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Profile of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

written by Lee Pinkerton

The Rock portraitHe used to be known as ‘The Rock’, but nowadays he prefers to be known by the name that his mama gave him.  Whatever you call him, its clear that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a now a major movie star.  The Forbes List of Hollywood’s top-earning actors placed him at number 2,  having earned an estimated $52 million (£30m) in the past year, mainly thanks to his work in the Fast and Furious franchise. That places him ahead of Leonardo Di Caprio, Christian Bale and Will Smith, coming second only to Robert Downey Jr.

So how did a former WWF wrestler become such a major Hollywood player?

His biography is interesting right from the start.  Dwayne Douglas Johnson was born in Hayward, California on May 2nd 1972 to Rocky Johnson and Ata Johnson. His father was one of the Black Nova Scotians –  people of African American descent whose ancestors fled Colonial America as slaves or freemen, and later settled in Nova Scotia, Canada during the 18th and early 19th centuries.   His mother, Ata, was a descendant of a Samoan chief.  (That tattoo on his chest and arm that you sometimes see in pictures, but which is usually obscured for his movie roles, is a partial Samoan pe’a tattoo).

During his high school years, Dwayne played American football and received a full scholarship from the University of Miami where he had success as a football player, but in 1995, suffered a back injury which cost him a place in the NFL. He then signed a 3 year deal with the Canadian League but left after a year to pursue a career in wrestling, which was virtually the family business.
the rock - wrestlerHis father and grandfather, and several of Johnson’s other relatives were professional wrestlers, including his uncles, Afa and Sika Anoaʻi who performed as a tag-team called the The Wild Samoans.  His maternal grandmother, Lia Maivia, was one of wrestling’s few female professional promoters, taking over Polynesian Pacific Pro Wrestling after her husband’s death in 1982.

Johnson made his WWF debut in 1996 as Rocky Maivia, – a combination of his father and grandfather’s ring names. He went on to become one of the major acts of the wrestling scene, and the success of Johnson’s wrestling character allowed him to cross over into mainstream pop culture. He appeared on Wyclef Jean’s 2000 single “It Doesn’t Matter” and in its music video. In 2000, he hosted Saturday Night Live and Johnson has stated the success of that episode is the reason he began receiving offers from Hollywood studios. He had guest roles on Star Trek: Voyager, as an alien wrestler that uses The Rock’s famous moves, and on That ’70s Show, as his father, Rocky Johnson.

scorpion kingJohnson’s motion picture debut was a brief appearance as The Scorpion King in the opening sequence of The Mummy Returns, and that movie’s financial success led to his first leading role, in the sequel The Scorpion King.  He was listed in the 2007 Guinness World Records as the highest-paid actor in his first starring role, receiving US$5.5 million for this movie.  After that Johnson split his time between the wrestling ring and the big screen.


fast 5In 2011, he appeared in the fifth film of The Fast and the Furious film series, Fast Five, as Luke Hobbs, a Diplomatic Security Service agent assigned to hunt down the series’ protagonists. Johnson landed the role after series star Vin Diesel read comments and feedback from fans who wanted to see Diesel and Johnson in a movie together.  Fast Five grossed over $86 million in its opening weekend, the biggest opening for a Fast & Furious film, the biggest opening for an April release, and the biggest opening for a Johnson movie.

This summer Johnson stars as Hercules the powerful son of the god king Zeus. In the movie, having endured his legendary twelve labours, Hercules, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord. It looks set to be one of the biggest hits of a blockbuster summer.


After achieving success in the field of sports, being followed by success in action movies, Johnson’s career is reminiscent of the ‘Austrian Oak’ Arnold Schwarzenegger.  How long, we wonder, before he tries his hand at politics?  Watch this space.

Hercules is released in cinemas on July 25th.


Lee Pinkerton