CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Discusses 'The Scorpion King'
Aired April 20, 2002 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the people's champion. The most electrifying man in sports entertainment.
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DWAYNE JOHNSON, THE ROCK: The rock is genetically electrifying. He emits electricity.
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KING: And now, ready to body slam the silver screen.
The Rock, Dwayne Johnson.
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JOHNSON: It doesn't matter what your name is!
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It's all next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
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JOHNSON: You're one on one with the Rock!
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It's a great pleasure to have as our special guest tonight on LARRY KING LIVE, The Rock.
His name is Dwayne Johnson. He's the famed WWF wrestling star. He stars in the new film "The Scorpion King," which opens Friday, April 19th.
He's been called the most electrifying man in sports entertainment, and the people's champion.
This movie is a prequel to "The Mummy Returns." You've got to explain.
Do I call you The? Or Mr. Rock? Or Dwayne?
JOHNSON: You can call me The. You can call me Rock. You can call me Dwayne. Rock's a little easier to say.
KING: Rock. You like that. And that's what you're known as.
JOHNSON: Yeah, sure.
KING: And The is silly.
JOHNSON: But not silly for you, though. You can call me anything you want.
KING: You can call me Lou or you can -- OK.
What do you mean by prequel?
JOHNSON: Well, the character I played in "The Mummy Returns," we date back about another -- actually, before I became a king. So I was already a king in "The Mummy Returns," the Scorpion King.
So we date back about 5 to 10 years before the character actually became a king. And this journey, this incredible journey he goes through, to become a king.
And the great thing about it, there's actually a dark side to my character. Well, you know, maybe I don't want to become king. That's the thing. I'm an assassin. So I know how to kill. But it's through this incredible journey that I take the audience on and it's love, it's betrayal, it's revenge, it's discovery.
KING: And as I was telling you, an amazing trailer.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
KING: If the a trailer sells a movie, Scorpion King is going to super. They must have high expectations, Universal, right?
JOHNSON: They do. They do. And everybody really does. But I've kind of been low key about it, and I'm just lucky. I've been blessed. I had great people to work with, and I'm just going to see what happens.
KING: Are you now an actor? I mean, Rock, are you still a wrestler who acts, or are you now an actor who wrestles?
JOHNSON: That's a good question. I think, probably both.
KING: Either way works.
JOHNSON: Either way works. Acting, you know -- in wrestling, I wanted to, when I broke into wrestling, I never really wanted to be the biggest guy, because obviously I'm not the biggest guy or the strongest guy. I always just wanted to be the best.
And I also knew that I wanted to act one day as well. I wanted to break into acting when the time was right. So acting is a long- term goal of mine. I've wanted to do that since I was a kid.
And wrestling, and being in that format, helped me transcend.
KING: You come from a family of wrestlers, right?
JOHNSON: Yes, absolutely.
KING: Your father wrested. Your grandfather wrestled.
JOHNSON: My grandfather wrestled.
KING: Was it amateur or professional wrestling?
JOHNSON: It was the real stuff, Larry. It was professional.
KING: Amateur wrestling don't count.
JOHNSON: No, I'm only kidding. I've got a lot of respect for those guys.
As a matter of fact, a good friend of mine is Kurt Angle, who won the Olympic gold.
KING: You're not kidding.
JOHNSON: Yes, in '96. So, no -- my grandfather worked for Vince McMahon's dad in the 70's.
JOHNSON: Yes. And my dad worked for Vince McMahon, and here I am, carrying on the family tradition.
KING: You also had other names before you were The Rock, right?
JOHNSON: Yes. Well, my original name was Flex Kavana and it was...
KING: Flex Kavana.
JOHNSON: You got to watch out for Flex Kavana.
KING: You had to be a bad guy.
JOHNSON: He was a good guy, but with bad tendencies.
KING: You liked him, but he was dirty.
JOHNSON: Exactly. Yes, exactly. So, he was a reluctant hero, so to speak. But that was one of my first names and...
KING: Dwayne Johnson is your name, right?
KING: That's your birth name?
JOHNSON: Yes. KING: Who came up with The Rock?
JOHNSON: Well, it was a collective idea, myself and management. My original name was Rocky Maivia. And my grandfather's name was Peter Maivia. And my dad's name is Rocky Johnson. So when they first came to me and said, hey, we've got an idea for your name, what do you think -- and I was one, also, I never wanted to ride on the coattails of my family in the family business. I wanted to do everything on my own. If I couldn't get it on my own, I didn't want it.
So I wanted to steer clear, and when they came to me -- all right, you ready for your name? And I'm like, yes, sure, hit me with me. OK. Rock Maivia. No way. Couldn't do it. There's no way.
And a month later I'm getting introduced as Rocky Maivia, and that name kind of just got shortened, and I think from a marketability standpoint, The Rock sounds better, and I wanted to shorten it anyway.
