TheGrio Awards, Inspirational Icon: Dwayne Johnson
The versatile actor, producer and entrepreneur knows what it takes to win on, and off, the screen.
Dwayne Johnson’s career trajectory reaches new altitudes each time he stars in a Hollywood project.
Johnson has been declared one of the highest-grossing actors ahead of his upcoming holiday film, “Red One,” which is slated to be released later this year. It was reported that the actor was paid $50 million for his role, the highest he earned for a movie and the highest any actor has ever received.
Before that, the Hollywood sensation received $22.5 million to lead in the DC superhero movie, “Black Adam.” Despite the discourse after announcing that the film would not get a sequel due to a change in leadership, Johnson still earned extra millions from producing the motion picture and promoting it on his social media accounts when it was released in 2022.
The movie star sits on his past and ongoing success of the “Fast & Furious” franchise that has landed him on a stream of esteemed recognition after appearing in the multiple film sagas. He initially appeared in the 2011 “Fast Five,” which made $626 million worldwide. After establishing his character, Luke Hobbs, a security service agent, he continued to reprise his role for the next three installments. The 2013 “Fast & Furious 6” movie garnered $788 million and 2015’s “Furious 7″ grossed an astonishing $1.5 billion worldwide. The eighth action-packed thriller in the franchise, released in 2017, earned an estimated $1.2 billion globally. As one of the main driving forces behind the franchise’s triumphant successes, Johnson continued his stride by headlining the movies’ first spin-off, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” in 2019.
Johnson’s acting ranges beyond action thrillers. He has starred in a plethora of family films and comedies. “The Game Plan,” “Central Intelligence,” “Moana,” “Fighting with My Family,” and “Tooth Fairy” are considered classics, to name a few. His launch into the remake of the fantasy and adventure film catalog of the multipart movie series “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Jumanji: The Next Level,” where he made $89.4 million from the latter and other projects, earned him the distinguished title of world’s highest-paid actor in 2020 for the second year in a row.
Though he has an extensive and impressive array of films under his belt, appearing on the big screen is not Johnson’s first experience in the spotlight.
Johnson’s first stage, where he impressed crowds of excited fans, was the football field. He was a dominating force in high school. His skills brought him multiple offers from top-ranked programs at Penn State, UCLA, Clemson University, Florida State and many others. However, the University of Miami was one school he had not heard from.
So, Johnson boldly called the recruiting coordinator, pitching why they should recruit him for their team.
In the fall of 1990, Johnson arrived for practice with a full-ride scholarship. The coaches were impressed by the freshman’s impeccable playing skills. But his football aspirations were short-lived after a severe shoulder injury and four knee surgeries. At the end of his matriculation, Johnson had made 78 tackles and four sacks.
He did not get the chance to be drafted by the NFL. Instead, he signed with the Canadian Football League but was cut just two months later, eventually ceasing his dreams to play professional football. With only $7 attached to his name, Johnson moved back with his parents and helped run the family wrestling business.
Little did Johnson know that helping run the family business would be a pivotal step on a road to decades of achievements.
Johnson began his career in professional wrestling in 1996 and stepped away from the sport in 2004. He became a notable name in the wrestling world and made headlines as his persona “The Rock.” Aside from his muscular and buff distinctive physical composition, his stage name also developed from his exaggerated facial expressions, where he would raise his right eyebrow throughout his wrestling matches.
Following in his grandfather’s and father’s wrestling footsteps, Johnson became one of the most prominent figures in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) history by winning several world championships. His 2000 autobiography, “The Rock Says,” was a New York Times bestseller. Widely known for his signature combat moves like “the People’s Elbow” and “the Samoan Drop,” his popularity in the sport gained the attention of Hollywood game changers.
In 2000, the wrestler made his inaugural appearance on “Saturday Night Live” as a host, which boosted TV ratings and caught the attention of industry key players. Since then, Johnson has returned to “SNL” and hosted the late-night show five times. Each time, audiences fell in love with the charismatic, down-to-earth and iconic stature of the megastar.
His appearance on “SNL” opened the door to Johnson’s acting career. His big-screen debut was in 2001’s “The Mummy Returns,” where he portrayed a warrior. He earned $5.5 million for his first major role. He revived his character in the sequel, “The Scorpion King,” the following year, which set him on track to transition from professional wrestler to Hollywood actor.
As Johnson moved into film acting, he began distancing himself from his wrestling past. He cut ties with his stage name, “The Rock,” and opted for his given name instead.
“The Rock was a name, a character I created in TV,” Johnson told the Los Angeles Times in a 2008 interview. “When I made the transition into film, I knew eventually I was going to be billed as my given name.”
Since then, Johnson has starred in several films over 22 years. He has won multiple Kids’ Choice Awards, People’s Choice Awards, Teen Choice Awards, and a slew of others. In 2017, the megastar cemented his achievements as he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
His star power extends behind the scenes as co-founder of the production company Seven Bucks Productions. He and his business partner, Dany Garcia, created the entity in 2012 and have since developed original content across the film and television industry. The company has partnered with media conglomerates like NBC, HBO, Paramount and Disney+ to produce well-known shows. “Young Rock,” “The Titan Games,” “Ballers,” “Rock The Troops,” “Behind the Attraction,” and “Stuntman” are some projects under the production company’s portfolio. Also, “DC League of Super-Pets,” “Red Notice,” “Baywatch” and other movies can be included in Seven Buck’s extensive résumé.
Although acting is his main gig, Johnson leaves room to pursue other interests.
In March 2020, he founded his tequila brand called Teremana, which became so popular that it was dubbed the fastest-growing tequila brand in history. In 2021, Johnson added another drink to his collection, this time immersing himself in the energy drink industry with his brand, ZOA Energy. Most recently, the entrepreneur created an NIL (name, image and likeness) program and collaborated with college athletes for the first time.
The roster includes basketball players Angel Reese and Hansel Enmanuel; football players Brock Bowers, Marvin Harrison Jr., Kam Kinchens and Drake Maye; and softball player Amaya Gainer.
Johnson’s charitable efforts also draw admiration from his loyal fanbase.
In 2006, he started his charity, the Dwayne Johnson Rock Foundation, which empowers children with illnesses, disabilities and other medical disorders by implementing programs to assist with boosting their self-esteem. The foundation also provides nutrition and physical fitness initiatives. During the SAG-AFTRA strike, Johnson donated a whopping seven-figure amount, making it the single largest donation the labor union received. The donation was earmarked for SAG-AFTRA’s Emergency Financial Assistance Program, which offers members $1,500 grants for daily living expenses.
In response to the deadly August wildfires in Maui, Johnson partnered with Oprah Winfrey to launch the People’s Fund of Maui to financially assist survivors. The two donated $5 million each to the fund, which has helped thousands of people who were displaced and otherwise affected by the tragedy.
Johnson’s commitment to entertaining audiences and serving communities is a testament to his selflessness and compassionate outlook. The entertainer possesses a unique life experience filled with undeniable talents that have brought an overflow of fortune.
He has garnered accolades that reflect his strong work ethic and knowledge of what it takes to entertain audiences and help individuals worldwide.
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