Just as there is a Marvel Cinematic Universe, a DC Extended Universe (now Worlds of DC) and a hanging-on-for-life Dark Universe, I’ve always wondered: Is there secretly a Dwayne Johnson Universe unfolding before our very eyes, connecting The Rock’s movies across time and space?
After all, whether he’s taking on earthquakes, giant mutant animals or skyscrapers, Johnson’s characters all seem to share many of the same values and a lot of the actor’s signature persona. So, are they all connected?
We took the question to Hiram Garcia, president of production at Seven Bucks, Dwayne Johnson’s production company, and found out that Thanos has nothing on The Rock. Garcia confirmed “there very much is always a thread” connecting all of The Rock’s movies.
“It always comes down to family,” he said, slowly digging into what makes the possible Dwayne Johnson Universe (DJU) tick. “We always love to root our stories in family with that heart element. We believe in strong family values, and we think that just adds an element where the audience can be much more invested and care about the characters.”
“I think also it’s always about a guy who’s somehow getting better, even just a little bit,” he added. “If you look at the most extreme version, ‘Pain and Gain,’ even as that character, he got a little bit better somehow at the end. ... That’s something we do try to look for in our movies. There’s always a little bit of healing. There’s always a little bit of getting better, coupled with some kind of a family tie, something of heart.”
As far as an official DJU, the producer said, “That’s the thing, right? In our business, the ultimate goal is everyone wants to create a universe, so if we can somehow, if there’s a master plan happening right now that you just don’t know. But maybe in about 10 more years, we’re gonna have our version of an ‘Infinity War,’ a Dwayne Johnson War. Just say you heard it here first, and that we’re damn brilliant for doing it.”
The whole DJU family thread is clearly on display in his newest movie, “Skyscraper.” Johnson plays the former leader of an FBI hostage rescue team who becomes an amputee following an explosion. Despite that, he takes on a 240-story building of death that’s been set ablaze by terrorists in order to rescue his wife and kids.
That’s classic DJU right there.
This is very important: Are Dwayne Johnson and The Rock the same person?
I love the memes, and I always love the comments that Dwayne Johnson looks just like The Rock. There’s even belief that perhaps there’s actually two of them, and they work in tandem and that’s why they’re able to do so much. Who knows? That could be a possibility too. But I believe they are the same person. You just never know which guy he’s gonna be. Sometimes it’s The Rock, and sometimes it’s Dwayne Johnson.
Could he actually make that “Skyscraper” jump in real life?
You never want to bet against Dwayne Johnson. If he says he can do it, dammit, he’s gonna do it. Have you seen those legs?
In the movie, we hear a lot about some pandas being one of the attractions in the building, but we never really find out what happened to them. Are the pandas OK?
The pandas are OK. We always make sure no animals are injured in the filming of our movies, my friend. We are animal lovers, big time.
There’s a big moment where The Rock pulls a sword out of his pants and fights terrorists. Was the whole point of this movie to get Dwayne Johnson fighting people with a sword?
At the top of this movie, we wanted to approach Dwayne’s character as if he’s a samurai who put his sword down. He doesn’t feel like he’s the guy he used to be after that incident that happened at the top of the movie. He put his sword down, and he wanted to do things differently. He was no longer going to be that guy ― use weapons. Through the ordeal, he finds himself having to become that guy again, overcoming all these odds and obstacles and ultimately he has to pick that sword up again. That was a little bit of our symbolism for that scene. ... The cut of the movie is a little different than the original version.
What was the original?
The original version was very similar to that idea. He put that sword on the side where that prosthetic leg was, so when they were frisking him, they suspected there to be something hard there. So they never really did anything about it. And then you realize the sword’s there. But you gotta make these movies move, buddy, and sometimes you got to snip out some of those [little moments].
Why was it so important for The Rock to have a prosthetic leg?