KING: Is wresting, Rock, also acting in a sense? Or, certainly, the buildup is acting, right? Come and see me, I'm going to kill this guy. I mean, the way they build up the wrestling, it's a show.
JOHNSON: Sure, sure. Absolutely. It's physical theatrics. And there's a lot of showmanship, obviously, involved in wrestling. A lot of acting, to a certain degree.
You know, in the wrestling venue, you don't necessarily get moments of poignancy at times. You know, where it's like, wow, that's great...
KING: Very moving...
JOHNSON: No, there's not a lot of tender moments in the WWF. There is, however, a large degree of acting going on, and you know, I give a lot of credit to those guys. I mean, these guys are unbelievable athletes, and they do a great job of conveying what they're feeling...
KING: You'd have to be to do what they do, right?
JOHNSON: Yes, sure. Absolutely. You know, it's a very confrontational industry, that wrestling industry. So there's a good degree of acting. There's not a lot of myriad of emotions going on, you know, in terms of range. Like we talk about tender moments. There's not a lot of love involved. The Rock wasn't falling in love on many occasions.
KING: Was Rock a hit right away?
JOHNSON: No. No, not at all.
KING: He was not.
JOHNSON: No. I think what happened, when I first got into the industry, and this was now going on my sixth year, I was the quintessential good guy. And I was young... KING: Nice. Clean cut.
JOHNSON: Nice guy. I was 24, 25. Yes. Clean cut. Nice guy. And I was told, listen, you can't smile enough when you go out there. You're just happy to be here.
And before you know it -- and at that time, our industry was actually taking an attitudinal shift, where people were siding with the bad guys, so to speak.
KING: A little bit more raw...
JOHNSON: Yes, absolutely. And here this good guy is, clean cut guy, smiling all the time, and the fans, who are very savvy, basically took the position of, well, you know what?
KING: Good two-shoes.
JOHNSON: Too much goody two-shoes. And I remember going to the management and saying, you know what, I just lost and it feels funny to smile. And this is a reality-based show. Realistically, I would react in a different way.
And they were like, well, but you know what, you still -- you're just happy to be here, and you'll try better the next time.
And I thought, OK. Well, I'm going out there, and I hear this guy telling me, you suck. Well, naturally, I'd like to react to this guy. So what happened, I became, as a good guy, one of the most hated guys on the roster. And that wasn't...
KING: You used the good guy to be hated?
JOHNSON: Well, what happened -- I was becoming hated and really getting booed out of the arenas, but still being pushed as a good guy. So I took some time off, about three months, and it was in that time- span that I thought something has to happen.
I remember talking to Vince McMahon and saying, you know, we had talked about the possibility of me turning heel, which in our industry is a term for bad guy. And I thought, you know what, I love the idea. I'd love to do that. But if you can just give me a little bit of creative freedom and express myself, I would naturally express myself to the fans. That's all I asked for. And if it tanks, it tanks.
KING: So how would we describe -- The Rock is -- what? His persona.
JOHNSON: The Rock is -- I would say, over the top. A little bit of charisma. A little bit of confidence. Not afraid, which really helped me, Larry. He's not afraid to step out of the box, and try different things.
And going out there, if I feel like singing, I'm going to sing. If I feel like insulting in a humorous way and older couple, well I'm going to do that. Only to be self-deprecating in some way. So, I mean there's a lot of things that's really helped me, and I told myself, everything I step up to the plate, let's knock a grand slam.
KING: Our guest is The Rock. He stars in "The Scorpion King." It opens Friday, April 19th. And it looks like it's going to be a smash hit. It's from Universal.
We'll be right back. Don't go away.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Raises the Rock's hand. The Rock is still the reigning WCW champion, as he fought through hell and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
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KING: We're back with The Rock. He stars in "The Scorpion King."
I just asked him something off the air, I'll ask on the air, because my memory of watching wresting as a child, which was the first big hit on television, wrestling and Milton Berle.
KING: There were no black wrestlers, 1954, '53, '56. Are there many now?
JOHNSON: There are a lot, and there certainly are a lot more than 20 years ago. Certainly a lot more than the 50's and 60's, and as each decade passes, more and more get into the industry.
KING: Did your father get a lot of work?
JOHNSON: You know what. My dad was really the exception. My dad was one of the first black wrestlers who was able to transcend.
My dad came up in the industry -- first of all, the industry is a very closed industry. As big as it is, globally, it's still a very small industry.
KING: It's like the circus, right?
JOHNSON: Yes, absolutely.
So my dad came up in the industry in the 60's and the 70's. And in the 60's, I mean, times were bad at that time. You know, you had your white water fountain and your black water fountain. Your white area and your black area.
KING: And you grew up where?
JOHNSON: Well, my dad -- we went all throughout the south in Georgia and Tennessee and Florida and Texas.
