Dwayne Johnson doesn’t strike me as a guy who hears “no” often. He was (and still occasionally is) an extremely popular wrestler who transitioned into an extremely popular actor with multiple franchises to his name. Also, people call him “The Rock” like that’s totally normal. But one of his biggest career what-ifs is the franchise that he’s not part of.
When asked on Instagram if there was a movie role that he “wanted but lost to another actor,” Johnson replied, “In Hollywood, actors are kind of like in-a-box. There are actors that can vie for a particular role because it allows for them to have a certain look, skin color, size, etc. Fortunately, for me, there aren’t a lot of guys at all who look like me. So, all of my roles, from the beginning of my career, I’ve been a lucky son of a b*tch that they’ve been created and designed for me — except Jack Reacher.” Yup, Johnson wanted to play Jack Reacher, a role that went to Tom Cruise, despite Cruise being 5′ 7″ and Jack Reacher, the book character, being 6′ 5″. The same height as the Rock.
He added, “Now, this was ten years ago, and I was in a much different place, I recognize that. Tom was the biggest movie star in the world, and I was not… I’m positive that the role of Jack Reacher, because it was an established character, an IP that was well known and beloved around the world, that I wouldn’t have had the creative space to do what I wanted with the character. I look back in gratitude that I didn’t get Jack Reacher.”
This worked out well for everyone: Tom Cruise got to star in Jack Reacher and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, two fun movies in a “lazy afternoon on TNT” kind of way, and because the Rock’s availability was open, he received a phone call from Universal to make a cameo in Fast Five. Eventually leading to this great moment in cinema history.