Universal via Everett Collection
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is sure having a moment. The actor — who in a past life was a college football player, and then professional wrestler, and then a professional wrestler who tried to act sometimes, has finally become a full-fledged Hollywood behemoth who can start up his own projects — is ready to hit the gridiron once again. HBO has decided to pick up Johnson’s half-hour series Ballers, which will follow a collection of active and retired football players living in Miami. Johnson is starring as Spencer Strasmore, an ex-pro athlete, along side Rob Corddry, Omar Benson, and John David Washington, among others. Johnson is executive producing the project along with Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg. And with that, Dwayne Johnson has officially made the leap from athlete who acts to real actor.
For all the grace and athletic prowess that athletes display in competition, the long leap from on field success to success on screen is often a jump too far. At first, things looked dismal for the Rock, whose list of early films lined 7/11 DVD kiosks circa 2008. But a couple years and barbell lifts later and the Rock is literally bigger and better than ever. He was the highest grossing actor of 2013, and his turns in films like Pain and Gain raised the eyebrows of even the stodgiest critics. The Rock, now serious thespian Dwayne Johnson, has managed to create a persona that has studios champing at the bits. He has a charisma and a leading man quality mixed with a lughead physique. He’s like all the best parts of George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger melded into one titan of an actor. It’s something that he probably picked up from his years of playing the People’s Champion in the wrestling ring. Over the years, he’s developed a screen presence that has transformed him from a chuckle-worthy schlock headliner who starred in unfortunate projects like The Tooth Fairy and Race to Witch Mountain, into being one of the main draws in the ostensibly mindless but stylistically impressive The Fast and the Furious series. The kind of star that sends Twitter into a retweeting frenzy every time he releases a new picture of himself in costume for his upcoming Hercules movie... revealing to the public that he's somehow discovered whole new muscles to make bigger.
And now Johnson is starring in his own television series. Sure, this might have seemed like a step backwards a few short years ago, but in 2013, many A-list film stars are treating television like a home away from home. Just look at Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, who are both doing great work on another HBO show, True Detective. Just like McConaughey, it seems like Johnson is going through a bit of a career Renaissance... a Rock-aissance, if you will. McConaughey redefined his career from playing sleazy, hokey romantic comedy leads to stellar dramatic leads (still sleazy) to the point of being a major contender for the Best Actor Oscar this year (for Dallas Buyers Club). Similarly, Johnson has altered his public perception from being that wrestler who makes family films now to a bona fide box office winner. And while the McConaissance is a well-documented phenomenon in the media, the Rock-aissance is a change that’s been brewing under the surface. Somewhere in the last two years, Johnson pulled a bait and switch. He performed a sleight of hand while everyone was looking, but no one was really watching. Gone is the star of The Tooth Fairy, and here to stay is the kind of actor who can spearhead his own television show on the most prestigious network on premium cable. He may never lose "The Rock" moniker for as long as he stays in the public eye, but he's gained some serious cred as an actor.
Universal via Everett Collection
Right now, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is arguably the biggest movie star in the world. He has leading-man charm and his movies clean house at the box office. The Rock is in such high demand, he has to turn down major productions simply because he can't be in two places at once. What roles would he have been perfect for?
The only man in Hollywood who's literally larger than life enough to take on this role was Johnson. Sorry, Jason Momoa, but your size was simply too scrawny to be Conan. Arnold Schwarzengger took on this role and he really made this character come to life. The Rock could have stepped in with his massive chest and bulging biceps.
Another character that required immense size, Venom is one of Spider-Man’s biggest foes. A major villain would require a major actor, one who would fit the role. Johnson would be perfect, right? What happened in Spider-Man 3? All of a sudden, a burly Venom shrinks way down to size in the form of Topher Grace? Huh?
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Mark Wahlberg got the part for the new Transformers film, but it was offered to the Rock first. He turned it down to do Hercules. Too bad, it would have been cool to see him face off against gigantic robots.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Yes, Johnson was in the sequel. But that movie had all kinds of problems and honestly, it wasn’t even as good as the original. We should have had an entire movie featuring Channing Tatum and the Rock fighting side by side. A reboot, anyone?
The cast of FX's The Americans has officially been Jane Austen-fied. First, Matthew Rhys was cast as Mr. Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley, BBC's three-part miniseries based on the P.D. James sequel to Austen's Pride And Prejudice. Now, Keri Russell stars in Austenland as a woman obsessed with Mr. Darcy who travels to look for love in Austenland, a British resort that recreates the Austen era.
JJ Feild, Jane Seymour, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, Georgia King and James Callis costar in the directorial debut of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre co-writer Jerusha Hess, adapted from the like-titled novel by Shannon Hale. The film, which premiered at Sundance in January, also marks Twilight author Stephenie Meyer's first independent producing venture.
For an English novelist who died in the early 1800s, Hollywood can't seem to get enough of Jane Austen. From multiple adaptations of Pride and Prejudice (how many Mr. Darcys can there possibly be?), to Sense and Sensibility and Emma... heck, the author's personal life has even been romanticized for the screen (see: Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane). Watch the trailer for the latest tribute to Austen, then open its pages on August 16.
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