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The Rock shakes up Journey 2
By JIM SLOTEK - Toronto Sun




HONOLULU -- Everyone who's seen the trailers for Journey 2: Mysterious Island knows that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has a move called "the Pec Pop of Love."

Here -- in the Oahu hometown where he spent his teen years getting repeatedly arrested -- a more centred, grown-up Johnson is happy to talk about using his body as a 3D special effect.

As a co-producer on the sequel to 2008's Journey To The Center Of The Earth, he decided the script "needed some work -- from the ground up. I was on an airplane and thinking about the fact that we had James Cameron's most advanced 3D technology post-Avatar. We're the first movie out of the gate with it.

"So I'm on this plane with our other producer (Beau Flynn) and I said, 'What if I did something to make my pecs pop in 3D? But there should be another level to it.'

"He was eating nuts in the plane, and he said, 'I got it! We throw nuts at your pecs, and they bounce off -- boom! -- right at the audience.' "

Did he test out his theory on the plane?

"Well, no. That would have been weird," Johnson says, chuckling.

The ex-WWE superstar is easily the biggest mat-to-movies breakout star pro wrestling has ever produced. And his self-deprecating humour and apparently complete lack of self-consciousness has a lot to do with the seamlessness of the transition.

This is the seven-time WWE champ who starred in The Tooth Fairy in a tutu, who dressed as Miley Cyrus for a sketch at the Kids Choice Awards, crooned an Elvis impression in The Game Plan and played a gay Samoan bodyguard opposite John Travolta in Be Cool. In Journey 2: Mysterious Island, when he's not popping nuts off his pecs, he favours us with a ukulele rendition of What A Wonderful World (dedicated to the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole).

"The audience needs fun moments," Johnson says. "There's enough tension in this movie. I mean, c'mon, the island is sinking. So it was my idea to sing.

"I love music and grew up in a musical family," says Johnson, whose father is retired Canadian wrestler Rocky Johnson and whose mother, Ata, is Samoan.

"In the Polynesian culture, people love ukulele, they love to sing and they love to dance. Reaching back to that was a fun part of creating this character from scratch. "

Journey 2 -- which is "inspired by" Jules Verne's Mysterious Island in the same way Journey 1 was by Verne's Journey To The Center Of The Earth - sees Johnson step into the role of stepdad to 17-year-old Sean (Josh Hutcherson).

(The first movie's adult lead, Brendan Fraser, was apparently passed over because he'd gained weight for another movie).


Journey 2 stars, from left, Josh Hutcherson, Luis Guzman, Vanessa Hudgens and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
As the movie opens, Sean is being chased on his motorcycle by police, after he'd hacked a communications satellite to locate his missing grandfather (Michael Caine) on, yes, a mysterious island. Taking the delinquent under his wing, stepdad Hank joins him on his South Pacific quest, taking on a guide (Luis Guzman) and his daughter (Vanessa Hudgens). Giant bees, lizards, and 50,000-volt electric eels are on the menu.

The shoe fit for Johnson, whose favourite charities are devoted to troubled youth. The day before our talk, Johnson had visited Honolulu's McKinley High, his school during the time he was piling up a juvenile record for petty thefts and fighting.

"It was a bit of a stir, but it's all hometown love," he says. "I visited unannounced. I wanted to go to where the football field was, and the weight room, where I spent so much time and started to understand the value of discipline.

"Word spread quickly, all the students started to gather around. And I had a quick word with them afterward. I told the kids that after all these years it's amazing to come back and the weight room still looks like s---. But I told everybody to keep up the great work and keep chasing their greatness.

"Later I passed by places where I was arrested, and it became my reflective moment. I was very fortunate to have great parents. And I also had a couple of coaches at that time who believed in my potential, even when I didn't."

He saw the parallels in the script for Journey 2. "There was potential in our relationship (in the movie) to show the importance of having a father figure in someone's life.

"A father figure who could still be funny and entertaining for our movie's sake," he adds with a chuckle.

RELATED LINKS

  • Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson bio and story archive
  • The SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database
  • Journey 2: Mysterious Island website
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  • Order oodles and oodles of Rock merchandise