Wrestler, actor, rapper and best-selling author Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson doesn’t know how to fail. But, crucially, he was never scared to.
From WWF to Hollywood
Dwayne Douglas Johnson —son and grandson of pro wrestlers Rocky Johnson and Peter Maivia—is born in Hayward, California, on May 2. Grandpa Peter, who fought Sean Connery in Bond movie You Only Live Twice, inspires Dwayne to live right. “To this day,” The Rock said last year, “he’s the most beloved and respected man I’ve ever known.”
Johnson’s senior year playing football at the University of Miami is cut short by a back injury. After graduation he switches to the Canadian Football League, playing for the Calgary Stampeders, but lasts just two months, leaving with only a handful dollars in his pocket. He would later name his production company Seven Bucks as a reminder of his rise from nothing.
After his dream career fizzles out, Johnson tries out the family business as a secondary path to success. Coached by his dad and renamed “Flex Kavana,” he wins a second-tier tag- team title in June. Five months later he’s mixing it up with the big boys in the WWF with a new monicker— Rocky Maivia, nicknamed “the Blue Chipper.”
The Rock, as Johnson now insists on being known, wins his first world wrestling championship, at the Survivor Series. His signature move is the People’s Elbow, though it becomes clear that the ability to work hard, which he learned as a kid, is The Rock’s greatest asset. “You gotta get up in the morning, you gotta get after it, you gotta put in the work, you gotta sweat,” he said.
Wrestling sees a rise in popularity, but its leading man doesn’t limit himself to the ring. The Rock grows his brand via music (a guest rap for Wyclef Jean), TV and movies, appearing as an alien fighter in Star Trek: Voyager and filming The Mummy Returns. He also earns that time-honored seal of approval: a hosting gig on Saturday Night Live.
The Rock is paid a reported $5.5 million to star in The Scorpion King—a record fee for a debut leading role. The pressure is huge, but he wins over the doubters. Showbiz bible Variety says, “He’s already leagues ahead of many prior athlete-actors in terms of screen charisma and hinted intelligence.”
Following a tough time in Hollywood—including a Worst Actor nomination at the 2006 Razzies for Doom —The Rock’s well-received turn in Fast Five helps make it a global hit. The key to success when entering a new area of life, he said, is to “be quiet and open your ears. Let everybody else talk.”
Robert Downey Who-nior? Forbes magazine crowns Johnson the year’s top- grossing actor after his movies, including GI Joe: Retaliation and Fast & Furious 6, take in $1.3 billion at the global box office. He also wins his first WWE championship in 11 years.
Now everyone can smell what The Rock is cooking. His recipe for success? “I was smart enough to know I certainly didn’t have all the answers. I [had to be] willing to take risks, and be willing to fail.” A crowd-pleasing Wrestlemania appearance in April is followed by Central Intelligence, a buddy action comedy with Kevin Hart, in theaters June 17.
- Full Name: Dwayne Douglas Johnson
- Born: May 2, 1972 (age 44) in Hayward, California
- Partner: Lauren Hashian (2007–present)
- Children: 2
- Most Famous Films: Fast and Furious Franchise, Pain & Gain, Central Intelligence
- Future Roles: Baywatch (2017), Fast & Furious 8 (2017), Jumanji (2017), Shazam! (2019)