TO his millions of fans, movie star Dwayne Johnson is the ultimate tough guy who always defeats the baddies.
But a new TV show is set to reveal how he used to be on the wrong side of the law before finding fame as trash-talking wrestler The Rock.
A young Dwayne Johnson with his World Wrestling Federation champ dad Rocky
Dwayne, 48, produced the sitcom Young Rock, which looks back on his humble beginnings, rebellious teenage years and early success as a college American football player.
As the world’s highest-paid actor, Dwayne earned £70million last year, but he grew up in a household where the next payday was never guaranteed.
He said: “My life was incredibly complicated and it was incredibly tough growing up.”
Dwayne’s dad Rocky Johnson — born Wayde Douglas Bowles — was a World Wrestling Federation champ before there was big bucks in the grapple game and would often struggle to pay the rent.
As the world’s highest-paid actor, Dwayne earned £70million last year
He would move from place to place with his wife Ata Maivia, now 72, and young son in tow.
By the time he was a teenager, Dwayne had lived in 13 different states.
Ata and Dwayne relocated to Hawaii while his dad continued to compete, but money was still hard to come by and Dwayne turned to theft.
The star of Fast And Furious, Jumanji and San Andreas confessed: “Thirteen is when I started to veer off the tracks.
Dwayne’s dad Rocky Johnson would often struggle to pay the rent
“I started getting arrested for fighting, theft, all kinds of stupid [stuff] that I shouldn’t have been doing.”
Along with a group of friends, he would look out for wealthy tourists outside designer stores.
He recalled: “We would target the money, we would target the high-end clothes and we would target the jewellery — turn around and sell it.”
When Dwayne was 15 the family were evicted from their one-bed flat.
Dwayne’s life was turned around after he won a football scholarship to the University of Miami
He said: “We come home and there’s a padlock on the door and an eviction notice. My mum starts bawling. I’ll never forget the feeling.”
Dwayne feared having to leave Hawaii, where he had felt most settled, but “the universe stepped in” and they were booted off the island. He recalled: “We had no choice.”
He was sent to live with Bruno Lauer, a WWE pal of his father’s, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dwayne “repaid the favour” by gifting Bruno a new Ford pick-up on the set of Young Rock at Christmas.
The Johnson family eventually settled in Pennsylvania.
Dwayne channelled his frustration at the upheaval into body building, because his idols were “men of action” like his “bad dude” dad and movie stars Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
While the name Dwayne is now synonymous with tough guys, the actor revealed he used to hate it.
He said: “I didn’t want to be known as Dwayne when I moved from high school to high school. I called myself Tomas.
Dwayne with dad Rocky and mum Ata Maivia in 2015
“Girls used to call the house and ask for Tomas and my mum would go, ‘I’m sorry. There’s no Tomas here’.” He added: “I clearly had an identity crisis.”
Despite his passion for body building and a promising start as a high school footballer, Dwayne was still getting into trouble.
He had been arrested “eight or nine times” by the time he was 17 for offences including theft, fraud and fighting.
With that inimitable grin, Dwayne described his younger self as “a kid who had some anger issues but also thought he was really cool”.
Dwayne married wife Lauren Hashian in 2019
His prowess on the field saw him win a football scholarship to the University of Miami — and it turned Dwayne’s life around.
He said: “At 18 I was determined to make something of myself.”
After graduating in 1995 with a Bachelor of General Studies in criminology and physiology, Dwayne entered the NFL Draft, where pro teams choose the most promising recruits, but went unpicked.
Failing to make the cut, he decided to become a professional wrestler like his dad.
Joseph Lee Anderson, Adrian Groulx and Nate Jackson star as Rocky, young Dwayne and wrestler Junkyard Dog in new sitcom Young Rock
Rocky had been part of the first ever black tag team to win a WWF — now WWE — championship.
It was Dwayne’s charisma, athleticism, and catchphrases in the ring that eventually drew the attention of Hollywood.
Young Rock, which aired on NBC in the US last night, doesn’t venture into Dwayne’s acting career but does look at the roots of his fascination with his father’s sport.
Three actors play the superstar throughout the years — Adrian Groulx as ten-year-old Dwayne, Bradley Constant as the high school footballer, and Uli Latukefu from ages 18 to 20.
Young Rock looks at the roots of Dwayne’s fascination with his father’s sport
Dwayne, who has three daughters — Simone, 19, with ex-wife Dany Garcia, 52, and Jasmine, five, and two-year-old Tiana with wife Lauren Hashian, 36 — calls the show “a love letter to professional wrestling, which is a business I grew up in and a business I’ve loved all of my life”.
Much of the sitcom revolves around his “extremely complicated” relationship with his dad, who died from a heart attack in January 2020, aged 75.
Dwayne said: “You’ve got to understand this about my dad, he had a lot of friends. He had a lot of enemies.”
Canadian Rocky, played in the sitcom by Joseph Lee Anderson, 31, also had a troubled childhood.
Uli Latukefu plays The Rock from ages 18 to 20
He lost his dad at 13 and a fight with his mum’s new boyfriend saw Rocky kicked out of the house.
Dwayne said: “He was 13 and homeless. My dad had every odd stacked against him, but he fought [through it] and still made something of himself.”
The actor recalled how Rocky raised him on “tough love” but that they were still very close, with his dad training him to wrestle.
He said: “I love my dad. He was my hero.”
Dwayne’s charisma, athleticism, and catchphrases in the ring eventually drew the attention of Hollywood
And Dwayne reckons Rocky would have “loved” that he appears as a character in Young Rock.
Certainly the show has brought back memories for Samoan Ata, who divorced Rocky in 2003 after 30 years together.
Dwayne said: “She is the rock of this entire thing. It all comes down to my mum, who’s still going strong.
“Every time she sees a trailer or any one of these episodes she starts crying.”
Dwayne is one of the biggest success stories in both sport and Hollywood
And Ata has plenty to be proud of, as her former tearaway son is one of the biggest success stories in both sport and Hollywood.
As The Rock in the ring he was a ten-time world champion and his match against John Cena in 2012 at the time had the highest pay-per-view audience in wrestling history.
When Dwayne started his film career in 2001 with The Mummy Returns it was very hard for black actors to make it to the top.
Since then his movies have made more than £3billion at the box office and he has become Hollywood’s most bankable actor.
Dwayne says mum Ata ‘starts crying’ when she watches Young Rock
One of the reasons Dwayne agreed to a TV show about his life is that it explores “diversity”.
He said: “It was important for us to be real and authentic and this, it is my life and it is who I am.
“And I’m half Samoan and half black.”
Now Dwayne can command £20million per movie and has 218million followers on Instagram.
Now Dwayne can command £20million per movie and has 218million followers on Instagram
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