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Dwayne Johnson flexes his filmmaking muscles for his version of 'Hercules'

Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne Johnson
Paramount Pictures

The mythological half-man, half-god character of Hercules has been portrayed many times on screen. For years, Dwayne Johnson (also known as wrestling star The Rock) wanted to bring his version of the character to the movies. That dream has come true with the 3-D action-adventure film “Hercules,” which stars Johnson as the title character. In this movie, Hercules (who is haunted by the murder of his wife and children) and his band of mercenaries are hired by the King of Thrace to train an army to defeat an evil warlord.

Dwayne Johnson at the Los Angeles premiere of "Hercules"
Getty Images

As expected, there are plenty of fight scenes in the movie, but there are also touches of humor that audiences might not expect. “Hercules” (directed by Brett Ratner) also has a blockbuster budget, mostly positive reviews from critics, and a cast that includes respected British actors Ian McShane, John Hurt and Rufus Sewell, which take the film out the B-movie ghetto. Here is what Johnson said about “Hercules” in this interview to promote the movie.

Can you talk about “Hercules” being a passion project for you?

When I first got to Hollywood 14 years ago, “Hercules” was one of the first projects that I brought up to studio executives at that time. I wanted to make it then, but I didn’t have any clout to pull it off. Years later, we’re developing our own version of “Hercules.” We’re hiring writers.

And then all of a sudden, we get a phone call from MGM and Paramount and saying, “Hey, we have this idea for ‘Hercules.’ We already have a script of ‘Hercules.’ What do you think?”

I loved the version of it based off of a graphic novel, so it’s just funny and ironic how everything comes full circle. Here I am talking about “Hercules,” a passion project of mine, in my bones, as I feel it has been for 15 years. And not only that, the best part about the whole thing and the best part of this whole story is the movie is awesome. That’s the best part.

What did you do to prepare for the role of Hercules?

It took less pizza than I’m used to. And it just required six to eight months of hard prep and hard training, training twice a day. And as I was prepping for “Hercules,” I was also carrying a full wrestling schedule at that time as WWE champion. I remember that time. It was so challenging to prepare for the role, but I always kept reminding myself that it’s one shot. You only get one shot at this.

“Hercules” used real sets instead of visual effects. What was that like to actually have sets that were built to scale?

As an actor, it made such a huge difference because it’s real, and you’re living it, and it’s authentic, and there’s a texture to it. When you step on the set of “Hercules,” it was massive. It was the size of a football stadium. It was literally the size …

The size of the giant statue of Hera was the size of a downtown building. It was massive. So as an actor, when you step on the set, there’s dirt on the ground, you’re looking at the temple of Hera, there are the horses, the chariots, the soldiers.

You’re immediately immersed in Thrace 350 B.C. It helps tremendously. And when you’re on set, instead of using plastic chains, I wanted real steel chains on my wrists so I couldn’t break them.

What are most excited about for fans to see?

I’m most excited for fans to see this definitive version of “Hercules.” Three years ago, I sat with Brett Ratner, our director. We talked about our goals for the movie. And the biggest goal was, “Let’s make the defining version of ‘Hercules’ for a generation.” After we’re long gone, if we do it right, people and kids are going to remember this version.

I’m so excited for audiences to see our version of “Hercules,” based off of a graphic novel. It’s a different twist than what you would expect. The fun that we had on screen — and I know the audience has fun when they watch the movie — that’s what I’m excited about.

For more info: "Hercules" website