Dwayne Johnson is speaking to a drunken woman who has somehow managed to slip past security and into the middle of a scene he’s shooting. He’s in Las Vegas, outside a casino, filming his next kid-friendly movie, Race to Witch Mountain, in which he’ll play a cabdriver being taken for a ride by two paranormal teens. When the inebriated woman wanders onto the set, you half expect Johnson to grab a metal folding chair and smash it over her head, but no. ”Excuse me, sweetheart,” he tells her, in the reassuring tones usually reserved for putting small children to bed. ”Darling? Honey? You’re in the shot.”
Clearly, the wrestler-turned-actor formerly known as The Rock isn’t taking a single fan for granted these days. On June 20, Johnson will be seen opposite Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway as Agent 23 in Get Smart, a big-screen update of the 1965-70 sitcom about a bumbling secret agent. And once he’s finished production on Witch Mountain (an update of the 1975 family classic Escape to Witch Mountain), he’ll sprout wings and practice nocturnal dentistry as the star of Tooth Fairy. ”The idea that I could become the tooth fairy to children worldwide is hilarious to me,” he admits.
That’s right, folks, the guy who once cracked vertebrae in the wrestling ring and taunted his opponents with references to ”poon tang pie” is now hell-bent on becoming your kid’s favorite film star. After proving he could carry a movie to No. 1 with last fall’s surprise hit The Game Plan, he’s positioning himself as Hollywood’s go-to family comedy hitman. It’s all part of the latest reinvention of The Rock — which starts with not referring to himself as The Rock. ”I’m aware of everything that comes with that nickname, and I just think there’s a lot more you can do without it,” he says. ”But I wanted it to happen naturally, from ‘The Rock’ to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to ‘Dwayne Johnson.”’ He doesn’t do the thing with the eyebrow anymore, either, and he’s trimmed pounds of meathead muscle off his still handsomely chiseled 6’4” self. The purpose of this massive rebranding effort: to cast himself in the image of his four-quadrant matinee idols Will Smith and Tom Hanks. ”They embrace being a movie star from beginning to end,” says the 36-year-old actor. ”From preproduction through the all-important marketing, they work hard and enjoy it.”
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