out. It’s going to be the biggest of all time, it’s why I came back. To be honest, it was why I went back three years ago; this has been a very long strategic three-year plan with all of us involved, that’s going to culminate at WrestleMania. There is no greater opponent right now for me than John, and I look forward to it.
“Snitch” hits theaters Friday, February 22.