LOS ANGELES — When your film franchise has gotten tired – the Fast aren’t quite as Furious, the Mummy needs a reason to Return – Dwayne Johnson is the guy to call.
The 40-year-old actor has become a savior of stale film series, injecting new life into “Fast Five,” “The Mummy Returns,” “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” and now “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” The former professional wrestler rocks established franchises by joining them on the second or subsequent installment and boosting the property’s box office.
“Fast & Furious 6″ and “Journey 3″ are on the way, and Johnson’s “Mummy” character got his own spinoff film, “The Scorpion King.”
“We call him franchise Viagra,” said “Retaliation” director Jon M. Chu. “He comes in and he elevates everything, not just physically, but energy-wise… He was the only one in our minds that could reinvent G.I. Joe and carry the franchise forward.”
In “Retaliation,” Johnson takes over for Channing Tatum, the star of 2009′s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” Tatum plays a smaller role in the sequel as Johnson introduces moviegoers to Roadblock, a character from the G.I. Joe universe who’s built like a tank but always served second in command.
“He was the glue who held all the G.I. Joes together, but he was happily in the shadows,” Johnson said. “To bring him to life and then try to help elevate the franchise with that character is pretty cool.”
Johnson grew up playing with G.I. Joe action figures, so he was especially excited to be a part of Joe’s second cinematic outing.
“It would be like if George Lucas called me and said, `Hey, want to be in Star Wars?” the actor said.
In fact, he’s open to joining any film franchise he might be able to help.
“If I can create a character that audiences will really like and love going on a journey with – whether it’s `Fast Five’ or `G.I. Joe’ or even `Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,’ or everything else we have coming up – then I jump at that opportunity,” Johnson said, noting the creative challenge. “How do you elevate something that’s already successful? What do you do? How do you make it different? How do you make it fun? How do you make it cool?”
The Associated Press asked Johnson what role he might play in some of the top-grossing movie franchises of all time, including a few that may seem finished. The Rock, tongue firmly in cheek, is willing to revive them.
_ STAR WARS: “That could happen. I only say that because of my love for the mythology of `Star Wars.’ … Boba Fett could work. But it can’t be the Boba Fett as we know. We can’t hide my magic (gestures to his face). This is magic, my friend (laughs). There’s got to be a cross between a Sith and a Jedi. What is that? Don’t know what that is yet. We’ve got to create it.”
_ JAMES BOND: “I love that franchise. Daniel Craig has been great. You know my grandfather was a baddie in `You Only Live Twice’ with Sean Connery. They had this awesome fight scene. So he kind of opened up the doors in my mind a little bit at least. So yeah, absolutely – me chasing down Daniel Craig. But here’s the thing. Here’s my idea. Chase down Daniel Craig and then become the new Bond. That’s what we do … That’s never going to happen, OK, but go ahead.”
_ BATMAN: “Um. Let’s take a crack at it. I love that. `Batman.’ Do I say that? `I’m Batman.’”
_ SHREK: “With `Shrek’ we create a five-legged Brahma bull with three horns.. He’s neutral. And sometimes he stutters.”
_ TWILIGHT: “We would introduce the biggest, baddest, most manliest vampire the world has ever seen or will ever see. Go to Kristen Stewart, grab her by the back of the head, pull her in closely. Here comes Pattinson. Pie-face him out of the way. Look at her before I kiss her: `We’re doing away with boyhood things.’ Push him out of the way. Give her the kiss. Change her life. Then I’d bite her; rip her face off (laughs).”
_ PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: “We have Johnny Depp on one side, that pirate, then we have myself on another side. I’m a pirate – don’t believe in drinking, don’t believe in cussing. A clean pirate who happens to be boring. Yes, yes, that’s it. How exciting is that? You’re lining up. Everyone’s lining up to see it.”
_ INDIANA JONES: “I would be a professor at the University of Miami of course, naturally … who stumbles upon something that is considered the fountain of youth. Give it to the real Indy. We go back in time. He becomes Indy from `Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ Then we both set off.”