The most-decorated cast member in The Fast and the Furious — the first installment in the best film series to feature a scene where a car jumps from one skyscraper into another into another — was either Blockbuster Entertainment Award nominee Vin Diesel or Ja Rule, who won Single of the Year at the 2001 Source Hip-Hop Music Award for “Put It on Me.”
The most-decorated cast member in The Fate of the Furious, the eighth installment in the best film series to feature 28-mile runways, is either Charlize Theron, who’s been nominated for two Oscars (winning once), or Helen Mirren, who’s been nominated for four Oscars (winning once), or Ludacris, who’s been nominated for 17 Grammys (winning three times).
That’s quite an evolution — there are no Oscar winners in the seventh Police Academy movie, Mission to Moscow (which like The Fate of the Furious, also takes place in Russia). But by the time we get to the inevitable 10th Fast and the Furious film, which will probably take place in space, or soon after, there should be another Oscar winner in the cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
I think I’ve always known this, that the guy who used to ask wrestling fans if they could smell what he was cooking deserves the same acknowledgment that’s been bestowed to Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Sidney Poitier, but I didn’t realize it until about three-fourths of the way through Fate. It’s a scene I’ve seen a million times before: The protagonist gives a speech about how everyone needs to come together to defeat the enemy, or whatever. I usually tune out whenever this happens, which explains why I don’t remember most of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s seventh. But during Fate, when it’s The Rock’s Luke Hobbs asking Little Nobody if he’s going to “saddle up, be a man, and save the goddamn world” (it’s normally Dominic Toretto’s job to fire up the troops, but he turned to the Dark Side), I wanted to give him a standing ovation. Though not before doing 200 squats, 100 pushups, and going back in time to pick a fight with my middle school bully. The scene works for the same reason the entire Fast and the Furious franchise works — everyone is utterly convincing in their conviction — but unlike Diesel, whose self-seriousness can be a momentum-killing drag, The Rock gives his speech with a slight wink. It’s not ironic, but he knows the kind of movie he’s in, and he ably plays the part of the superhero strongman who’s also a loving father. Like the best actors, he’s in complete control of the character.
The Rock makes me a believer, and I believe he should win an Oscar.
It’s probably not going to happen any time soon, though. Johnson’s next movies are, in some order: Baywatch (based on the corny syndicated TV show about attractive people running in slow-motion on the beach), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (his character is named Dr. Smolder Bravestone), Rampage (adapted from the giant monsters vs. tall buildings video game), Skyscraper (more tall buildings), Shazam! (“Kneel at his feet or get crushed by his boot”), San Andreas 2 (will there be another earthquake, or maybe a monsoon this time?), Jungle Cruise (yes, like the Disneyland ride), Journey 3: From the Earth to the Moon (yes, like the MOON), and Doc Savage (the pulpiest of pulp heroes). I am going to see every one of those films, and more than likely enjoy all of them, but they’re not going to receive award show acknowledgement, except from the MTV Movie Awards. But — and, please, hear me out now — why?
The Academy Award for Best Actor is “given in honor of an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance in a leading role while working within the film industry.” Notice it says nothing about the quality of the film. Manchester by the Sea is, objectively speaking, an excellent movie, with a career-best lead performance from Casey Affleck, who took home the Best Actor trophy at the Oscars in February. But because Kenneth Lonergan’s script and direction are so good, and Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and Lucas Hedges are also phenomenal, I believe Manchester would still be, objectively speaking, an excellent film if grief-ridden handyman Lee Chandler had been played by Joaquin Phoenix or Ryan Gosling. Can you imagine anyone else as Luke Hobbs, though? Or Paul Doyle in Pain & Gain? Or whatever his character’s name in Central Intelligence is? Few are able to match The Rock’s unique blend of charisma, solid comedic timing, and natural showmanship; he’s someone whose larger-than-life physicality makes him a natural leading man, but he’s willing to let others share the spotlight. The Rock is the best thing in bad movies, and he makes good movies even better.