KING: You were back of the bus people.
JOHNSON: Yes, it was like that. And I did the majority of my growing up in Hawaii as well.
But, yes, so it was difficult for my dad at that time. My dad was the exception, though, because he was able to transcend the color barrier and he was able to become the champion of that circuit, of that certain promotion.
And every city we went to…
KING: And this was accepted in the south?
JOHNSON: And it was accepted, because he was the exception, because he was gifted athletically. He looked great. He always took care of himself. And he was a consummate professional.
So my dad was able to -- my dad was able to transcend and be accepted as well, and still be proud of who he was and...
KING: How about your grandfather? He must have had a tough time.
JOHNSON: My grandfather had a tough time, but at the same time, again, he was the exception. Because I'm half-black and half-Samoan. And my grandfather was Samoan.
And he was the exception as well. He was a man of color, and he came up in the 50's and 60's and ended his career in the 70's.
And there weren't a lot of people who were familiar with Samoans and the Samoan customs and Samoan traditions, so he was very unique looking. And he was the exception as well.
He was a big dude, too. So if you messed with him...
KING: Is your fan base wide? I mean, does it cover all of -- whites love you, blacks love you. I mean, do you cover the swath?
JOHNSON: Yes, that's pretty much safe to say.
I'm very lucky that, you know, when people look at me -- and I'm nicknamed "The People's Champion." When people look at me, they never really see color. It's not like they say, oh, there's The Rock. There's that...
KING: Black champion. Or Samoan.
JOHNSON: Black champion. Or Samoan champion. Or Greek, he looks Greek, or whatever.
KING: Are there many ethnics at the wrestling matches?
JOHNSON: Absolutely. And there is such a wide spectrum of fans, from 8 to 80, white to black, male to female, so it's a wide array. And I've been lucky.
KING: I am told that you are famous for speaking in the third person, losing slogans, raising your eyebrow. Slogans like "do you smell what The Rock is cooking" and "know your role." These are all your own concoctions?
JOHNSON: Yes. I take a lot of pride in that. And I have great writers. I have a great writer, Brian (ph), who...
KING: You have a writer?
JOHNSON: Yes. Sure. Well, you know, what's four hours of television, and now we've done -- I'm actually only on one show a week, when I do WWF, I'll be on only on Thursdays. But we did an extension.
But I do have a writer, who works closely. Who knows my character and we write down these great promos.
KING: And he yells them out in the ring? Does them as promos?
JOHNSON: No, no. Whose that?
KING: The Rock.
JOHNSON: The Rock does, yes.
KING: The writer writes them, but The Rock yells them out in the ring and yells to the crowd.
JOHNSON: We'll sit down and we'll go over somewhat of a compendium of what we're going to go over that night. And say, well, let's try this, or let's try that, let's omit this, and let's try this. And before you know it, we go out there -- it's something I really told myself that if, not only do I want to be great in the ring, but I want to do my best to raise the bar -- continue to raise the bar, in terms of promos and giving interviews and things like that.
KING: Do you see yourself following a kind of Schwarzenegger path here? I mean he was a body champion, he wasn't a wrestler. But he went from that to acting.
KING: And made a great career of it.
JOHNSON: Yes, he has. And he has been fantastically supportive when I speak to him. And he's in a position where he really doesn't have to be supportive, period.
KING: He's a good guy.
JOHNSON: He's a great guy. He's been wonderfully supportive.
And I get that often -- you're going to be the next Arnold. Well, you know what, his shoes are very, very big, and let me just be The Rock. And I'm going to go do my thing.
The action genre is something that it seems likely to transcend into, but I'd love to try other roles as well.
KING: Are you always going to keep wrestling?
JOHNSON: What's that?
KING: Always going to keep wrestling?
JOHNSON: You know what, I will try, Larry. That's the thing. I've been weighing this decision, and it's heavy, because I love the entertainment industry and I love acting. And I love the feel of a live audience. And the WWF fans, my fans, are so passionate and loyal.
So that's something I can honestly say I never want to give up. However, I don't know how long I'll be able to balance both.
KING: If you do a movie, you're not going to be able to commit to leaving every Thursday night.
KING: Of course, you've got to stay in shape, right?
JOHNSON: Got to stay in shape. Got to make that sacrifice. Try and get to the gym every day.
KING: People think that because it's an act, of sorts, or because it's kind of show businessy and rehearsed, that you don't have to be in shape. But the reverse is true, right? I'd get severely hurt in there.
JOHNSON: If you're not in shape. Exactly. And although things are choreographed and they are rehearsed, and we have scripts and directors and producers as well. But it's very important to stay in shape.
And you know, the bumps, the falls -- those steel chairs are real steel chairs. You know, and especially when your ring is your stage, and we're this close -- the audience is this close.
So misses are important, that they don't happen, and especially when other elements come into play.
