Penthouse Retrospective

by Paul Semel Originally Published: October, 2006

Dwayne Johnson

He also, apparently, wanted to hurt people—virtually. “I was interested in doing something different with the combat,” he explains. “I wanted to know how we could creatively maim and bring death to the bad guys with our bare hands. And Midway was like, ‘You can have complete control.’ Which was great, but it also presented a cool challenge: How many ways can I kill somebody with my bare hands? So I sat down with the developers, got my stunt double, and we just came up with some badass moves for my character. I even got to integrate some old-school wrestling moves that I used to do.

“Other people in the WWE would always ask me, ‘Why are you always trying to be funny?’ But I thought, You can’t always be yelling.”

“Though what I was really looking for,” he notes, “was what I call the ‘H.S.’ move. The one where, once you execute it, you’re like, ‘Holy shit!’”

To capture these moves, the Rock had to slip into something less comfortable. “To make sure they look right in the game,” he explains, “I had to do motion-capture work, which meant putting on this special outfit that has hundreds of little lights on it. I looked like a walking Christmas tree. Every movement is recorded: how you move, squat, run, jump, throw a punch, fall … everything you could think of. We did that for hours. My stunt double and I suited up and just went at it. Every movement you see in the video game was created by me in this outfit.

“Let me tell you, it’s a lot of fun, putting on that skintight outfit,” he adds sarcastically.

It might seem like a rather bold statement, especially in a time when studios try so hard to guard the plots of their big movies, but the Rock actually has such faith in Spy Hunter that he agreed to star even before there was a script or a director. “I have faith in the studio,” he says. “We’ve brought in screenwriter Stuart Beattie, who was a writer on the Pirates of the Caribbean screenplays and Collateral.”

This isn’t the Rock’s first movie that’s based on a video game. Last year he starred in Doom, an adaptation of the hellishly popular first-person shooter. “I think what we found with Doom is that a successful video game doesn’t always make for a successful movie,” he admits. “I think there have been some good video-game movies, some not so good, and some getting ready to come out that I anticipate will be great. But it all comes down to the writing.

“That’s not a knock to how Doom was written,” he’s quick to add. “I was happy with the way it turned out. Doom was very straightforward, but that’s the way it should have been. Video games and their storylines are so advanced that if you have a great writer, a great director, and some great actors, then you’ve really got a shot at doing something special.”

“Special” is what he’s aiming for with the Spy Hunter movie. It helps that he’s going to be in control of more than just the film’s cool car because, apparently, the Rock has some control issues. “I think it’s vital for an actor to get involved, especially the lead actor in a movie,” he explains. “With any movie I do, the studio will come to me with a list of directors who they feel can do a great job, and I’ll sit down and meet with every single one of them—sometimes more than once. When it comes time to cast, I’ll meet with all the actors and read with them. It’s vital to see what kind of vibe you have with someone because you might have two people who work well on paper, but when they get in a room together, they just don’t jibe.”

Why is Dwayne Johnson always trying to be funny? Perhaps he's not The Rock you thought he was. With a few movies outside the tough guy genre already under his belt, this surprisingly funny performer may have more tricks up his sleeve.