Movie fans looking for a piece of The Rock helped Disney’s The Game Plan surprise industry prognosticators last weekend with a first-place, $23 million opening. Now Hollywood is asking: Is Dwayne ”The Rock” Johnson forgoing his action-hero status for softer family films? The wrestler-turned-actor has had a solid run with a variety of genres — along with Plan, many of his movies (Gridiron Gang, The Rundown, The Scorpion King) have bowed to impressive grosses and are usually a safe bet for studios. ”He’s charming, and there is a sense of humanity that’s attractive in a big man,” says producer John Davis (Daddy Day Care). ”There is always a need in Hollywood for the larger-than-life character who’s sweet.”
But some wonder whether too many family-friendly turns will cost Johnson roles in big-ticket blockbusters like King, which play to his hulking strength and attract more male fans. ”Part of his appeal is that he’s transformed himself into a likable leading man,” says a studio insider. ”These roles are going to hurt his ability to play a tough guy.” Even if that’s true, he won’t be short on gigs: Disney just cast him in a remake of its kiddie classic Escape to Witch Mountain. And since actors from Schwarzenegger to Eddie Murphy have done fine in both family and adult fare, Disney’s president of production Oren Aviv thinks Johnson can too: ”He understands his persona. And he’s an incredibly handsome physical specimen as well.” In Hollywood, that’s usually more than enough.
Cute kids + grown men = big bucks at the box office
The Pacifier (2005) — $30.6
Daddy Day Care (2003) — $27.6
Big Daddy (1999) — $41.5
Kindergarten Cop (1990) — $7.9
(Opening-weekend grosses, in millions)