If you can smell what the Rock is cookin' then you're no doubt familiar with superstar wrestler Dwayne Johnson's swaggeringly cocky alter ego. With his trademark right eyebrow raised and a penchant for implementing the patented "People's Elbow" to unwary opponents, the self-proclaimed "Most Electrifying Man in Sports-Entertainment" slammed, crashed, and crushed his way to becoming the youngest Intercontinental Champion in WWF history at the age of 24 before winning the WWF title record six times. After conquering the world of sports-entertainment, Johnson next set his sights on conquering Hollywood.
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Born May 2, 1972 in Miami, FL, Johnson became a third-generation wrestler after shifting from a career in professional football to professional wrestling when an injury sidelined his gridiron aspirations. After flexing his acting muscles on television in Saturday Night Live, That '70s Show (in which he played his own father), and The Net, the Rock made his feature debut with his role as the dreaded Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns (2001). Returning as the same character the following year in the appropriately titled The Scorpion King, Johnson did little to enhance his reputation of a trained thespian, though he did get the summer film season off to a rousing start for audiences hungering for some energetic escapist fun. Recalling John Milius' 1982 hit Conan the Barbarian (another film that launched the cinematic action career of a then-little-known athlete named Arnold Schwarzenegger), the sword-and-sandal adventure raked in 36 million dollars on its opening weekend and stayed at the top of the box office in the weeks following its impressive debut.
Though he would return to the ring for the remainder of 2002, it didn't take The Rock long to soften on the prospect of a return to the silver screen -- and with the following year's The Rundown, he did just that. Cast as a bounty hunter who is sent to Brazil to retrieve the son of a well-known mob boss (American Pie's Seann William Scott), the film provided The Rock with the sort of opportunity to display his comic flair -- a notable talent that was mostly neglected in the special-effects-laden Scorpion King. By this point, his screen career had earned the wrestler-turned-actor a notable fan base that reached well beyond the WWE universe, and in 2004 he took the law into his own hands with the feature remake (in name and general concept only) Walking Tall. Based on the exploits of hard-case Southern sheriff Buford Pusser (played by Joe Don Baker in the original 1973 version) -- the film found The Rock cast as an honest, retired soldier who -- upon return to his small, rural Washington State hometown -- discovers his former high-school rival Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough) has corrupted the once-prosperous town by introducing drugs and gambling and effectively shutting down the formerly successful lumber mill. Anyone who saw the original (and even those who didn't) could no doubt tell what follows -- and if there ever was a man to lay the smack down on the criminal element, few could doubt that The Rock would be up for the task.
With his role as a gay bodyguard in the 2005 Get Shorty sequel, Be Cool, The Rock showed once and for all that he wasn't above poking a little fun at his tough-guy persona, and though he would return to the action genre with the sci-fi video-game adaptation Doom, the next year found the increasingly prolific entertainer cast in the complex role of a sporadically amnesiac actor who begins to have trouble separating reality from fantasy in Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly's apocalyptic sophomore effort, Southland Tales. Later that same year, The Rock turned his attention toward the sport of football to tell the inspirational true story of a detention-camp probation officer who teaches his troubled young charges the meaning of self-respect and social responsibility in Gridiron Gang -- a feature adaptation of the Emmy-winning 1993 documentary of the same name.
He would appear in Get Smart and Race to Witch Mountain the following year, followed by Why Did I Get Married Too? in 2010 -- all films that grounded the actor in relatable, humorous roles. Never one to shy away from his roots, however, The Rock was back to action fare soon enough, signing on for G.I. Joe: Retaliation. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi