Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has plenty of reasons to toast 2021 with some Teremana.
He produced and starred in two hit films, “Jungle Cruise” and “Red Notice,” debuted his biographical sitcom “Young Rock,” saw unprecedented sales growth with his Teremana tequila, and became the most followed American man on Instagram with 285 million followers.
At 49, with grit, charisma and determination to “deliver the goods,” Johnson has segued from professional wrestler to movie star, major entrepreneur and someone nearly half of America would like to see as the next president of the United States, according to one poll.
CNN spoke with Johnson this week about his monumental year. He addressed hype around his possible return to the “Fast and Furious” franchise and his potential political ambitions. He also offered a glimpse at how he plans to top his blockbuster 2021.
Our conversation, which has been lightly edited for flow and clarity, follows below.
You’ve seen some great successes, any highlights? Reflecting back, anything you wish you would have done differently?
“I worked hard, had some luck on my side and was able to accomplish a few things in 2021. A few highlights that come to mind, one would be completing two massive Seven Bucks Productions films, ‘Red Notice’ and ‘Black Adam.’ (Set for release in 2022.) Both presented a lot of challenges during Covid, but like so many businesses out there, we adjust, get clarity, create our new Covid strategy and get to work. Seven Bucks also just completed – two weeks ago – our second season of NBC’s ‘Young Rock.’ I’m quite proud of everyone’s efforts and talents to get the job done and deliver quality. And the other businesses in my portfolio have shown tremendous growth and moved along nicely in 2021 – Teremana Tequila, ZOA Energy, Project Rock and XFL. As for anything I would’ve done differently in 2021, sure, I would’ve listened to my gut when it was telling me to slow down a bit. Enjoy these moments even more with your family and friends, because at the end of the day these joyful moments are the s*** that really matters in life. Sorry to cuss but that’s the truth. Good lesson to always listen to that voice in your gut.”
“Red Notice” received an enormous amount of praise, from both those in the industry and with audiences worldwide by becoming Netflix’s most watched movie in the world for 2021, and most watched of all time. What do you think made “Red Notice” so successful?
“First thing, we made a great movie for families around the world to enjoy. That’s the bottom line. Deliver the goods. I always say I can bring people to the dance and with the trust they have in me, they’ll dance one song. But then it’s up to the quality I’m offering that will make them dance all night. We made a great movie and people are dancing to it. Rawson Thurber did a tremendous job of writing and directing ‘Red Notice’ that attracted two of the biggest stars in the world, in Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, and a dude who’s only famous for his tattoos, raised eyebrow and a fanny pack. But dumb jokes aside, it’s a monumental achievement for our Seven Bucks Productions to produce the most watched Netflix film of all time. ‘Red Notice’ was my first film on a streaming platform so it was critically important for myself and our Seven Bucks Company to deliver and move the streaming needle. What a holy s*** achievement and congrats to everyone involved.”
What are your thoughts on the streaming wars among platforms and its impact on theatrical releases, does this play a part when discussing releases for your projects as a producer?
“I say this with great clarity, we are in a tremendous time in our Hollywood industry as we are in the eye of a massive opportunity to listen and learn what our audience and our consumers want and just as important, how they want it. I believe strongly in our theatrical business and want us to continue to work hard to maintain that theatrical experience for our consumers. When a movie is done right, man it’s pure magic in the theaters. And I also feel strongly that it’s our job as creators, producers and deliverers of entertainment to always take care of and go to the people. I try and approach streaming platforms versus theatrical with an entrepreneurial spirit and vision. The power of possibilities and the needs of the audience, consumers first, best practice will emerge. We just have to be smart, open and flexible to change and listen to what the people say they want.”
There was a lot of buzz that you may rejoin the “Fast and the Furious” franchise. We saw that Vin Diesel recently posted he wants you back. We know you addressed potentially returning months ago, but were you surprised by Vin’s post?
“I was very surprised by Vin’s recent post. This past June, when Vin and I actually connected not over social media, I told him directly - and privately - that I would not be returning to the franchise. I was firm yet cordial with my words and said that I would always be supportive of the cast and always root for the franchise to be successful, but that there was no chance I would return. I privately spoke with my partners at Universal as well, all of whom were very supportive as they understand the problem.
Vin’s recent public post was an example of his manipulation. I didn’t like that he brought up his children in the post, as well as Paul Walker’s death. Leave them out of it. We had spoken months ago about this and came to a clear understanding. My goal all along was to end my amazing journey with this incredible ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise with gratitude and grace. It’s unfortunate that this public dialogue has muddied the waters. Regardless, I’m confident in the ‘Fast’ universe and its ability to consistently deliver for the audience, and I truly wish my former co-stars and crew members the best of luck and success in the next chapter.”
As the most followed American man on Instagram, do you think anything has changed with how you have approached your own social media this past year?
“That answer is yes. I still have my anch