Does your movie franchise require a fresh face and additional biceps poundage? Then the man to call is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The wrestler-turned-actor got his big-screen breakthrough in the 2001 sequel The Mummy Returns and more recently has spruced up both the Fast and Furious and Journey to the Center of the Earth series.
Now Johnson has joined the Joes in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the follow-up to Paramount’s 2009 G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, which earned $300 million worldwide and received — to put matters kindly — mixed reviews. The actor’s addition to the cast isn’t the only change to the franchise: Bruce Willis joins the cast and director Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never), replaces G.I. Joe helmer Stephen Sommers. Meanwhile, judging by the film’s trailer, Cobra star Channing Tatum plays a smaller part this time around.
Below, Mr. The Rock talks about G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which opens June 29, and his penchant for playing action heroes who like to crack eggs as well as skulls.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tell us about G.I. Joe: Retaliation?
DWAYNE JOHNSON: I can tell you this one is creatively much different [from the first]. It’s rooted, it’s grounded, it’s real. The studio came to me and I loved the idea of starring in the movie because I grew up on G.I. Joe and it’s a massive property. I spoke to the studio and they told me about the creative shift that they wanted to make with the movie, which made it easy for me to sign on.
Franchises are often “rebooted” after three or four movies. Did the studio talk about why they wanted to do so after just one?
Sure, sure. We all talked about that. The very frank discussions that I had with the studio was, ‘We know we can do better. And let’s challenge ourselves and sit down and make the movie that’s going to entertain the world.” I can appreciate that transparency and that directness. When you’re that open from the beginning, it makes things much easier and it makes the creative process that much better.
Can you give us some idea about the plot?
Absolutely. The Cobra command is trying to take over the world. I emerge as the leader. I go get Bruce Willis and we start kicking a– all over the place and stopping that!
What can you say about your character, Roadblock?
In the mythology of G.I. Joe, Roadblock is the glue that holds the Joes together. The added layer to that for me was to make him a B.A.M.F. You know what that means?
It took me a couple of seconds, but yes.
Who does Bruce Willis play?
Bruce Willis plays the original Joe, Joe Colton. He fitted so nicely into this role. I’ve been not only a fan of Bruce since I was a teenager but a friend of his for years now. And us together, in these roles, as a fan of movies but also as a fan of action heroes, I’m excited about this. Bruce does that very well. And when I say “that” I mean, “There’s a problem, I’m going to fix it, and I have a gun.” [Laughs] We both do that very well.
I believe Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who played one of the villains in the first movie, isn’t in Retaliation. Can you say who, if anyone, has replaced him in the role?
Well, to be honest with you, I didn’t see the first one. So I’m not quite sure. I know he’s not in it, but I’m not quite sure what role he played.
Have you still not seen the first one?
No, I didn’t want to see it. I just didn’t want that to cloud my judgment in any way as we were going down a new creative route.
Channing Tatum returns from the first one, as does Jonathan Pryce. So there are some plot connections between The Rise of Cobra and Retaliation?
Yeah, sure, sure. There are some plot connections with the first and the second. I’ll tell you this: Out of great tragedy often emerges new leaders and, through a great tragedy that takes place with the Joes. New leaders emerge.
Is it the Joes who are retaliating?
It is, yeah.
John M. Chu directed the movie. What was he like as a collaborator?
He was great to work with. He was an interesting choice at first because he had just come off the Justin Bieber movie.
I’m not sure what you’re getting at. I always think of Justin Bieber and The Rock in the same sentence.
Of course you do! [Laughs] Any time you think of Justin Bieber, you think of the Rock. So it was an interesting choice, but the studio was sold on him, and once I sat down with him I recognized right away that he was the right guy for this. One of the most interesting things about John Chu is that, from a very early age, he was always inspired by movement and dance. So to take that notion of movement and fluidity and apply that to a very big action movie — it’s a challenge, it’s a risk, but it has paid off in such invaluable ways. I’ve seen the movie and I couldn’t be happier with it and that guy is a hell of a director. Audiences are going to appreciate what he did.
Where did you shoot the movie?
We were all in New Orleans. We were the first production that was allowed to shoot inside of NASA there in New Orleans. They were nice enough to let us shoot in there, and utilize everything that they had, which was amazing. We made a complete mess of the place and probably screwed it up for any production that’s going to come in there after us. We had a lot of explosions there. But we cleaned up everything nicely!
I believe Roadblock is also something of a chef — like your character in The Rundown. Are you a good cook yourself?
I am a hell of a cook myself.
What’s your signature dish?
My favorite dish would be blackened sea bass with a mango paste… No, I’m kidding, that’s bulls—. I can’t cook! Look at that, I had you going for a second! No, I tell you what I do: I make a hell of an egg-white omelet and I make a hell of a Don Julio shot.
Would you be up for making another G.I. Joe?
I would. Definitely. The world ain’t saving itself! Me and Bruce and the Joes, we’ve got some saving to do!
You can watch the trailer for G.I. Joe: Retaliation below and find out more about the film and dozens of other upcoming big-screen projects in the new Summer Movie Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly.