Dwayne Johnson Was Told to Abandon ‘The Rock’ Nickname When Transitioning to Hollywood

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)

When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson left the wrestling ring for Hollywood, movie producers asked him to change everything about himself. They weren’t sure how to use him, and executives worried his ties to professional wrestling would limit his viability as a movie star. Johnson told them to “know their role and shut their mouths.”

Johnson opened up with Vanity Fair about some of the larger questions in life. What does it mean to be a man? How does he deal with the pressure of fame? But what drew the most out of the superstar was when they asked him if he’d ever felt uncomfortable being himself.

He said he’s only felt that way twice — both were major life changes. The first time was when he became a wrestler. WWE executives wanted him to smile more and behave in ways that he felt were “fake.” And again when he went to Hollywood.

“I was told then that I had to lose weight,” Dwayne Johnson recalled. “I had to change my eating habits, diet, couldn’t go to the gym as much, I really had to slim down. (And) I had to not reference the name of The Rock, I had to do as best I could, not mention or reference the world I came from, that I was proud to come from the world of professional wrestling. So at that time, when there is no blueprint for somebody who looked like me.”

Johnson believed he had two choices: follow their advice and be miserable, or be himself and possibly fail.

“In that moment of clarity, a funny thing happened in the world of professional wrestling, and a funny thing happened in the world of Hollywood,” he said. “Both industries conformed to my authenticity and allowed me to be me. And that’s when things changed.”

Dwayne Johnson Doubles Down on His Feud with Vin Diesel

Dwayne Johnson joined the Fast & Furious cast in 2011. Since then, he’s become one of the franchise’s biggest stars, even landing his own spin-off in 2019 with Jason Statham.

But behind the scenes, there was growing tension between Dwayne Johnson and his gravel-voiced co-star Vin Diesel. Johnson made it public with a 2016 Instagram post that he’s since deleted.

“Some (male co-stars) conduct themselves as stand-up men and true professionals, while others don’t,” Johnson wrote.

He confirmed the post was about Diesel. He told Vanity Fair in a cover story that should have handled the issue in private.

“It caused a firestorm. Yet interestingly enough…[it was] as if every single crew member found their way to me and either quietly thanked me or sent me a note,” he told the magazine. “But, yeah, it wasn’t my best day, sharing that. I shouldn’t have shared that. Because at the end of the day, that goes against my DNA.”

He didn’t go into detail about why he made the post, but he stands by what he said.

“I mean what I say when I say it. But to express it publicly was not the right thing to do.”