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Central Intelligence: Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart share high school memories

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Claire Folger

Time has a funny way of flipping the script on high school stereotypes. That’s the setup for Central Intelligence, which pairs a chubby geek-turned-chiseled CIA agent (Dwayne Johnson, 43) with a BMOC-turned-accountant (Kevin Hart, 36) at their high school reunion. Their mission? To save the world, of course.

Here, they talk about looking good and relive a few cringe-worthy high school memories.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Kevin and Dwayne, which real-life skill do you think the other has that would come in handy for saving the world?

KEVIN HART: You know what I have? The ability to not care about anybody but myself. I’m really good at saving myself. DJ, on the other hand? DJ is the one you want on your side.

DWAYNE JOHNSON: ‘Cause I care about people.

HART: There’s a scene in San Andreas where the girl got to see who her stepdad really was when he took off and never came back. That would be me. DJ saves everyone. I’m never gonna do that, ever.

In the movie, there are a few flashback scenes to high school. What’s your worst high school memory?

HART: Mine was definitely my moms whupping me in front of my ninth-grade class. I wanted to try out for the basketball team, but the tryouts were at 6 a.m. and I lived almost an hour away from the school, so I had to leave the house at, like, 4 a.m. to make it. My moms didn’t want me on public transportation that early, so I set all the clocks in the house [forward], including her watch. So at 4 a.m. it looked like 6 a.m., when I’d already be leaving the house. My moms got to work like two hours early, and when no one was there, she started to check the clocks. Then she took the day off, came up to the school, and beat the mess out of me.

JOHNSON: My mom didn’t whup me, but I definitely was a delinquent in the ninth grade, getting arrested. The cops wanted me for something, and they came into my classroom. That was embarrassing.

HART: Really? ‘Cause that sounds cool.

Which one of you do you think was cooler in high school? 

HART: Well, judging from some high school pictures I’ve seen of Dwayne, I would say I had an edge up. But if some pictures surfaced of me, he’d realize we’re on an even playing field. Probably very close, in fact. 

JOHNSON: By the way, Kevin thought he had the edge up because by the time I was 15, I looked like an undercover cop with a pornstache.  

Dwayne, there’s a sequence where your character breaks into song. Which one of you actually has a better falsetto?

HART: I can’t sing worth a damn. If a job ever came down to me singing, bye-bye, Hollywood.

JOHNSON: I have a decent falsetto. I can hold a note, especially when I get drunk.

You both have a proven track record of making really big blockbuster films. When it comes to this movie, what’s the special sauce?

HART: Me. I think it has a little bit of special Kev sauce, which definitely helps. Nah, it’s all about the chemistry. Without the chemistry you can’t expect to see results. I honestly have to say that Dwayne was above and beyond a pleasure to work with. You’re looking at a guy who’s a true professional, who approached his work day as one of the best. He brought chemistry, and an amazing work ethic.

JOHNSON: Yeah. And my good looks. 

Kevin, you’ve done your fair share of buddy comedies. Did you teach Dwayne anything about the type of comedic style a movie like this requires?

HART: You can’t teach funny. You either have it, or you don’t. And what DJ has is that ‘I don’t give a s— attitude.’ You have to have a fearless attitude to go in and take comedy risks when you don’t do comedy. It’s about confidence. My job was to get him to an area where he could not only be funny, but be safe. I had to have his back.

JOHNSON: There was a lot of trust.

Dwayne, did you teach Kevin anything about dodging bullets?

JOHNSON: Well, he already came to set well-versed in action. This was a great opportunity for Kevin to be funny, but not have to carry the funny of the entire film. He could show more range and more depth, and even more emotion too, within the umbrella of comedy. I was really proud of him. In the movie, my character loves him. It’s not a push and pull where I’m annoyed by him. There’s a hero worship there there, since I admired his character in high school when [my character] was bullied. 

The movie’s called Central Intelligence. We know who’s taller, but who’s smarter?

HART: On record…

JOHNSON: That would be me.

Central Intelligence hits theaters June 17.

To read more of our Summer Movie Preview, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now, or buy your choice of four collectible covers here – and subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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