Dwayne 'the Rock' Johnson's Game Plan

Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne 'the Rock' Johnson is leaving the world of pro wrestling behind to make what he calls 'big family comedies.'
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

This is the side of the movie industry the public rarely sees. Deep in the bowels of a downtown Minneapolis hotel Dwayne Johnson is getting ready to do the latest in a stream of interviews.

No-one can really remember the number so far, but I've got six minutes, so best get rolling. Johnson says he wanted to do a big family comedy.

Andy Fickman
Director Andy Fickman says "The Game Plan' will change many people's perceptions of Dwayne Johnson.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

"I've done comedies in the past, but nothing to this extent, and certainly nothing I could take my six year old daughter to," he says.

Yes, this is the same, Dwayne 'the Rock' Johnson who for close to a decade pounded on the likes of Hulk Hogan, the Undertaker, and Brock Lesner.

This is the same guy who became part man part insect in the action adventure movie "The Scorpion King," splattered alien demons in the movie of the "Doom" video-game, and played a gun-hating bounty hunter chasing bad guys through the Amazon in "The Rundown."

That's all in the past though. Dwayne Johnson is a changed man. He seems to have bulked down a little from his wrestling days. He's comfortable in his slacks and button-downshirt, but you can just see the edge of the large tattoo splashed across one of his pectorals.

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He's all about being on message. This is a Disney movie, very much in the mold of mad-cap live-action comedies of the sixties and seventies. Johnson says it has all the right elements.

"It's tightly written," he says. "You can rely on laughs. You can rely on emotion. You can rely on drama. You can rely on a loss that the children are going to have to overcome. And that's a powerful, powerful message and I love that about Disney, and I love that about our movie." In "The Game Plan" Johnson plays Joe Kingman a top-flight quarterback on the verge of a national title, who suddenly discovers he has a 7 year old daughter called Peyton.

Kingman's pretty full of himself, but as the story unfolds he is repeatedly humbled if not humiliated by Peyton. There's the time she offers him a snack as he is on the way to shoot some TV spots for his team. Unfortunatelyt they are laced with cinnamon - and he's allergic.

The team then airs the swollen tongued spots repeatedly on local TV

Johnson takes the humiliations all in good grace and gives credit to his diminutive co-star Madison Pettis.

"I would marvel at her ability because I was still trying to learn how to write I think when I was eight," Johnson says. "And here she is probably on the verge of winning an Oscar in the next five years."

However the reality is the success of this film rests on the shoulders of Duane the Rock Johnson.

From the reactions of the local critics hanging round the Minneapolis hotel basement, it seems Johnson has made the jump from wrestler to comic actor very successfully - much better than Hulk Hogan one of them says.

Game Plan director Andy Fickman says the movie reveals Johnson charm, and his acting chops.

"No-one has ever seen this total package," Fickman says. "And I think they go in maybe with a certain expectation 'Oh! It's going to be a Rock movie. Disney! Rock! I got it' And I am loving the fact that time after time, whether it's a test screening or an interview or somebody talking and the response has been 'I kinda came out of the movie having a different experience that when I went into the movie."

The handlers look at their watches- time is up. There are more interviews to get done before Dwayne heads to a gym across town. After all, the transformation from 'the most electrifying man in sports entertainment' to family comedy star takes a lot of effort.