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At this past Saturday’s MTV Movie and TV Awards, Dwayne Johnson received the Generation Award for his contributions to the world of entertainment. It’s just the latest accolade for the man who is one of the industry’s highest paid actors and is probably the biggest movie star in the world. But Dwayne Johnson didn’t find this incredible success in Hollywood from the start. In fact, Dwayne Johnson was originally told to be more like George Clooney or Brad Pitt if he wanted to be successful, as he explained:
There was a time when I was struggling in my career and trying to conform because at that time the biggest movie stars were Brad Pitt and George Clooney and I was told, 'When are you going to be more like them?' A couple of years of that, I finally was miserable and [decided] I have to be myself and see what happens. Fortunately, things worked out. Hollywood conformed around me, but that's the power of being ourselves. That's what this represents.
It’s strange in this current day to think of The Rock struggling in his career, but it did happen and everyone has to start somewhere. It seems that back before he became a full-fledged movie star, when Dwayne Johnson was still finding his place in Hollywood, the actor was told to model himself and his acting after the biggest stars of the day, specifically George Clooney and Brad Pitt.
The thinking behind trying to get Dwayne Johnson to conform to those two stars was presumably that if he was more like them, he could achieve their levels of success. Dwayne Johnson didn’t dismiss that idea and he was willing to try it to get where he wanted to be. But as he told ET, a few years of trying to be someone he’s not made him miserable and didn’t even achieve the desired effect.
So when that approach failed, Dwayne Johnson took a gamble and gave being himself a shot and the rest as they say is history. The actor hugely undersells it by saying “things worked out” because it’s hard to imagine how much better his career could have gone. When he stopped trying to be Brad Pitt or George Clooney and instead dared to be Dwayne Johnson, his career took off.
This shift, from trying to be someone else and conform to what he’s told he’s supposed to be, is what was truly required for success according to Dwayne Johnson. This speaks to the power and importance of embracing who you are. It’s an inspiring message and one that he has proven works in his own life. The actor also stressed though that authenticity isn't the only ingredient to success, you also have to be compassionate and work your ass off.
Telling Dwayne Johnson to be more like Brad Pitt or George Clooney sounds positively absurd to hear now. Not that there is anything wrong with being George Clooney or Brad Pitt, they are both awesome. But this is very much the kind of cut-and-paste Hollywood thinking we often see where studios try to duplicate each other’s successes, as if there is a specific equation they can just copy to reproduce the same results. One size does not fit all.
With Dwayne Johnson’s early career, the thought was clearly that if it’s working for Brad Pitt and George Clooney, why wouldn’t it work for you. Except Dwayne Johnson is not George Clooney or Brad Pitt. Dwayne Johnson is Dwayne Johnson, and also the Rock. He doesn’t fit into that box or fulfill those same kinds of roles and it’s unnatural and forced to make him conform in that way. Once he stopped trying to fit into that box he found a niche all his own.
Now Dwayne Johnson’s star couldn’t be brighter and he stands as testament to the power of just having confidence and embracing who you are.