KING: Does The Rock lose?
JOHNSON: Great question. As a matter of fact, I lose more than any other...
KING: Famous wrestler.
JOHNSON: Famous wrestler. Any other hero.
KING: Why? JOHNSON: That's a great question.
Here's the thing. I think with the character of The Rock, very over the top, very bombast at times, and saying anything, doing everything, and he has transcended that industry.
And when people watch, it's very important to me to be relatable. Now, while people might not relate to wow, there's the most electrifying man in sports entertainment, it's very important that they relate to being flawed.
KING: So he should lose.
JOHNSON: He should lose. And I prefer to lose more often than I win, actually.
JOHNSON: Well, only because it's that formula that I've always believed in. To be flawed and be in jeopardy. And if you can get behind me as a fan...
KING: So The Rock fan is not sure how he's going to do tonight?
JOHNSON: That's the great thing about it.
But see, that's the thing, there's The Rock fan -- I don't know whether he's going to win or he's going to lose, but I can guarantee that he's going to give me all my money's worth. And I can guarantee that that guy is going to fight until he can't fight any more.
KING: Our guest is The Rock. An incredible story. He stars in "The Scorpion King." It opens Friday.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people's champ. He is still the World Wrestling Federation champion!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rock trying to fight back. Has he got enough left to take down Kevin Nash? And Nash I think has just answered that for us. Nash (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He's been dubbed the most electrifying man in sports entertainment, "The People's Champion." He's The Rock -- Dwayne Johnson. He stars in "The Scorpion King" from Universal, which opens Friday.
Do you ever get -- even though it's choreographed -- mad. You didn't like what he did, so even though, let's say, you're supposed to lose, or whatever, where you really go at him?
JOHNSON: It's happened a couple of times, but I will never let it happen in the ring.
KING: You won't?
JOHNSON: Unless someone tries me in the ring, and tries to pull my card, then that's it. There's a price you pay.
KING: Have you been hurt?
JOHNSON: Yes, I've been hurt. Sure, I've been hurt, a couple of times.
KING: What's the most serious?
JOHNSON: Most serious -- actually, I've been hurt. I've had to have knee surgery. I had that about three years ago. But I've been really, really lucky. And I tell myself I just wanted to try to rely on a little bit of charisma, some idiosyncratic nuances that I can do that are entertaining, as opposed to jumping off the top of this building on somebody.
KING: Does it exploit women?
JOHNSON: No, and my opinion, as odd as it sounds, is not biased. It's not a biased opinion. I don't think it exploits women.
I think, you know, you have to take our show for what it is and what it's worth. Funny at times, the violence is very comical, Three Stooges. Exploiting women -- you have -- these are very empowering women.
KING: I mean, there were women managers and...
JOHNSON: Well, there's women managers. There's women valets. There's women wrestlers. And these women wrestlers are very empowering women. And I don't think it exploits...
KING: It's no way a put down.
JOHNSON: What's that?
KING: No way a put down of women.
JOHNSON: In my opinion, no. And certainly no more than anything you see on television every day.
KING: How does your wife deal with your profession? JOHNSON: She's been unbelievably supportive. She's been amazing. She's always been there. She's very supportive. She's a big critic.
JOHNSON: Not necessarily of the industry, but of my performance, which is important.
KING: How did you meet?
JOHNSON: We met in college, at the University of Miami.
KING: You went to Miami?
JOHNSON: Yes, number one school in the country. Won the national title.
KING: Yes, you sure did. Pretty good in a lot of sports.
JOHNSON: Yes, absolutely. So we met down there, in college. That was about nine years ago.
KING: Why did you go to that school?
JOHNSON: I wanted -- I signed with them in '91. And I wanted to go to a powerhouse, and a school like the University of Miami, they'd just won the national title.
KING: You signed to play football?
JOHNSON: Signed to play football with them. I got a full scholarship and went down there.
KING: Did you play?
JOHNSON: Yes, sure. And I played with some great players. I was beat out -- it's a funny story. My senior year, a guy beat me out of my position...
KING: Which was?
JOHNSON: Some guy, you might have heard of him, Warren Sapp.
KING: You were a linebacker?
JOHNSON: We were defensive linemen. And he wound up...
KING: You're small for a defensive lineman. I mean, that's strange to say this, but...
JOHNSON: Well, you know, down at -- Warren was the exception, because he's such a big guy.
KING: Boy, is he. JOHNSON: He's the most dominant tackle in the league. So, at Miami, they like to say that, you know, we'll take our linebackers and we'll make them defensive backs. We'll take our linemen and make them linebackers.
KING: I know they move people around.
JOHNSON: Yes, sure. Absolutely. So a lot of our guys were smaller guys with speed.
KING: You ever think of the NFL?