If anything, it’s our fault for thinking something like Manchester By the Sea is an Oscar-worthy movie, but Furious 7 isn’t. Affleck and Williams’ lunch scene is some first-rate uppercase-A Acting, but so is the scene in Furious 7 where The Rock flexes so hard, a cast busts off his arm. It’s to his credit that we believe something so ridiculous is possible. Isn’t that “outstanding” acting?
Natalie Portman has been nominated for three Academy Awards, and she’s generally considered to be one of the finest actresses of her generation. But she was terrible in the Star Wars prequels. To be fair, everyone, save Ewan McGregor and Ian McDiarmid, was terrible in the Star Wars prequels, but Portman is especially bad, because she’s usually especially good. Her line readings are stiff, and Padme and Anakin regard each other, to quote Roger Ebert, “as if love was something to be endured rather than cherished.” Portman was unable to elevate George Lucas’ mediocre script; by Revenge of the Sith, she was playing down to the tired material she was being given.
You’ll never be able to accuse The Rock of not giving something his full attention. Have you seen Brett Ratner’s Hercules? Probably not, because it’s a lousy movie, but no one told The Rock — he’s acting like he’s in Ben-Hur. Just look at the way he writes about the Jungle Cruise movie on Instagram.
Surprise! Once I committed to our Disney partners to make the movie based off the JUNGLE CRUISE ride, I wanted to dive head first into the research. So I headed to Walt Disney World and surprised tourists by commandeering the JUNGLE CRUISE boat.
It was a GREAT day on the river. Learned a lot… for example, it takes approximately 12.6 minutes for all the passengers to get over the shock of me jumping on the boat and thinking I’m a DJ look-a-like. One passenger even said, “Oh the real Rock is much smaller than this guy.” I threw his ass off the boat.
Jokes aside (and yes, with me as the Cruise Skipper there will be an abundance of puns) this is such an amazing, fantastical and cool world to build out. Best part about this surprise research day was knowing how FUN of an experience we’re gonna work hard to create for families around the world.
That’s the part that gets my excited the most.
The movie. The ride. The experience.
It’s the cruise of a lifetime. And trust me, you’ll want me as your Skipper. Just don’t forget to bring the Skipper’s beer.
Next step… we find our visionary director. (Via)
Before reading that, I barely knew what a “Jungle Cruise” was. Now I’m ready to see it opening night. The Rock has a remarkable ability to get people hyped, to make them feel like they’re missing out on a cultural event if they don’t see The Fate of the Furious, or watch the latest Ballers. (Ballers is basically the much-maligned Entourage, but it doesn’t seem that way, because The Rock is way more endearing than Turtle.) He’s a PR machine who full-heartedly believes in the products he’s selling. Can you blame him? He’s a wrestling icon who became the 39th highest grossing actor of all-time; the other famous wrestler-turned-actor, Hulk Hogan, ranks 7,666. There’s no reason to think The Rock can’t accomplish anything he sets his mind on.
Right now, he’s interested in crowd-pleasing blockbusters that make all the money; in five years, he might take a character actor-role in a new David Fincher or Alejandro G. Iñárritu movie (I would love to see him work with Kathryn Bigelow) to get the coveted “O” in EGOT. When he’s had the chance to showcase his “dramatic” muscles, as opposed to his normal muscles, like in Pain & Gain and Snitch, he’s excelled. Even his campy performance in Be Cool, where he plays a gay bodyguard, showed more range than you might expect from the Scorpion King. With The Rock’s Daniel Day Lewis-level of commitment to everything he does, the only thing stopping him from the receiving kind of plaudits Sylvester Stallone did for Creed is the fact that he doesn’t want to right now. But when he does, look out.
Maybe it’s the 800-plus pounds of cod he eats every year, or his tireless enthusiasm, or his wrestling background, which taught him that life is a stage so you might as well live in the spotlight, or his natural talent, but The Rock is one of the most entertaining actors alive. He could also be one of the best.
That sounds like a future Oscar winner to me.