MIAMI – Before the cameras begin recording it’s clear Dwayne Johnson isn’t in a stellar mood and, to be honest, I’ve never seen him so dour. Like Jim Carrey, John Travolta, Sandra Bullock or George Clooney, Johnson, aka “The Rock,” has always been a star who can come into a room and charm the pants off even his most harshest critic. Perhaps it was the fact he was in the middle of his third major press junket in three months (with one more to go for “Fast & Furious 6”) or the fact he’s been seemingly working non-stop promoting “Snitch,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “Pain and Gain,” his WWE appearances and “Fast 6” (and let’s not forget his upcoming TV series on TNT “The Hero”). Johnson looks tired and perhaps the bed rest he’s receiving following his emergency hernia surgery (the result of a WWE wrestling match) is a blessing in disguise. Or, maybe he was just having a rare “off” day.
In any event, Johnson was on hand with co-star Mark Wahlberg to discuss their roles in the new Michael Bay flick “Pain and Gain.” Based on the shocking crimes perpetrated by the Sun Gym Gang in mid-’90s Miami, “Gain” finds Wahlberg playing real life ringleader Daniel Lugo and Johnson portraying his fictional partner Paul Doyle.
“Paul Doyle is really a composite of multiple Sun Gym gang (guys). there is a lot of minds in one mind,” Johnson says. “It gave me latitude and leeway to delve into a lot of the issues that he had.”
As for where Johnson found his inspiration for the quirky former con turned bodybuilder, he notes, “[Some of it came from] individuals I know who have been hooked on cocaine and they are big individuals who become very scary monsters when that happens. Little inspiration there and just the fact of trying to get better.”
Wahlberg, on the other hand, is playing a man who is currently on death row so interviewing him wasn’t a possibility. He did, however, watch as many news reports and read as many news clippings he could find.
“I had the freedom to create this guy because he’s not that well known,” Wahlberg says. “It wasn’t like I was playing a historical figure where I had to really, kind of…do an imitation and everything. I could really bring my own flavor to it.
Both actions stars admitted, however, it was hard to believe the actions of the Sun Gym gang. Bay purposely throws title cards into the film’s ludicrously bizarre third act that note “This is still a true story,” but you can bet many moviegoers will think it’s mostly the result of a screenwriter’s wild imagination. That simply isn’t the case.
“85% of it is impossible,” Wahlberg says. “But this is the stuff you can’t make up.”
For more of my conversation with Wahlberg and Johnson view the video at the top of this article.
“Pain and Gain” is now playing nationwide.