JOHNSON: I did. That was a goal of mine. And anytime -- especially at the University of Miami, a big, high profile program like that, everyone before me from Russell Maryland, Cortez Kennedy, they were all in playing in the NFL, and that was my goal.
And five years of work -- it didn't turn out that way. Not only was I beat out my senior year, but I had a bad back injury. Got limited playing time. Very unproductive. Didn't get drafted. Didn't get a free agent contract.
KING: But got a wife.
JOHNSON: I got a wife out of the deal. I got a degree out of the deal. And I learned more in five years at the University of Miami about -- oddly enough, I tell the story of how, I couldn't tell you 25 things I remembered in my classes. And I know my professors will hate me for that.
But I tell you, what I've been able to take with me about commitment, about sacrifice, about realizing my goals and going after them...
KING: How do you react -- last year, a 14-year-old boy, Lionel Tate, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of a 6-year-old girl. The boy was 12 at the time of the murder. Says he didn't intend to kill her, he was only imitating wrestling.
How did you react to that trial?
JOHNSON: Oddly enough, I was dragged into that trial by…
KING: You testified?
JOHNSON: No. I was dragged into it by the attorney, Lionel Tate's attorney.
KING: Used you as an example?
JOHNSON: Well, in a case like this, it was such a horrible occurrence that happened. I mean, the little girl was killed, and Lionel Tate was charged. And the attorney -- Lionel Tate had said, well, you know, I was watching wrestling. I was imitating wrestling moves, as you said. And the attorney thought, well, let me go after the biggest name in the industry. Let me go after The Rock. So he dragged me into the case.
And I didn't testify, and I didn't actually go to court, but my name came up all the time.
And here's how I respond about that. You know, it's so unfortunate that a little girl passed away and was killed. Tragic. And I hate that that happened. But to actually place the blame on me, for one, when I didn't have anything to do with it, I mean, is really like placing the blame on someone who shoots someone by accident, saying he's impersonating the "Terminator," or, you know, we're playing football in the streets as kids, or baseball...
KING: Like thinking you're "Super Man" and jumping out of a building.
JOHNSON: Sure, exactly. You know, you don't go and try to sue Christopher Reeve or anything like that.
But, you know, it was an unfortunate thing that happened. And I say to kids, all the time, who impersonate me and who like to execute the moves that I do, and a lot of the other guys, is you really just got to be careful, and understand what we do is choreographed and we're trained to protect the other guys as best we can. And I trust the guy I'm in there with. So it's really difficult.
But, again, it's certainly no different from us playing baseball or practicing our favorite moves.
KING: What did you think of the verdict?
JOHNSON: I thought that, you know, there's -- at 14, you understand what you're doing. And I remember myself at 14, not that I was always doing the right thing when I was 14. I was, you know, messing around at times. But at 14, you know what you're doing and you have a fundamental responsibility for what you do.
And from what I know -- and my attorneys were able to give me copies of the report. I mean, the girl, from what I know, her liver was found floating in her body. I mean, she had all these broken bones.
There was a lot of damage done to the young girl, so -- and again, at 14, and up, and even sometimes younger, you do know.
KING: We'll be right back with The Rock. He stars in "The Scorpion King." It opens Friday. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Rock is still (UNINTELLIGIBLE)! (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with The Rock.
If you've seen the trailer for "The Scorpion King," I know you're going to go say it, because there was a wining trailer. I'm anxious to see the film.
Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation, sometimes gets a bum rap.
KING: Very controversial figure. What's he like to work for?
JOHNSON: He's great to work for. We have a great relationship. We have a very honest and open relationship. We're very eye to eye and in sync with each other, which is great, and very important to me.
And he's in a peculiar situation, because in our industry -- it's a very closed industry. And he's dealing with a lot of egos, and he has to deal with a lot of egos. And he decisions he makes, well, not everybody is going to like them. And especially when it's an ego- driven business that's choreographed and all written, the power of the pen, so to speak, so it makes for a difficult time at times. And he's...
KING: Are you paid fairly?
JOHNSON: Very well taken care of, yes.
KING: If it is choreographed, and the fans know it's choreographed, why do they go?
JOHNSON: I think it's that insatiable appetite that we have of good versus evil, and always wanting to see good prevail.
And sometimes wanting to see bad prevail as well. And that's the great thing about our audience. They can cheer, boo, and whatever they want, and whoever they want.
Also, too, I think that there's an element of living vicariously through a lot of our characters. I know that there's a lot of people out there who live vicariously through The Rock, who is able to go on television and tell his boss, Vince McMahon, you know what, I really appreciate what you did, but here's my way of thanking you -- and I dump him on his head. And he still pays me.
So a lot of people live vicariously through that.
KING: Who wouldn't like to do that to their boss.
Is there a lot of drugs used in wrestling? Steroids? Painkillers? Is that part of the game of doing this every night?
