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The Rock sticks to The Game Plan
Tim Baines gets some answers from the former wrestling star
By TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun
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From football to wrestling to acting, Dwayne Johnson has always swung for the fences. His football career at the University of Miami included a national championship in 1991. After an injury sidelined the defensive tackle, Warren Sapp stepped in and took Johnson's job. All-star Ray Lewis was another teammate.

Johnson's dream of playing pro football still burned inside. So he came north, trying out with the Calgary Stampeders. He spent two months on the Stamps' practice squad in 1995. Soon, it was time to move on.

He followed in the footsteps of his father, Rocky (Soulman) Johnson and grandfather, Peter (The High Chief) Maivia, right into pro wrestling. Johnson became The Rock, the most electrifying performer in sports entertainment. He morphed into The Brahma Bull, The Great One, The People's Champion and quicker than Johnson could raise an eyebrow, the fans could smell what The Rock was cooking.

He was a multiple-time WWE champion, one of wrestling's all-time great performers, but craved a new challenge. TV appearances led to movies and The Rock was soon starring in flicks such as: The Scorpion King, The Mummy Returns, Be Cool, Walking Tall, The Rundown, Doom and The Gridiron Gang ... and next summer he'll appear as Agent 23 in a remake of Get Smart. Up next is a Disney film, The Game Plan, where he plays star QB Joe Kingman. The movie will be out in theatres Friday.

SUN MEDIA: There's a certain magic attached to Disney. What was your reaction when you were asked to do The Game Plan, a Disney movie?

JOHNSON: You talk about magic, I can attest to that. I can tell you that my six-year-old daughter has Disney on 24/7. The appeal is to a wide array of ethnicities and ages. I was thrilled to do The Game Plan. It wasn't a script, just an idea, when I was approached. I would play this ridiculously arrogant character. And I knew I could have a lot of fun with how he deals with the collision course he runs into with an eight-year-old girl who suddenly calls him Daddy.

SUN MEDIA: You ruptured your Achilles tendon. Talk about that.

JOHNSON: We were rehearsing and I was scrambling out of the pocket. I threw the ball, landed and snapped my Achilles tendon in half. It was re-attached and two months later we had to shoot around it.

SUN MEDIA: There are some ballet scenes in the movie.

JOHNSON: I realized just how difficult ballet is. You've got to be on your toes, literally, and you've got to have body control. It's a great thing to learn. And when else am I ever going to get a chance to wear a one-piece spandex outfit in green?

SUN MEDIA: Any regrets that your pro football career didn't work out?

QUICK HITS WITH THE ROCK
Q: Favourite athlete
A: Muhammad Ali
Q: Favourite team
A: 1985 Chicago Bears
Q: Favourite TV show
A: America's Most Wanted
Q: Favourite music
A: Sam Cooke and Willie Nelson
Q: Comedian who makes you laugh
A: Dane Cook
Q: Actress you'd like to work with
A: Megan Mullally
Q: Actor you admire
A: Denzel Washington
JOHNSON: No regrets. You can't live life with regrets. You swing for the fences. In college, Warren Sapp was better than me. He beat me out for a job. I spent a couple of months in Calgary. I was put on the practice roster and I was making $250 a week, living in a two-bedroom apartment with five other guys. My girlfriend (later his wife) was struggling back at home. My parents had no money. It wasn't a good time for me. I realized I was done with football. But I wouldn't change anything. It's that struggle that shapes you.

SUN MEDIA: Would the CFL be more popular in the U.S. if it got more exposure south of the border?

JOHNSON: If they showed the CFL in the NFL off-season, people would watch. Football is football.

SUN MEDIA: Your dad, Rocky, was born in Canada, correct?

JOHNSON: He was born in Halifax. He's been back a couple of times. I've still got plenty of family in Toronto. I always loved coming across the border ... Ottawa, Vancouver, certainly Toronto. I love Canada. Wrestlemania at SkyDome against Hulk Hogan was one of the great moments of my wrestling career. It was unbelievable.

SUN MEDIA: You once appeared on Martha Stewart Living in (1991). What did you cook?

JOHNSON: We made Valentine's Day cookies. (Martha) was great. She wanted workout tapes.

SUN MEDIA: What is it about your charisma that draws people to you?

JOHNSON: I'm not sure. I knew the medium of comedy. I always wanted to implement as much comedy as possible into my wrestling promos. I knew I could do TV, but I wasn't sure I could make the transition to the big screen. I think it just comes down to being so passionate about something. When you're prepared, it gives you the opportunity to smack a home run.

SUN MEDIA: Have you ever been star struck and froze when you met a celebrity?

JOHNSON: Clint Eastwood. He's my all-time favourite actor and director. You know how you get that dude love thing for another guy? I had to just stop and take a breath.

SUN MEDIA: Do athletes and performers have a responsibility -- and I'm thinking of Michael Vick here -- to stay on the right path?

JOHNSON: We all screw up. The general public will forgive screwups, but they won't forgive hypocrites or liars. You have to own up to your mistake. We have that great responsibility. We all have that.

RELATED LINKS

  • September 15, 2007: Classic Rock in a new role
  • More on The Rock
  • The SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database