Following the success of director Stephen Sommers’ 1999 film The Mummy, Universal swiftly greenlit a sequel, The Mummy Returns, which was released two years later. That movie reunited the stars of the previous movie — Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, — while also introducing cinemagoers to Dwayne Johnson, who made his movie debut as The Scorpion King. His dynamic appearance in the film led Universal to promote him to star status with 2002’s The Scorpion King, and the rest is Hollywood history. But, according to Sommers, it is something of a miracle Johnson was able to appear in The Mummy Returns at all.

“I didn’t know anything about the WWE or whatever, because it was just starting to explode,” recalled Sommers, when EW spoke to him for a 20th anniversary article about The Mummy in the new issue of EW. “He was just starting to explode. I saw his stuff and went, oh, he’s got such charisma, he has just oodles of charisma and likability. And, it’s true, you can’t fake that usually. He’d never been in a movie or done anything like that. He flew into Morocco on Wednesday. On Thursday, he had hair and makeup and wardrobe. And I shot him on Friday. I only shot him for one day. I had one day with him, because, on Saturday morning, he had to fly from the Sahara desert to Detroit for a big wrestling deal. He arrives on the set Friday morning and Dwayne had really bad food poisoning and heatstroke. It was probably 110, 112 degrees, and everybody’s in shorts and tank tops, and he would be covered in blankets, just shivering. And he is such a trooper. I will always love him, because I’m like, ‘Dwayne, we’ve only got one day! I can’t put it off! We can’t wait for you to get well!’ He goes, just get the camera rolling, and as soon as I hear ‘Background’ I’ll jump up.’ And that’s what he did. We did, ‘…and background!’ All the extras start going and I go, ‘Action!’ and Dwayne, he threw off the blankets and charged forward. And we just went all day. That guy gutted it out, because he was just a mess.”

Watch the trailer for The Mummy Returns, above.

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The Mummy Returns
  • Movie
  • 125 minutes