JOHNSON: I think steroids were really prevalent, I think, throughout the 80's, and a little bit into the 90's. Now I can honestly say that it's not as prevalent. There are probably some guys who do that.
Painkillers just come with the territory. But certainly nothing...
KING: Have you ever had to use something you didn't want to use just for performance?
JOHNSON: No. No.
KING: Did not.
JOHNSON: No. Never. In the wresting industry, no.
When we were in college...
JOHNSON: Yes. When we were in college...
KING: Take the needle.
JOHNSON: We tried it. And it was one of those things. We were so stupid, because we didn't even know what it was. We didn't know what it did. We didn't know how to pronounce it. And I still, to this day, I couldn't even tell you what it was.
And like two weeks later, I thought, well, God, I feel the same and I look the same, and it's probably Tylenol or Tylenol-PM. It made me go to sleep.
KING: There was a documentary last year about one wrestler using crack, "Beyond the Mat."
KING: Did you see that?
JOHNSON: Yes. Yes, I did.
KING: Was that the exception to the rule?
JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I thought "Beyond the Mat" really didn't give you a good idea of what the industry is like.
I thought that it showed the not-so-good side of the industry, the underbelly of the industry.
KING: The other point of view.
JOHNSON: Sure. Absolutely. But there's so many good things about the industry. They showed a guy who was on crack. They showed another guy who was broke. They showed another guy who just couldn't let go of the industry, who was working for peanuts.
KING: That you could find in any industry.
JOHNSON: In any industry. Sure. Absolutely.
KING: How did you react to the death of Owen Hart. You did three shows that night, I think. When they had the stunt of him coming in and the thing fell.
JOHNSON: Sure. Right. That was difficult. That was really difficult for me.
I was close to Owen, close to his family. Very close to Brett. And it was difficult for the industry, but even more so for his family.
And what made it difficult is, we were scheduled to go out right after his match.
KING: Oh, yes?
JOHNSON: And so after he was killed, we had to go out and perform.
Hardest night I've ever had to -- it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, was to make that decision to…
KING: They didn't cancel?
JOHNSON: They didn't cancel the show, and I remember wanting to -- like, seeing what was going on through the curtain, and they were trying to revive him. And I was ready to run out there and be beside my friend.
And it was at that moment that I realized that if I go out there, I don't want these people to react to The Rock and everybody be happy and everybody think it's part of the show.
So I stayed back, and when I finally saw him come through, I knew he wasn't with us anymore. And that was really difficult.
KING: How do you explain your own phenomenon? The book was a tremendous hit. You're going to be a movie star. You're the number one name in wrestling. Do you explain it to yourself?
JOHNSON: I don't. I really don't. I just say I'm blessed.
KING: It wasn't planned?
JOHNSON: It wasn't planned. No. I never, ever fathomed the amount of success that I have now. And a lot of times I slow down, whenever I can, and try to enjoy the fruits of my labor, and go wow, this is really happening around me. And I'm trying to soak everything in.
But I never, ever fathomed the success I was going to have. I always just wanted to, at the end of the day, entertain the fans. And I always wanted to, at the end of the day, just make something of myself. Because growing up, I didn't have a lot, and although my parents were in the industry, I mean, we were broke for a long, long time.
And throughout college, as you know...
KING: You had a full scholarship.
JOHNSON: Especially on a full scholarship, you have no money. I couldn't work. So I was broke for a long time. And I realize that -- somebody told me this a long time ago and I'll never forget. They said, once you've ever been hungry, really hungry, you'll never be full.
And I know that I, even in college, I thought, I just want to do something with my life. And whatever I do, I just want to make the best of it.
KING: You pinch yourself then.
JOHNSON: All the time. Sometimes I enjoy that, though. That's weird.
KING: What about the temptations of stardom? You're a great- looking guy, movies, wrestling. Does your wife ever get worried about all that's available out there to you? And I'm talking of groupies.
JOHNSON: Sure. No, she doesn't get worried at all, because I don't put myself in that position. There's a lot of confidence. And, as you know, being in the entertainment industry, there's a lot of sacrifices you have to make.
KING: You sure do. Or blow the life.
JOHNSON: And commitments. Or blow it, yes.
And I've never really put myself in that position. I mean generally, it's very systematically mapped out for it. OK, I'm going here, I'm doing this, and I've got my team, I've got my agents, my managers, my...
KING: So you don't go to the women. You see that pretty girl over there, who gives you the wink, and wants to meet you. You don't go to that.
JOHNSON: No. I'll go to the ugly one who is giving me the wink -- I'm only kidding.
KING: It's hard, isn't it? In the world you live in, you have fans all the time.
JOHNSON: The fans are everywhere, as you know. But, you know, again, you talk about responsibility and putting yourself in those positions. And you could easily put yourself in those positions, or you could easily not put yourself in those positions.
