At one point in history, the moniker of jack-of-all-trades was a great compliment. People who could dabble in multiple arenas were highly regarded. Today, crossing over from one professional field into another is not always cause for commendation — at least not in the entertainment world. When a singer or an athlete decides to crossover into acting, we tend to balk at the notion and develop doubts immediately. This is not a prejudice without precedence, as many examples of ill-conceived transitions into attempted movie stardom have left a sour taste in our collective mouths.
The concept of athletes attempting transformation into actors is nothing new. For example, some of the most prominent stars in the blaxploitation movement were NFL stars first; Fred “The Hammer” Williamson was a defensive back and Jim Brownwas a running back. Over the last few years, former WWE wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has successfully crossed over from being “the most electrifying man in sports entertainment” to being a major box office draw.
What is the secret of The Rock’s success?
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As much as we cast aspersions on WWE wrestlers aiming to become movie stars, in many ways they are specially equipped to make the switch. More so than any other sport, wrestling is as much about theatrical performance as it is about athletic prowess. Wrestlers create personas for themselves, characters really, and then move those characters through a series of designated storylines. It’s scripted entertainment much like film. In fact, wrestlers often have to improvise both their dialogue during interviews and movements during matches. From a cinematic performance standpoint, that ability is a valuable asset.
Johnson is hardly the first wrestler to attempt this tricky maneuver. The likes of Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper are among those who had previously tried this with limited success. Hogan made a series of dreadful b-movies in the ‘80s and Piper similarly became a cult movie icon for his turns in films like They Live and Hell Comes to Frogtown. But even Hulkster and Piper can’t boast the kind of mainstream film prominence that The Rock has enjoyed.
The biggest difference between Dwayne Johnson and Hulk Hogan is that Johnson remained focused enough in his film career to fight through the novelty. The draw to any Hulk Hogan movie was that it would just be Hulk Hogan’s in-ring character doing a series of whacky things in different settings. The Rock, on the other hand, made an earnest effort to develop characters within each new project using his previously honed skills, as opposed to just porting over a persona from his wrestling days. This might also explain why he has been so adamant about shedding his WWE nickname and just being billed as Dwayne Johnson.
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That’s not to say The Rock has never had a film that flopped, but he’s also been able to select plenty of projects that amplify his natural leading man attributes. One the hand, he recognizes that the action genre is a natural arena for wrestlers-turned-actors; making fake fights appear real is WWE tradecraft. Where The Rock has the edge on, for example, Stone Cold Steve Austin, who is currently appearing in several direct-to-video action films, is that he also utilizes his innate and wonderful sense of humor. The guy is just plain funny. He’s still the only athlete to ever host SNL twice, and no small part of that is his outstanding comedic timing. This is the reason The Rundown, which combined action and laughs, is the optimal Rock project. Even as recently as Fast Five, he’s adeptly applied this combination.
But above everything else, beyond all the occupational roots that allowed for a smooth transition, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has proven to be a box office draw—with staying power—due to his abundance of charisma. The camera loves this guy, and it doesn’t matter if that camera is shooting a movie or a live wrestling event. He commands the screen for more reasons than just his physical presence. Hulk Hogan may have been blessed with a larger-than-life personality, but Johnson is effortlessly charming in a way that engenders an admiration within a wide audience. It is this charisma that has allowed this former athlete to become an actor who has outlived the gimmick of his crossover, and therefore the reason he has four movies coming out in 2013 alone.
[Photo Credit: Hollywood.com Illustration]
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There's no question that superheroes are a lucrative bunch. From Spider-Man to The Dark Knight, crime-fighters on the big screen often translate to big bucks at the box office. But how much does it actually cost to be a superhero? To celebrate Superhero Week — and May 4's all-star blockbuster The Avengers — Hollywood.com delves into the sustainability of our favorite heroes' super extracurricular activities. Would they have the funds — and good health — to keep up with their secret lifestyles? To kick off the week, we break down Sam Raimi's 2002 smash hit Spider-Man and discover that along with great responsibility, great power can also come with some great debt.
Name: Peter Parker
Superhero Alias: Spider-Man
Occupation: High school student/freelance photographer
Income: Fluctuates. While Peter (Tobey Maguire) presumably earned no allowance from Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) for household chores and earned a measly $100 for that amateur wrestling tournament (he lost $2900-slash-Uncle Ben's life in the process), his surprisingly lucrative freelancing gig at the Daily Bugle ($300 per photo or roughly $2100 per week) found him making around $5600 in total that month. Not bad for an 18-year-old.
Rent: Scott free! Lived modestly with Uncle Ben and Aunt May in Queens and then presumably lived rent-free thanks in a sweet SoHo loft with Harry Osborne (James Franco.) Rooming with the trust fund baby of an evil scientist has its perks!
Costume: His homemade wrestling outfit featured Spidey-inspired Nikes for $150, a red mask (around $15 on eBay), and your run of-the-mall Hanes male sweatpants and sweatshirt totaling $28.50, bringing his outfit to roughly $193. (A big hit, considering he only won $100 at that botched wrestling match.) As for his professional Spider-Man duds, a trip to Mood for 6 yards of red solid mesh would send him back $72. Tim Gunn would have been so proud. In total, Spidey spent about $265 on his costume/disguise.
Weapons: Again, totally free! This virtually ammo-free superhero is perhaps the most resourceful one, using only the weapons at his disposal, like his slinging spiderwebs. Take that, Batman.
Gadgets: To keep up that freelancing gig (which his editor J. Jonah Jameson wrongfully refers to as "the best thing in the world for a kid your age"), Spidey used a camera like this $429 Nikon.
Damages: While most of the damage caused to the city of New York was actually caused by the Green Goblin's destructive path, Peter broke a lamp at his Aunt and Uncle's house. That's coming out of your allowance, young man! Oh wait...
Transportation: Aside from the occasional subway ride when he's Peter Parker instead of Spider-Man, the hero gets around the city by climbing walls and jumping from building to building. Hey, those Metrocards are pricey.
Risks: Scads! Considering there's no health insurance in being a superhero (or a freelancer for that matter), Spider-Man was taking some big risks with his life considering what a physical and emotional toll the job takes. Peter/Spidey never went to the hospital, despite getting bit by a poisonous spider, jumping into a burning building, hitting the side of a building at full force after a failed swing, cutting his arm while trying to hide from Norman Osborne (Willem Dafoe), and a variety of other ER-worthy incidents. Factor in a tragic backstory and an isolating future, and he should have definitely invested in some therapy.
Perks: Sure, there's no health insurance. But Spidey's heightened senses means no more glasses, saving him roughly $400 in glasses/contacts/eye exams, and an enviable physique, which means he can cancel his gym membership, around $800 a year in NYC.
Entertainment/Other: Offers to take his unrequited love Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) out for $7.84 cheeseburger. (She declines!)
Sustainability: Not great. Between constantly having to change your identity and location (rooming with a guy whose dad you killed will put you back on Craigslist in no time), butting heads with/running from the authority, denying yourself fulfilling personal relationships in the already isolating Manhattan, and living off a freelancers wage can only last so long.
Final calculation: Peter Parker/Spidey saved/earned roughly $6,113.84. Again, not terrible for a youngster with incredible power at his disposal, but none of that money got his Uncle Ben back or Mary Jane in his arms.
[Photo credit: Columbia Pictures]