Paramount Pictures gathered a small group of journalists Monday at CinemaCon in Las Vegas for a preview of director Brett Ratner’s Hercules, which the studio describes as “a revisionist take on the classic myth.”
“The tone is a nice, even balance,” Dwayne Johnson, who stars as the legendary hero, told reporters. “I think of Gladiator and 300. There’s also personality in the movie. There’s fun. There’s some wink in the movie in a way that makes the audience feel good.”
Opening July 25, the film is based on the 2008 Radical Publishing miniseries Hercules: The Thracian Wars, which depicts the hero and his loyal companions traveling ancient Greece, working as mercenaries. The teaser trailer flashed scenes from the famous twelve labors, including such CG creatures as the Nemean lion, the Lernaean hydra and three-headed Cerberus. Other scenes were reminiscent of the more grandiose sequences from the aforementioned period epics, with battalions of armored soldiers preparing for battle.
“For me, as an actor and then going into Hercules, finding Hercules like this – this [has] been a passion project for 10 years,” explained Johnson, who has long pursued the role of the demigod.
“I’m so grateful that I didn’t make it when I first asked about it,” he said. “I first asked about it when I came to Hollywood 14 years ago. I asked about Hercules and Walking Tall, but at that time I was actually shooting Scorpion King, so it was a little close. I’m happy I didn’t make it back then, because I couldn’t have brought I think the same weight and substance, just living as a man and having the experiences I’ve had today.”
Johnson didn’t limit the discussion to Hercules, as he also tackled his attachment to a couple of storied DC Comics characters. When asked about his long-rumored role as Green Lantern John Stewart, he responded, “So, you know, there’s been mutual interest with myself and DC for many years to find the right character. I, like everyone here in the room, love superheroes. So there’s been mutual interest with us for years, and we’ve been having ongoing discussions, myself and DC, for years about the right character, what the right character would be. That’s another thing, too: It had to be right.”
When pressed for which role he was in talks to play, Johnson cryptically responded with three qualities of the character.
“The first quality we were looking for was that he had to be extremely complex and have a lot going on,” he said. “What that does for me as an actor and the studio is it gives us space that we can explore; his complexities.
“The other quality was that he had to – the character we were looking for had to be well-known but never brought to life. Then what that does again as an actor, it gives me a little bit of space, and we talked about personality. It just gives me a chance to put an imprint into his personality, with the set of tools that I could bring to the table and put a very unique twist on his personality, but still pay homage to who he is.”
“The third thing – and most important – is he had to be a badass motherfucker, OK, and on a Superman level of power, where [he] could throw down. In those three qualities, I’m happy we’ve found that character.”
He also talked about how he became involved with his upcoming disaster movie San Andreas. “Yeah, so I read the script when I was in Budapest, and I loved the script and the idea of being in a disaster movie that felt very real and very grounded, based of course on the San Andreas Fault,” Johnson said. “I did a lot of research on the fault and sat down with geologists over in Budapest. We had a great meeting. So it felt very real and very grounded.”
“The script came in – by the Hayes brothers, who wrote The Conjuring, and we’re working on some other stuff together. They delivered a great script. [Director] Brad Peyton came in and flew to Budapest. We had a couple of directors fly out, but he came in – not only because of the relationship I’d had with Brad from a movie that we did three or four years ago – Journey 2: The Mysterious Island — but he came in and had an awesome take, just visually and stylistically, I think what Brad’s going to be able to do with an earthquake movie in 3D – first 3D earthquake disaster movie ever filmed – and the opportunity of playing a first responder in the LA Fire Department was exciting.”