By Iain Blair
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Eat your heart out, Madonna. When it comes to career reinvention, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson wins hands-down.
First, the college football champion transitioned into professional wrestling and his alter ego, "The Rock," became a huge star on the World Wrestling Entertainment circuit. Then Johnson parlayed that success into a movie career, starring in such action hits as "Walking Tall," "Gridiron Gang" and "Be Cool," before moving into family comedies such as "Tooth Fairy."
His newest film opening on Friday, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island", is another comedy about family relationships and a trip to a mythical island with gigantic creatures hungry for a human supper. Along with the movie, Warner Bros. is showing a short film, "Daffy's Rhapsody," aiming to introduce a new set of kids to the studio's lovable Looney Tunes cartoons.
Johnson spoke to Reuters about making the 3D film, working with veteran Michael Caine, his ukulele playing and possible new career as a singer. There he goes again, with a new career.
Q: Michael Caine said he did this so his grandkids could see him in a movie. What's the appeal of family movies for you?
A: With family movies, I always think of "Pirates of the Caribbean," where it feels big and adventurous, and this felt the same way to me. For the past two years I've played some intense characters who've hunted down a lot of bad men and then done some violent things to them, so this was a nice change of pace. When I first began acting 12 years ago, the goal was to have diversity and longevity and work in all different genres, and I love doing this kind of movie when it's done well.
Q: You play the patient stepfather trying to relate to a hot-headed teenager. Much of you in him?
A: A lot. As a teenager I struggled a lot to stay on the right path. I got arrested and into some trouble, so I could really relate to Josh's character in this, in the way teenagers think they know it all, but they don't. I was lucky in that the adults in my life saw my potential, and everyone needs that guiding hand when they're growing up.
Q: You and Michael Caine share some nice barbed banter on screen. Any surprises working with him?
A: I've always been such an admirer of his, going back to films like "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" when I first realized just how nuanced he is as an actor. And he was even more than I expected. He's had this epic career, he's an icon, but he's so down-to-earth, and all the verbal jabs we had in this movie were so much fun to do.
Q: You're obviously still in great shape. Do you still work out?
A: I change my regimen, depending on the role. But I train every morning and it's a great way to just get away from everything for a couple of hours and get my sweat on.
Q: Is it true you're still involved with wrestling?
A: Yes. I quietly retired about eight years ago from the WWE, when I was still on top, to focus on acting, but I'm getting back in the ring for one night in April with the goal of creating the biggest match of all time. So, I'm training extra hard right now. For me, those wrestling roots run deep as my grandfather and my dad wrestled, and I love that form of entertainment. That's where I cut my teeth, getting into the entertainment business and doing it for 10 million fans every week.
Q: Who's idea was it to sing "What A Wonderful World" and play the ukulele in the film?
A: I can humbly tell you it was my arrogant idea. (Laughs) This movie was a like a platform that let me bring all my strengths to the table, including singing to Sir Michael Caine, and we all felt there was this spot where you needed a break from all the action, so it was perfect. And I really do play the ukulele. I grew up in Hawaii, so it was just a part of the culture.
Q: You've dabbled in music in the past. So any plans to also pursue more of a singing career? Give Madonna run for her money?
A: (Laughs) I don't know about that, but I'm a big fan of traditional country music and we're currently developing a biopic of Charlie Pride, the black county star, which I'll star in and produce. It's an incredible story and it'll be an honor to do it.
(Reporting by Iain Blair; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)