KING: You value what you have? JOHNSON: I do. I'm very lucky. I'm very, very lucky. And -- not that I've been the greatest guy or anything like that, I certainly haven't. I'm not angel. But I do value what I have, and I'm very lucky.
KING: Back with more of The Rock. "The Scorpion King" opens Friday. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE SCORPION KING")
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: You invited The Rock, the World Wrestling Federation champion, to speak at the Republican National Convention? Well, The Rock says this, what's the matter with you people? If The Rock didn't know any better, he'd say you might be trying to reach out to all The Rock's fans, the 14 million eligible voters who watch The Rock every single week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back, with The Rock.
You spoke at the Republican Convention?
JOHNSON: I did.
KING: Are you an activist?
JOHNSON: No. And here's the thing. The political circle is something I've always been intrigued with, and having -- I was invited. I spoke with Dennis Hastert, that was great. I sat with the former president and his wife in the president's box.
But after going through that, it's something I don't think I want to get involved with. I have my own views.
KING: You're a Republican, though, right? Or aren't you?
JOHNSON: Well, I did actually vote for Bush, absolutely.
But still, a lot of times, having not been overly involved in politics, I still weigh, and I'm still...
KING: You go with the man or the woman, depending on who it is?
KING: Where were you on 09-11?
JOHNSON: I was in Houston, Texas.
KING: You were going to wrestle?
JOHNSON: I was in Houston, Texas, and it was a Tuesday, and we were going to perform that night. And I got a phone call from my wife, saying that the planes had hit the Towers.
KING: And you turned on the TV right away, right?
JOHNSON: Turned on the TV and, as millions of Americans, was glued to the TV all day.
KING: Remember what you were thinking?
JOHNSON: Absolutely. Absolutely. I was thinking that, in the most -- you know, here we are, a country that, typically, we don't bully. Nor do we really initiate war. But when someone hurts us like that, in the most cowardly way, in the most cowardly fashion, and killing -- I just couldn't get over, killing -- at that time, my daughter was born, and...
KING: Oh yes, just born.
JOHNSON: Yes, she was just born. And killing thousands of innocent men and women, and children, in the most cowardly fashion, realizing, well, now that you've done that, there's a price that you pay for that.
And I support the president. I support our troops 100 percent going over there. There's a price you pay, and that price is, we find you, we kill you. It's really that simple.
KING: You think he's done a good job?
JOHNSON: I do. And, you know, here's the thing, obviously everybody will have their critics, especially the president, which is not the easiest job in the world.
And he didn't ask to step into the presidency and be involved I such a complex issue. But he did. He stood up in the face of terror and what's happened, and I think he's done a great job. Absolutely.
KING: Your wife is a vice president at Merrill Lynch?
JOHNSON: She was. Now she's moved on and she's opened her own financial company. She's been great.
KING: And where is she based?
JOHNSON: Based in Miami.
KING: So she's both a mother and a professional?
JOHNSON: A mother, professional woman, married to a big pain in the ass. Can I say that? KING: Yes, you can. Rock star. Yes, you're a rock star in a sense, aren't you? That's a good equivalent. You're the equivalent of a rock star.
JOHNSON: Sure. Sure. And, you know, I guess, in an understanding way, you know, being "The People's Champ" and you can always see The Rock, you know, what seems to be very attainable. You can always go up and see him.
I guess I kind of have that vibe that, as mean as I try to look at time, it doesn't work. People will come up, hey, talk to my daughter, or sign this. No problem.
KING: They like The Rock. The smile has a lot to do with it, don't you think? And that's natural, right?
JOHNSON: I guess. I don't know.
KING: You didn't do a whole tooth job.
JOHNSON: No, I didn't do the tooth job. And oddly enough, I had bucked teeth when I was a kid.
KING: You're kidding.
JOHNSON: I was bucky. I was bad. I was like that.
Everybody's laughing here. I was Bucky. I was bad. But I never had braces. I was lucky.
KING: Do you get to Samoa?
JOHNSON: I've been there twice, and I would love to go back.
KING: What's it like?
JOHNSON: It's beautiful over there.
KING: Every Samoan I've met, I like.
JOHNSON: It's beautiful.
KING: You meet many in Northern California.
JOHNSON: Absolutely. It's beautiful over there. It's still very preserved, and there are still people living I grass huts over there.
KING: Is Samoan on your father's side or your mother's side?
JOHNSON: My mother's side. My mom's Samoan and my dad's black.
KING: Did they meet -- was he in the service?
JOHNSON: Actually, my dad was my grandfather's tag-team partner in San Francisco, and my dad was going to stay at a hotel. And my grandfather said, why don't you just come stay with us. And brought him home, and that was the worst mistake he'd ever made. That was when I was a thought.
