Dwayne Johnson Says Black Adam Was Inspired By The Rock's WWE Heel Turn

Dwayne Johnson Says Black Adam Was Inspired By The Rock’s WWE Heel Turn

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As Dwayne Johnson puts it, it was a battle to bring Black Adam to the big screen from start to finish. And one he couldn’t have done without the help of his heel-ready wrestling character, The Rock.

The origin of Black Adam go back almost as far as The Rock’s stint in the WWE, which ended on a third heel jump tinged with Hollywood fame. In 2007, Johnson began talks with New Line Cinema about a proposed Shazam film. At that point, the wrestler-turned-actor had… The Scorpion King, the rundownand the more family-friendly Gridiron Gang under his belt, and the film, which would tell the story of both Shazam (aka Captain Marvel) and Black Adam, was intended to have a lighter tone under the eye of comedy director Peter Segal (would go on to work with Johnson at get smart). Johnson was reportedly courted to play the Shazam character, but saw more potential in Black Adam. But the film would languish in Development Hell for a decade. Johnson says the version we get in October is “not at all” like the original plans for the character.

“The film that finally delivered after years and years of deliberation, conversation and fighting was Shazam and Black Adam, in one film, both trying to tell origin stories within 100 minutes,” Johnson tells Polygon. “And it felt like it was just thrown together. It didn’t feel like it had the priority and respect that both characters and both original stories needed.”

Johnson says that despite all the back and forth, a script for the dual-lead movie wasn’t finished until six or seven years ago. The concept led him to Warner Bros. calling executives and questioning the whole idea of ​​the project.

“I said, ‘I think we should really go in a different direction. I think we should split this up and make two films,’” Johnson recalls.[The script] was funnier, and that made it really tricky. The Black Adam we saw on our side, the Seven Bucks [Johnson’s production company] side, was that Black Adam was sassy and intense and really fucking pissed off. He lost his family, wiped out. That’s his anger. And that was hard when we tried to determine that [tone] and we have something completely different here – and with lots of kids!”

Black Adam brings Johnson back to a heavier wavelength. While his career is littered with PG blockbusters (Race to the Witch Mountain, tooth fairy, Trip 2: The Mysterious Island) and tent poles for all target groups (the Jumanji films, Skyscraper, Red notification), there is detectable Rock DNA in his earlier movies. The grumpy hero of his long walk remake, the unhinged action star in Southland Tales, and even his early turns as Luke Hobbs in the Fast franchise all lean on a nastier streak that boiled down to The Rock’s feather-ruffling ring persona. Bringing real anger to Black Adam, and a force that (as Johnson has put it so many times in the press) could “change the hierarchy of power in the DC universe” could be the pinnacle of that.

When I ask Johnson if he looked back to his days as The Rock for inspiration, particularly his legendary heel turn in 1998, which teamed him up with Vince McMahon and changed his persona into the “Corporate Champion,” he cracks a bit. “Man, me love that you said that.”

It’s been nearly 20 years since Johnson was in the wrestling world full-time, but his WWE character is still a role he thinks is worth thinking about. “The Rock,” he says, was instrumental in sending Black Adam away from what he could have been in 2007 — and perhaps closer to what fans of the DC universe and Johnson’s are really looking for.

“When I was a heel, and when I made that heel… people might not agree with my ‘why’, and they might not agree with the things I would do. Wrestling was very different back then. The Attitude era was much more violent. We got away with a lot of shit you couldn’t get away with today. While people might not agree with the heel Rock, they all understood why he did what he did because I had the chance to talk about it — and talk nonsense that way like The Rock did. So there were many parallels. The connection to Black Adam is that although you may not agree and you may interpret him as a supervillain, antihero, protector, even a superhero… you may not agree with his philosophy, but everyone understands .”

With Rock-like swagger, get Black Adam to screen was a combination of brawn and boastfulness. Johnson says it took his team years to get their vision on the screen, from the decision to make a standalone Black Adam movie in the first place to the inclusion of the Justice Society and other recognizable DC Comics faces.

“We fought for a long time and we weren’t going to take ‘no’ for an answer,” Johnson said. “And here we are.”

Black Adam will hit theaters on October 21.

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