While "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" director Jon Chu and its producer, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, make it clear that this sequel is technically not a reboot, that didn't stop star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson from calling it a reboot. And if you've ever had the opportunity to stand next to the 6' 4" tall The Rock for a few minutes, I can tell you now from experience, you find yourself slightly compelled to just take his word for it. I had the chance to talk to Johnson for a few minutes at the American International Toy Fair on Monday about his role as Roadblock in the G.I. Joe sequel -- and Roadblock's newfound relation to Arashikage. If we could have only been a fly on the wall when the adolescent Rock sent his G.I. Joe figures on a date with Princess Leia...
(Yes, warning, this is a very nerdy interview with The Rock.)
OK, you're a couple of years older than me, and I remember in 2nd grade really getting into G.I. Joe when the action figure line was released. So, were you into G.I. Joe in 4th grade? Or was that not cool in 4th grade?
Yeah, that was cool. I thought it was cool. Look, I was playing with G.I. Joe when I was 21 and I still made that bitch cool [laughs]. No, it was cool. When I was a kid, I loved G.I. Joe.
Other than "Star Wars," it was my thing.
I was just going to say, me too! "Star Wars" and G.I. Joe. Completely different worlds, but still a fun world to live vicariously through. I mean, my top figures were Boba Fett, the G.I. Joes, and Han Solo.
Did Boba Fett ever visit the Joe camp to cause havoc?
They all intermingled. The all turned on each other.
That's going to be my headline, "Boba Fett may be in the new G.I. Joe movie."
[Laughs] Boba Fett visits G.I. Joe! My G.I. Joes dated Princess Leia. And Chewbacca and Cobra hung out.
So, you're playing Roadblock, or -- as he's also known -- Marvin Hinton, which is his real name...
No, we like "Roadblock."
Noted. Well, for being that popular of a character, I'm surprised he was still available and was not used in the first film.
It almost aligned perfectly that way. And there were a few actors in the first one who could have played Roadblock. A popular character -- the glue of the G.I. Joes. But I'm sure, creatively, Lorenzo and the studio had their reasons for leaving it alone. I mean, they have a knack for thinking well ahead for multiple movies. And I'm glad he wasn't touched. They sent me over a list of possible G.I. Joe characters...
Who else was on the list?
No one interesting, by the way. I mean, Roadblock was the first one and, after that, it became secondary characters.
Like, "How about Blowtorch? You'll have to wear a fire mask the whole time, but it will be great."
It was.. I can't even remember, but it was, "Roadblock, wow. Hell yes." And, at that time, I was just coming off of "Fast Five" and I had a very specific look. And I looked at Roadblock and said, "That's me. I'm going to bring him to life."
When this first came up, was there any part of you that was like, "The first movie did well, but not everyone really liked it. I want to know where you're going with this before I sign on for it"?
One hundred percent. Sure. That was big deal for us. That was one of the key elements that we wanted to tackle at first. But it wasn't like I had to pull teeth. The studio was well aware of the first movie's success. But it was also well aware of the room that they had to improve it.
Because there's people like me complaining about the first one.
And the studio felt that. And they were sensitive to that because it's such a big franchise. And it's an important franchise. And it's a beloved franchise. So when the studio came to me with the idea about starring in the movie, they quickly followed that up with, "Here are our ideas of rebooting it: More real, more rooted, more boots-to-the-ground, and a bit darker." So, after sitting down with the studios and the producers -- and Jon Chu, that's very important -- a lot of the variables made it easy for me to say yes.
Did you see the first movie?
You know, I didn't see the first movie, either. I refused to see it.
That's probably for the best. Look, there are some fun moments, but it's not G.I. Joe or the right tone.
And I just didn't want that in my head. You know? I didn't want the tone in my head, I didn't want the look, I didn't want anything. So we are rebooting from scratch.
Roadblock in the Larry Hama comic book is a lot different than Roadblock in the cartoon who rhymed everything. Did you ever say, "I'm not doing this if I'm rhyming the entire movie."
[Laughs] Well, there was no conversation that he should be rhyming the entire movie. But what was important was to pay homage to the character -- in terms of his look, in terms of his culinary skills...
Yes, he is a chef...
And in terms for his love and passion for poetry -- but not necessarily rhyming. It's my interpretation that he loved poetry. Look, we opened up the Super Bowl spot with him quoting Jay-Z -- and that's Roadblock's interpretation of wonderful poetry. So there are a lot of components that we paid homage to. He was not rhyming for the entire movie. Nor does he give body massages...
I don't think so.
It was a cartoon or something like that?
[Laughs] He showed up and gave body massages. I think what happened -- I think a couple of fanboys made a joke cartoon. But they put it together and it looked great.
Oh, yeah, and they dubbed new dialogue.
Yeah, with a new voice. It's funny.
I think people are excited that you are in this movie. But people are also excited that it looks like G.I. Joe; Cobra Commander looks like Cobra Commander.
Sure. And that was important. You have a group of people that come together who want to pay homage across the board to the characters and the story -- and especially looks, by the way. You'll notice that with Snake Eyes.
Yes, the lips are gone.
And you'll notice that with Cobra Commander. And you'll notice that with G.I. Joe's gear: military fatigues. We brought in Navy SEALs that served and protected our country. We went through our camps with those guys, so it has that feeling. And I think that's going to be an awesome balance of boots-to-the-ground and boots-to-ass, hyper-military presence. With the fundamental tool of bad-ass magic of the ninjas.
I like that you have a G.I. Joe action figure, but it's as Roadblock. Not "The Rock." Like when Sgt. Slaughter became a G.I. Joe and they sold his action figure. So when he wasn't wrestling he fought with elite soldiers? It never made sense...
With you it would have been, "When I'm not making 'Fast Five,' I fight terrorists." I'm glad we avoided that. Are you happy with your action figure?
I love how the action figure turned out. One of the exciting things about this movie was creating this character. So we have Roadblock in his fatigues carrying the "Ma Deuce." Now, what we can do is that we can elevate that? How do we elevate that but still keep it at its core. He has a multitude of weapons that he uses. From blades to handguns...
Last thing, I noticed the Roadblock action figure has the Arashikage tattoo that Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow have. So Roadblock is a member now?
One of the cool things is our backstory -- and we cover this in the film -- that Roadblock trains with Snake Eyes and the Arashikage. So, he has that ability, which has yet to be seen -- but we will see it.
I have to mention that my colleague, Eric, spoke to you for "Journey 2" last week. He asked you the Bin Laden Twitter question.
Oh, yeah. That was great.
That was a great answer, by the way.
What did I say? Didn't I threaten to cut Eric's head off?
Yes, you did threaten to cut his head off.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter