The Evolution of Dwayne Johnson: From WWE Wrestler to Hollywood Action Hero
Given his impressive physique and natural charisma, it's little surprise that Dwayne Johnson made the transition from professional wrestling to Hollywood stardom so easily. This year alone has seen the man formerly known as “The Rock” wowing audiences in ‘Furious 7,’ and now he’s poised to headline the epic disaster flick ‘San Andreas.’ To celebrate the new release, we trace Johnson's journey to see just how he became one of Hollywood's most bankable stars.
The Mummy Returns (2001)
Johnson kicked off his Hollywood career by starring in a sequel to the popular 1999 action/adventure film featuring Brendan Fraser. He played an ancient warlord named Mathayus, doomed to live forever as the Scorpion King.
The Scorpion King (2002)
The Scorpion King quickly received his own spinoff film that placed Johnson front and center. This one flashed back to Mathayus' early years and painted him as the hero rather than the villain. The light, humorous approach set the tone for many of Johnson's action roles to come, and the movie also spawned several low-budget sequels starring other WWE wrestlers.
The Rundown (2003)
Next on Johnson's fast-growing resume was this energetic action flick from 'Friday Night Lights' director Peter Berg. Johnson played a bounty hunter tasked with tracking down his employer's son (Seann William Scott) in the Brazilian jungle. The film was no Scorpion King-sized hit, but it remains a highlight of his career.
Walking Tall (2004)
Johnson tried his hand at a more down-to-earth action role when he starred alongside 'Jackass' mainstay Johnny Knoxville in this remake of the 1973 film. This time he played a former Army sergeant forced to become a vigilante to battle a corrupt casino owner in his hometown. Basically, the movie was a more family-friendly version of 'Death Wish.'
The popular 'Doom' computer games became the fodder for another of Hollywood's attempts to make a decent video game-based movie. Johnson played the leader of a security force dispatched to investigate trouble on a Martian outpost, only to discover the facility overrun by mutated creatures.
Fast Five (2011)
Johnson's career as an action star took a bit of a left turn when he signed a contract with Disney and began starring in more family-friendly roles. It wasn't until his entry in the resurgent ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise that Johnson roared back onto the scene. This sequel needed an imposing lawman who could stand toe-to-toe with Vin Diesel's gravelly-voiced Dominic Toretto, and Johnson more than fit the bill.
Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
This ‘Fast & Furious’ sequel brought back all the franchise's big guns, including Johnson's agent Luke Hobbs. This time, however, he teamed up with Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto to battle a common enemy. It was the ultimate combination of brawn and charisma.
G.I. Joe Retaliation (2013)
Johnson's other big box office smash of 2013 saw him star in a half-reboot, half-sequel (requel?) of the G.I. Joe franchise. He played Roadblock, a tough, imposing soldier who lead the battered remnants of G.I. Joe in an all-out assault on the forces of Cobra.
Pain & Gain (2013)
This role marked an interesting departure for Johnson, as he starred alongside Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie as bodybuilders who resort to kidnapping, extortion and even murder in order to achieve the American dream. It's a testament to Johnson's innate charm that his character remained endearing despite the terrible acts he committed.
No other 2013 film illustrated Johnson's range as well as the crime drama, ‘Snitch.’ Here he was a much more grounded action star, playing a successful businessman forced to go undercover to save his son from a harsh prison sentence. Unlike most of his movies, Johnson's hero wasn't able to simply punch and shoot his way out of trouble, instead relying on tenacity and a single-minded drive.
While we have yet to see Johnson play a comic book superhero, he did star as a mythological superhero in a 2014 take on the iconic Greek demigod Hercules. The film made the most of its charismatic star not just by offering up big action scenes, but also by downplaying Herc's mythological status and emphasizing his human struggles and desires.
Furious 7 (2015)
The whole gang reunited one more time for the latest ‘Fast & Furious’ sequel, and that included Johnson's Luke Hobbs. Hobbs' role was limited in this entry compared to the previous two sequels, but all of the ruthless lawman's bravado and charm was still very much in effect.