Moana: Lin-Manuel Miranda used Dwayne Johnson’s WWE past to write Maui's song
These days, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a box office and TV juggernaut who muscled his way to the top of Forbes’ list of highest paid actors. But not too long ago, he was most famous for dominating opponents in the WWE, and that pro wrestling past actually ended up playing a part in his next big-screen adventure.
Johnson voices a tattooed demigod named Maui in Disney’s upcoming animated epic Moana, which features music written by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. And according to Miranda, that time in the ring helped him write for Johnson’s Moana character.
“He really sings, and he sings really well,” Miranda told EW back in May, while discussing the 25th anniversary of Beauty and the Beast. “The only thing I had to prep me, because I wrote his big tune, was there was a while in the WWE when he was a bad guy, and he’d go into town and he’d pull out a guitar and he’d sing about how much he hated the town he was in just to get everyone to boo. So I watched this supercut on YouTube of him being like, [sings, mimics strumming a guitar] ‘Can’t wait to get out of Chicago, it’s the worst’ and they’re all going ‘Boo!’ So I was like, ‘Okay, that’s his vocal range,’ and I wrote within that.”
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And while past-tense Johnson helped lay that musical foundation, Miranda was also impressed — and inspired — by the star’s present-day charisma.
“He sort of surprised me with his versatility — there’s no faking ‘The Rock,’ you know what I mean?” Miranda added. “He’s got such a presence and personality that I really wrote to that, and it’s a lot of fun to write to.”
Moana opens in theaters on Nov. 23. You can see the film’s latest teaser below.