July 26, 2014 in Features

Making of ‘Hercules’ tests actor after WWE injuries

Madeleine Marr McClatchy-Tribune
 
Associated Press photo

Dwayne Johnson arrives at the premiere of “Hercules” at TCL Chinese Theatre on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
(Full-size photo)

What they’re saying

“Johnson was born for this kind of kick-butt-with-a-smirk role. In one scene, he appears to throw a charging horse over his shoulder, and it somehow doesn’t look hokey.”

– Scott Bowles, USA Today

“There’s just enough plot to keep the movie lurching forward, and there are plenty of battle scenes to delight connoisseurs of carnage.”

– Stephen Farber, Hollywood Reporter

“ ‘Hercules’ was plainly just a paycheck, repayment for all those years in the gym, and in every scene, Johnson reminds us of that.”

– Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune

MIAMI – Dwayne Johnson is only human. Better known as The Rock, the former University of Miami football star turned pro wrestler and actor suffered a series of major injuries last year four weeks before filming began on Hercules.

Johnson, who has a home in South Florida, faced immense physical challenges. In April of last year, The Rock went into the ring with John Cena during a WWE Title defense match for WrestleMania 29 and tore two tendons off his pelvis.

Pain, what a rush.

“I had about 25 minutes left of a 50-minute match,” recalls Johnson, who eventually lost the bout. “The referee asked me, ‘Should we call it off?’ I knew something was wrong but continued to go. I reached down into my trunks to make sure no bones were sticking out (laughs). I mean, it was WrestleMania, and we had an attendance record of like 80,000 people. I think I was running on adrenaline.”

Only after an MRI at the University of Miami did Johnson realize the extent of the damage.

“It’s always fun when the doctor comes out looking all serious. He starts shaking his head and goes, ‘I don’t know how you’re walking.’ To get nice and graphic with you, my leg was basically dangling off of my body.”

Rehab was prescribed to fix up the hard-body, but days later, the “Game Plan” star had to undergo emergency surgery for three hernial tears.

The California native tweeted a picture from his hospital bed. “Superman is on the mend.”

A month later, Superman got into Hercules mode, boarding a plane to Budapest to begin rigorous training, maintaining a strict diet and working with a dialect coach while still rehabbing his tendons.

“We get one shot at making this epic, and we wanted to dive into the etymology of it all. It was like, ‘It’s time to get to work.’”

Johnson and the crew, which included director Brett Ratner, stayed in Budapest for roughly eight months. That was another challenge: not having his loved ones around.

“That was really hard; it was a long time,” admits Johnson, who has a 12-year-old daughter with his ex-wife, Dany Garcia, and is dating aspiring singer Lauren Hashian, whose drummer father, John “Sib” Hashian, used to rock it out with the band Boston. “But the last thing I wanted to do was hold up filming.”

Spoken like a true superhero.


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