James Brown may have been the hardest-working man in show business, but with starring roles in three films opening over the next three months, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson seems poised to add another title to his collection.
At a recent press event for director Jon M. Chu's G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the pro-wrestling superstar turned actor met with reporters to discuss the Paramount Pictures sequel, which picks up shortly after the events of 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
Based on Hasbro’s popular toy line, Retaliation finds the Joes, including Johnson as Roadblock and Bruce Willis as retired General Joe Colton, attempting to defeat Cobra Commander and his henchman Zartan, who's been wreaking havoc disguised as the U.S. president.
"The first G.I. Joe, as you guys know, came out and made a lot of money, but we all collectively felt that there was a better movie to be made," Johnson said, referring to criticism of The Rise of Cobra’s sci-fi take on the iconic property.
He also shared that the creative forces behind Retaliation were determined to reboot the series in a way that felt truer to the spirit of the storied franchise. "We're going to remove the lasers,” he said. “We're going to remove the slickness of it, and we're going to get back to respecting the mythology of G.I. Joe.”
Although he has only been acting professionally for a little more than a decade, Johnson has developed a reputation for injecting new energy into existing franchises.
"It's a good thing if it fits, and in this case, it's fit very nicely," the actor said. "When you look at Fast and Furious or G.I. Joe or even Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, on a family level, it fit nicely. The brand -- both brands -- fit nicely."
When asked if there is another franchise he might be interested in reinvigorating, Johnson answered without hesitation that he would love to be part of the new Star Wars trilogy. "That's not to say that they need it, obviously," he laughed. "J.J. [Abrams] is going to just crush it. I'm so excited because there's a guy, by the way, not only is he a brilliant director, but [he] honors and respects mythologies."
Given his distinctive brawny physique, the actor has taken on a number of brutish characters, but he hinted that his scariest tough-guy role is still to come. "Hands down, Paul Doyle from [Michael Bay's] Pain and Gain, which you haven't seen yet, but you'll see," he said. "He's a scary guy -- a real guy -- which makes it even more scary."
However, Johnson’s dream role arrives with director Brett Ratner’s upcoming adaptation of the Radical Publishing comic Hercules: The Thracian Wars.
"I was born to play Hercules, and I have loved and honored the mythology over the years, ever since I was a kid,” he confessed. “When I first broke into Hollywood, Hercules was one of the movies that I had -- not chased -- because I didn't have the power to chase anything at that time, but always had in the back of my mind."
Johnson then pulled out his phone and, to his publicist’s obvious displeasure, proudly showed reporters a photo of himself in full Hercules hair and make-up, revealing a dark and decidedly edgy take on the Greek hero.
"That will give you an idea of the type of movie that we’re going to make, and the definitive version of Hercules that we want to make,” he said. “That's darker in tone and based off the awesome graphic novel."
Regarding the rumored Fast and the Furious spinoff starring his elite federal agent Luke Hobbs, Johnson said that much will depend on the performance of the franchise's sixth installment.
"It looks as though a lot of people are going to like it," he teased. "It feels like there may be one more, because there's one more Butch and Sundance journey to go on with Luke and [Vin Diesel's character] Dom."
But what about his one-time involvement with Warner Bros.' planned Lobo movie, based on DC Comics' alien bounty hunter?
"It came and I thought it was interesting, and then it kind of just went away," Johnson laughed, before pivoting to the comic-book role he really wants to play -- that of Black Adam in the fabled Shazam movie. "I would have loved that. But again, studios, they start to look at other properties and other superhero properties -- and what makes sense and what doesn’t, but there'll be a superhero down the line," he promised."
G.I. Joe: Retaliation opens Thursday.