To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think there’s ever been a big action summer blockbuster movie where the hero of the movie is an amputee, someone who’s suffered that loss. The opportunity to portray a character like that, to put eyes on a character like that, is very special.
And we did a special screening ... screened it for amputees. As filmmakers, it was so special to see how they responded to it and to hear how grateful and thankful they were. One of the amputees was talking about how you never see heroes like this being portrayed in movies, and one of the other individuals said, ‘You never see them as a good guy. You always see the amputee or the people that are challenged as a villain, but you never see them as the heroes. So thank you guys for doing that.’ It was emotional.
What can we expect from “Hobbs and Shaw,” the upcoming “Fast and Furious” spinoff.
It’s so cool. We started this years ago. Basically, Dwayne, myself and Chris Morgan, writer and producer, we all met and we created the Hobbs character [played by Johnson]. And it was such a memorable summer for us. It was right before “Fast and Furious 5,” and we wanted to create this character that can have fun, inject some real fuel into the franchise, and create this real character that could go head to head with Vin Diesel.
And there was always an intent of, if we do this right, we can spin this character off into his own universe and have a ton of fun with him. There was always a hope and a plan that if the fans liked the character ― and the character kind of stood out, which he did over the following movies ― that we would have a chance to do our own spinoff. As we’ve been going on this ride, the studio was feeling it, we were feeling it, and really after “Furious 7,” as we were getting into “Fate of the Furious,” the conversations got real, kind of like, let’s start figuring out how we can do this and what the right dynamic is.
The natural dynamic that was happening between Dwayne and Jason Statham in “Fate of the Furious,” that was something that we loved so much and wanted to carry over. The audience loved them so much. How about we start to make that spinoff about the two of them? So we started working on it. Chris Morgan penned the draft, he’s a maestro at this stuff. You’re gonna love this so much. You’re gonna be blown away. You’re gonna get that great buddy kind of friction like Tango and Cash and “Lethal Weapon.” The two guys that butt heads the whole time in the funniest way, and all they want to do is kick each other’s asses.
I loved “Jumanji.” Where do you want to go in the follow-up?
What we wanted to do with the last “Jumanji” is we wanted to begin to open up the possibilities. There are so many possibilities with the “Jumanji” universe. The first with Robin Williams, obviously the game came out into our world. In ours, we went into the world. It evolved. The game ultimately just wants to be played, so going off that premise and trying to extend the rules and expand the barriers and the possibilities of what [happens] once you get involved in the game of Jumanji ― how it can manifest itself, and how it continues to evolve. We’re going to play with those kinds of things.
I can promise you when we pitched it to Sony, they just dropped the mic. They were like, “Guys, this is awesome. Do what you’re gonna do. Go with God. Have fun. You nailed it.” Anytime the studio is that happy and they don’t want to get involved and give a ton of notes, you know you’re in a good place.
I was a comic book nerd. I am a comic book nerd. I always said if there was ever a movie I was destined to make, it was going to be a superhero movie and it was going to be “Black Adam.”
We’re going to have so much fun with the idea of placing Dwayne in this unbelievable powerhouse of an antihero, and the things he’s going to be able to do. His journey as an antihero, kind of like his personal arc in the story, is so gratifying and so kind of weighted and meaty that we’ve been having a blast with it. I’m telling you, Black Adam, when he comes on screen ... right away you’re going to be like, “I want to see him go head to head with the most powerful people DC has, because this guy is a beast.”
Lastly, have you talked to The Rock about running for president?
It pops up all the time because fans always ask about it. I always tell them, look, we have a lot of movies to make. Let’s take care of business. Dwayne said it several times. He respects the position and he knows fans like to always ask him to run. But the fact is, he’s very respectful of the position and very respectful of what it takes to hold that position. It’s not something he takes lightly, especially right now.
He’s happy doing what he’s doing, especially being able to kind of inspire and bring positive energy to the world the way he does and make a big impact. I’m doing my best to keep him in that lane right now, but who knows how long I can keep him there.