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Dwayne Johnson Is Able to Embrace the Heel Again in ‘Black Adam’

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If you watch a movie starring Dwayne Johnson lately, you generally know the sort of protagonist he’s going to play: a muscular good guy who, beneath the enviable physique, possesses a heart of gold, and who, in a good scrape, is more more likely to lend you a hand than pummel you into the bottom.

But that’s not the role that the ever-present motion star Johnson, 50, plays in “Black Adam,” which Warner Bros will release on Friday. In the most recent entry within the film franchise based on DC comic-book characters (referred to as the DC Prolonged Universe), Johnson is forged because the title character, a merciless superpowered adventurer from precedent days who finds himself revived in the current day.

Using his awesome abilities — and a general lack of concern for human life — Black Adam sets about liberating his fictional homeland of Kahndaq from the criminal regime presently running it. In doing so, he becomes a savior to the residents of Kahndaq while attracting the unwanted attention of the Justice Society, including Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) and Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), who’re unsure in the event that they can trust Black Adam.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (who previously directed Johnson in “Jungle Cruise”), “Black Adam” brings to life a long-running comic-book villain who has traditionally served as a nemesis to the young heroes seen within the 2019 DC film “Shazam!”

“Black Adam” can be a project that Johnson has spent years helping to bring to fruition — one which recalls his ascent as a foul guy within the WWF (now WWE) skilled wrestling league.

As Johnson explained in a video call this month, he appreciated “Black Adam” for its willingness to query the motives of the Justice Society, the apparent good guys of the story.

“These heroes who’ve been so beloved over the many years, where have they been?” he said. “They haven’t been to Kahndaq and so they haven’t taken care of an oppressed people for over 5,000 years. But you do have one man who comes back to guard them, who’s their champion. I like that commentary and the dialogue that it could spark.”

Johnson spoke further concerning the making of “Black Adam,” his longtime appreciation of the character and its connections to his pro-wrestling days as the Rock. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.

Black Adam is a task you’ve been waiting to play for a very long time. What was so necessary to you concerning the character?

Almost 15 years of fighting for this and pushing for it. Admittedly, I used to be a DC boy growing up. I liked Marvel but I loved DC. My Saturday-morning cartoon was “Super Friends.” I get it from a studio perspective. It’s the safer bet to proceed to take a position within the I.P. [intellectual property] that the world knows. The Justice League — Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman. I understand that. Nevertheless it took convincing to get the studio to look past the Justice League into the DC universe, and there’s some really cool characters there. You’ve just got to offer it a shot and trust the investment. Black Adam has been sitting around for nearly 80 years.

Was it a challenge to maintain your powder dry when, presumably, you could possibly have played many other comic-book characters during this time?

I had been approached — I won’t say by who — to play just a few other superheroes, who eventually went on to be played by other actors. But I did all the time feel in my gut that Black Adam was the character for me. The primary time I saw a Black Adam comic, I used to be intrigued. There was an intensity on Black Adam’s face. There was a little bit little bit of rage on that comic book cover. Oh, and he had brown skin like mine. That immediately intrigued me. Who’s that? I would like to be him.

Was that necessary to you, to have the opportunity to bring a personality of color to the large screen?

What’s critical is the investment in additional superhero characters of color, and Black Adam is one among them. It was extremely necessary to me and one among the explanation why I used to be not letting go.

Was there a degree where you were deciding between playing Shazam and Black Adam? Their motivations are very different, to say the least.

I did have that option once I began discussing this with Warner Bros. almost 15 years ago. Would you wish to play Shazam? Would you wish to play Black Adam? I appreciated the mythology behind the characters and their connection. But I all the time knew in my heart that I used to be Black Adam. The unique script that got here in, six or seven years ago, each origin stories of Shazam and Black Adam were being told inside a few 100-minute movie. It was convoluted and it wasn’t serving them each properly. I made a call to the people running Warner Bros on the time and I said we should always separate these two in order that they could tell their very own origin stories, and that’s what we did. Which then prolonged and delayed the method. It worked against me within the moment, because they went with “Shazam!” first. [Laughs.] I said, OK, not an issue.

You’ve played heroic characters in your movies for a few years now. Was it a risk to play Black Adam, whose morality just isn’t so easily defined?

I embraced all of the characteristics that will deem him a supervillain — his violence and his brutality and his philosophy on justice. Hardcore justice. He’s very economic along with his words but in addition along with his powers. It’s not a killing spree. It’s those that, well, have it coming to them. But I never checked out it as a risk. It’s one thing if he’s violent and he’s brutal and he’s filled with rage. But after we take our time to inform his origin story and show why he became that way, it’s not a risk.

You were a heel — a deliberate bad guy — during your time as knowledgeable wrestler, in an era when the league was embracing ruthless men, sexed-up women and obscene language. Did that help in any respect together with your “Black Adam” performance?

It really did, yeah. Even within the wild, unpredictable world of skilled wrestling, there was a fantastic profit in playing a heel. I became, at the moment, the perfect and biggest heel the corporate had going. That Attitude Era, I call it a really special time on the earth of professional wrestling. The corporate wasn’t publicly traded, so we flew under the radar. And among the things — lots of the things — that we were in a position to get away with, we’d be in big trouble lately. But that point as a heel really did teach me that you could possibly do anything — so long as your reason why is relatable.

As a heel, did you’ve to learn to just accept that you just were there in order that the audience could boo you?

Before I became a fantastic bad guy, I got here in because the babyface [the good guy]. I used to be told, “You may’t smile enough.” Vince McMahon told me that. “You have got to go on the market and be grateful to be here.” I used to be booed in every arena across the country. So I did have to resist that sort of vitriol. By the point I did turn heel, I couldn’t have opened my arms wider to get them boos, to are available and embrace them.

The DC Prolonged Universe has taken some unexpected twists and turns — some movies that appeared like surefire hits weren’t, and other left-field entries were surprising successes. Does that put more pressure on you and on “Black Adam”?

Yes, and I embrace it. It’s a singular time within the superhero genre, where there’s the introduction of fresh blood and recent characters on each side of the aisle — at Marvel and positively at DC. And the launching of Black Adam is converging with a time where also they are bringing in recent leadership at Warner Bros. and recent leadership on the DC side is soon to be coming in. I feel very confident concerning the direction of the DC universe. It’s going to require real strategy and real leadership. And that requires us not to have a look at Marvel’s success and say, let’s follow that blueprint. That’s Marvel. I’m very joyful for them. We don’t need to be Marvel, in my view. We wish to be DC and we wish to do it our way.

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