The Rock Explains How People Told Him He Needed To Change To Be Like George Clooney And Will Smith, Plus How He Used That As Black Adam Fuel

Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock, has been one of Hollywood’s top box office draws for two decades. But this wasn’t always true, especially early in his Hollywood career when he was transitioning from pro wrestling to acting. He faced a bit of pushback from the film industry, leading to insiders telling him to change his image and approach. He was told to be more like George Clooney and Will Smith, and The Rock revealed how he used this advice to change as Black Adam fuel.

At one point, Johnson was just a rising star, fresh off his first film, The Mummy Returns. In pushing to get more acting roles, Johnson faced some harsh feedback from some Hollywood higher-ups. They informed him his WWE persona wasn’t going to fly if he wanted to be at the level of Clooney and Smith. The Black Adam star opened up to Good Morning America about how he used their criticisms as fuel for the superhero film, saying:

I tried to think of times in the past [filming Black Adam] where I felt really constrained. And like I had the chains on me. And people telling me, ‘Well you can do it like this, you have to do it like that.’ For example, when I first got to Hollywood, many moons ago I was told -- out of the world of pro wrestling — I was told, ‘Well, if you wanna make it if you want to be a star’ — the biggest stars at that time were George Clooney and Johnny Depp and Will Smith. I was told then, ‘You can’t call yourself The Rock. Don’t talk about pro wrestling. You gotta lose weight, go on a diet, you’re too big, don’t go to the gym as much.’

So Hollywood was telling him to take away all the trademarks audiences have come to love. Denying important aspects of his past would’ve made him less genuine and more pretentious to moviegoers who knew him as a pro wrestler first. They wouldn’t have gotten those occasional check-ins from Iron Paradise. Dwayne Johnson's size and stature alone made him the perfect actor to star in action flicks like the Jumanji sequels and Rampage. Thankfully, he was able to turn those early Hollywood struggles into a potentially compelling movie performance.

But there was a period in The Rock’s career when he did drop the moniker and distanced himself from the WWE. Of course, at the time, it felt like the right move if Johnson wanted to have a real career in Hollywood. He admitted to feeding into the critiques at first before realizing he wasn’t being himself. Thinking about his early compromises helped him to relate to Black Adam's story. He explained:

There were a lot of things like that I was being told and if you don’t know any better you buy into it. And I bought into it for a couple of years before I said, ‘This ends right now. And I’m gonna be myself and at least if I fail, I’m gonna fail being me.’ So, I tapped into that, because a lot of those elements are what surrounds Black Adam’s life. And his existence of being told ‘you have to do it like that.’

Not only was Black Adam a passion project for the Hollywood mogul, but a personal one as well. The Rock appeared to find a kindred spirit in Black Adam going back to his days as a teenager. Like The Rock's 20-year career, it’s been an uphill battle getting the character to the big screen, including fighting for a film separate from Shazam!. Being true to himself and the character might pay off if those current opening weekend estimates for Black Adam of $70-75 million hold up. 

Fans won’t have to wait much longer to see The Rock in Black Adam, as the film will arrive in theaters on October 21, 2022. Until it arrives, check out what other upcoming movies the actor will headline in the coming years, and also scan through the 2022 movie schedule to see what other superhero movies are being released.

Adreon Patterson
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A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).