KING: Our guest, The Rock. We have one segment remaining. We'll touch some other bases with the man who stars in "The Scorpion King." More about that movie right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE REAL SCORPION KING")
JOHNSON: There was an actual Scorpion King who walked the earth more than 5,000 years ago, and archaeologists are just beginning to learn more about him now. But from what we already know so far, this guy was a pretty bad dude in his own right. King Scorpion was his name. He conquered rival leaders. He had the biggest tomb on the block, and he may have even helped invent the written language. We're talking about a man who just might have laid the groundwork for one of the greatest civilizations in human history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: OK. Back with The Rock.
In our remaining moments, back to "The Scorpion King." You like this guy?
JOHNSON: "The Scorpion King."
KING: Do you like him?
JOHNSON: I love "The Scorpion King." I love the Scorpion King. He was that reluctant hero. Again, the guy who is a good guy, has somewhat of a bad tendency, or attitude, to him.
And what makes it even better is my nemesis, who....
KING: Is who?
JOHNSON: An acclaimed actor, British actor, Steven Brand, who has done a fantastic job.
KING: He's the villain?
JOHNSON: He's the villain. And what makes him great, physically, from a physicality standpoint, he's not that big of a guy. He's a lot smaller than me. And he thinks that by enslaving a nation and killing innocent people, he actually thinks he's doing the right thing, and he believes in that. That alone, very dangerous.
KING: He's a zealot.
JOHNSON: Absolutely. And oddly enough, he has some endearing qualities to him. Which makes it even worse.
KING: Good villains do. JOHNSON: They always do.
KING: The timeframe is when? "Scorpion King" is happening when?
JOHNSON: April 19th.
KING: I know. I mean the timeframe of the story.
JOHNSON: Oh, I'm sorry. That's my shameless plug, April 19th.
The story is 5000 B.C. And I had a chance to see the movie. It's really a fantastic movie. It's, at the end of the day, a fun ride. Fun. Very fun movie. The action is what you would expect from me.
KING: How much physicality in doing a movie compared to being in the ring?
JOHNSON: Well, in the ring you have a fragment of time, say 15 to 30 minutes. And one take. That's it. And you let the cameras play to you.
Obviously, in film, it's take after take after take and reset the lighting and rest the angle and this point of view. And that's the great thing about film is to have those choices.
KING: You like that? It don't drive you nuts? Do it again, do it again.
JOHNSON: Well, at times. You know, at times, it's like, OK, cut, that was great, Rock, the performance was great. One more. It's like, OK. You know what, print that one twice and we won't do anymore. And then I wind up doing one more anyway.
But I love that about film It's great to have those choices. Even at 4:00 in the morning for these night scenes, and watching it, all the work paid off.
KING: Do you take direction well?
JOHNSON: I've been told I do. Yes. It's very important to me to, and I've had a chance to work with two great directors now.
KING: Who did "Scorpion King"?
JOHNSON: "Scorpion King," Chuck Russell, who directed Jim Carey in "The Mask," Arnold in "Eraser," Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Steven Somers, who wrote and directed the first two "Mummy" movies.
Again, working with those great directors, and relying on them, and letting them know -- as well as my fellow actors, that I need as much help as I can possibly get.
KING: What is it like, when you watch the finished performance, for you? JOHNSON: That was my biggest concern. I just wanted to know -- because I didn't really have anything to really gauge it by, and I just wanted to go out and perform as best I could, and give the best performance I could. And I was really critical watching it.
KING: Get a little queasy sometimes?
JOHNSON: No, oddly enough. Especially on the love scene, I didn't get queasy.
KING: You didn't?
JOHNSON: No, I thought I would. A lot of times in the action genre, the action movies, there's not too many guys in action, even now, that I want to see kiss the girl. But it wasn't...
KING: Arnold doesn't. The Rock did. So I'm lucky. But it was great. And the performance was good. And I was really happy with it. And when it's all wrapped up and said and done, the only thing I wanted, again, was to make sure that when the audience left, they were thoroughly entertained.
I watched it. I hope they will be.
KING: How old are you now?
KING: Boy, you've attained so much. You want to be a movie star?
KING: You want to be a recognizable -- The Rock is opening in another film.
JOHNSON: Absolutely. But I'm fairly recognizable now.
KING: I know. But it's a movie career, right?
JOHNSON: Absolutely. Yes. Sure. And not -- it kind of sounds a little self-serving, like I want to be a movie star. Just, more so, continuing to evolve as an actor. Because it's something I've always wanted to do. And do that.
KING: And never forget poverty.
JOHNSON: No. I'll never be full.
KING: So you're still a little hungry all the time, right?
JOHNSON: Always. Always.
KING: Thank you, Rock.
JOHNSON: Thank you. I enjoyed it. KING: The Rock. Dwayne Johnson, famed star of the World Wrestling Federation, famed author, and he stars in "The Scorpion King," which opens Friday the 19th.
We thank The Rock for being with us. We thank you for joining us.
In Los Angeles, I'm Larry King. Good night.
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