It’s been a while since The Rock has made a movie that, well, rocks. Paul Byrne talks to the soft, cuddly star of this week’s Tooth Fairy…

 

Compared to most musclebound, meathead actors out there, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has always had something of an edge.

Maybe it’s his readiness to poke a little fun at himself – a crucial ingredient for any World Wrestling Federation contender. Or the fact that he can actually act. Whatever the reason, from the moment he stepped away from the ring and onto multiplex screens, The Rock had the makings of a box-office wizard, a true star.

It was there in The Scorpion King (2002), The Rock getting a leading role for his Mathayus character after just about stealing the show from Brendan Fraser the previous year in The Mummy Returns. The year after his leading man debut, The Rock delivered the fine chase movie Welcome To The Jungle, and the year after that, he gave us a solid, and comical, remake of the 1973 revenge thriller Walking Tall.

Heck, this guy even managed to make 2005’s Travolta travesty Be Cool almost worth watching. That woeful Get Shorty sequel seemed to herald in a run of very bad luck for Johnson though, as flop after flop began to pile up. Southland Tales followed Doom. Reno 911!: Miami followed Gridiron Gang.

It seemed as though The Rock’s action hero status was in very grave danger of being revoked. Which may explain why he’s turning to comedies more and more these days. Family-orientated outing The Game Plan (2007) and slick TV upgrade Get Smart (2008) have proven the 38-year old actor’s only true hits in recent years.

Which may explain what the man is doing leading this week’s Tooth Fairy, a kiddie comedy of the Kindergarten Cop variety. Rainier Wolfcastle must have been busy.

PAUL BYRNE: It’s surprising to see you once again stepping into the family film arena, so soon after Race To Witch Mountain – which proved something of a flop, of course…

DWAYNE JOHNSON: Well, you know, I’ve got kids, and I know how much these kinds of movies mean to them. And to children everywhere. There’s such a complete joy that comes over kids when they’re watching a movie they like. They’re not as cynical as us adults, and they just allow themselves to go with the jokes, with the sentimentality. And I like that, you know. I’m a sentimental kind of guy. And I like jokes. Perfect fit.

Was there much preparation involved when it came to playing a tooth fairy? You went method, right?

Well, I kept my wings on for months in advance, and I generally went around breaking into people’s houses late at night, and checking their teeth. If there were any fresh departures, I would leave a nominal cash reward, and take that tooth right on out of there. I’m very dedicated to my craft, so, it was the least I could do.

You would have knocked out quite a few teeth, I would imagine, in your years as a WWF champion – feel the need to go back and leave some money under pillows there?

I really should have done that, but, I just felt that should any of my old opponents wake in the middle of the night to see me looming over them, with wings on, they would have either died of a heart attack on the spot, or the rematch would have made quite a mess of the master bedroom. Either way, I thought it safer not to bother them. They’d suffered enough already.

Your character here, Derek Thompson, is an ace minor league hockey player who likes nothing better than to knock out a few of his opponents teeth, but, once he tells his girlfriend’s little girl that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist, Julie Andrews gives him a stern talking to. And he’s banished to two weeks’ duty as a tooth fairy. A little harsh, no?

I think it’s unlikely to be an entire two weeks if the tooth fairies were really handing out punishments, but you know this is just a movie, right? And once you even just hear Julie Andrews’ voice, you know there’s going to be magic involved. So, I think Derek would have known pretty much immediately that he wasn’t going to get just a lecture and a fine.

It may all be fantasy land stuff, but I’m guessing you had to be a believer to deliver your lines here…

You always have to believe, whether you’re a bounty hunter, a scorpion king, a great big, angry wrestler – whatever. It’s part of the job, and it’s part of the joy. You throw yourself into these parts, and then you go home and be yourself. It’s got to be in your eyes, once you’re up there on screen. If I was laughing inside – or crying, for that matter – it would come across. Not that roles like this aren’t all about having fun though. It’s not like I had to go to a really dark place to play a hockey guy who gets two weeks of tooth fairy work dropped on ‘im. From a great height.

What about the action hero Johnson? You’ve got The Other Guys with Will Ferrell coming up, you’ve got Tyler Perry’s romantic comedy Why Did I Get Married Too?…

There’s some action stuff coming up too. It’s always about the best scripts, and looking for some new challenges. I haven’t had a great action script in a little while, but it doesn’t mean I’m not looking. I love the action stuff, especially when we can work in a little comedy too. I’m also something of a big softy at heart, so, that would explain my attraction to the likes of this and The Game Plan. Just don’t tell any of my mates…

Your mates – and a few of your fans – like to give you a hard time about movies like Tooth Fairy. Does Dwayne Johnson ever fall asleep on a tear-stained pillow?

Only if it’s someone else’s tears. I can see where these people are coming from, but I’ve always wanted to act in all kinds of movies. I don’t want to be just that guy, who only does those kinds of movies. I want to strike out and try everything. And it’s okay if it doesn’t work every time – I’d be incredibly lucky if they did, especially given the range I’ve been trying – but I’m always so glad that I got the chance to push myself in a different direction, in a different genre.

I don’t expect the person who loved The Scorpion King to run and see Tooth Fairy, and I don’t expect the little girl who loved The Game Plan to go and buy all my WWF videos. The important thing is, I love them all equally. And that’s really all that matters to me…

Words – Paul Byrne

Tooth Fairy descends upon Irish cinemas this Friday