Forbes listed him in the top 25 of their Top 100 Most Powerful Celebrities. He was the world’s highest-paid actor in 2016. Time named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, and Muscle and Fitness awarded him Man of the Century.
Meet Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
But The Rock didn’t start out at the top of the entertainment industry. So, for his 45th birthday, we count down six of the roles that helped him rise to the top.
The Scorpion King
Dwayne acted in a few small TV roles during his wrestling career, but his first movie was in The Mummy Returns, as the leader of Anubis’s Army, The Scorpion King. While this movie did little to put him in the spotlight, he was brought back for the 2002 prequel, The Scorpion King.
In the film, he reprises his role, but it tells the story before the character’s ascension to the throne. The film was quite successful, grossing over $165 million, and his role made certain that moviegoers could smell what The Rock had been cooking.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
It’s no secret that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra failed. Miserably. The box office gross barely cleared the budget, and Rotten Tomatoes gave it a mere 35%. Paramount needed an actor who could revive a franchise, and Dwayne did that with the sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
In contrast to the previous film, G.I. Joe: Retaliation managed to clear its budget twice in box office numbers, and Cinemascore even gave the film an A-. If it wasn’t already certain that Dwayne was a talented actor, this successful revival of a flop cemented Dwayne’s place as a fully-fledged A-List actor.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Some actors just don’t have the skill set to star in both gritty PG-13 flicks and family friendly PG films. It’s a real test for many actors, and Dwayne passed with flying colors, as evidenced by films such as The Game Plan, The Tooth Fairy, and Race to Witch Mountain. But no film was quite as successful as the sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth.
The film easily cleared it’s $79M budget, just like the first film, grossing over $335 million worldwide, and showing the world that The Rock could just as easily play a father as he could a machine-gun toting badass soldier.
Most of The Rock’s movies feature a large ensemble. Just take a look at the Fast and Furious franchise. Those films certainly showed audiences his skills as an actor, but with San Andreas, cinemagoers were treated to a proper demonstration of why Dwayne doesn’t have to rely on others to shine.
The film itself had the largest opening for any movie with Dwayne as the lead role, with a $54 million weekend box office haul. And considering the generic disaster storyline, San Andreas did well to gross nearly half a billion.
Pain & Gain
Every actor will have some controversial roles, and Dwayne Johnson is no exception. Pain & Gain, which was rather successful considering its low $26 million budget, faced much criticism due to it being marketed as a crime comedy when the reality was that it was based on a true story with real victims.
All things aside, this was another strong role for Dwayne, considering the difficulty he must have faced playing a character as emotionally complex as Paul Doyle. As Doyle, he goes from a man trying to make a new start for himself, trying to be a do-gooder, to returning to the criminal career. The role was also a bit of a departure from The Rock’s action-role dominated resume.
When people think of The Rock, they might think of some of the above roles, but what really comes to most people’s mind is his role in the Fast and Furious franchise. And the film that introduced him to that franchise has to have had one of the biggest impacts of any of his roles.
Part of the reason for The Rock’s fame has been the wild success of this franchise. With eight films that have grossed over $4 billion, and two more already in the works, it’s no wonder people recognize Dwayne Johnson.
Fast Five is where we first meet government agent Luke Hobbs, the bounty hunter-turned-U.S. Marshal who goes bicep-to-bicep against leads Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. With a 77% on Rotten Tomatoes, some even attribute this film for turning a failing franchise into the successful sequel-churning heist thriller factory it is today.