We can put Dwayne Johnson’s rich Hollywood career in just two events. The first one would be the 2011 release of Fast Five when Johnson could finally forget about Tooth Fairy, and he became a star on the level of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The second one was the recent release of Baywatch when he realized the limits to being a star.
Dwayne is probably one of the most famous actors in Hollywood at the moment, but he perhaps suffered his first box office disappointed. Namely, Baywatch earned “only” $18.5 million during the domestic opening weekend, while the expectations were a lot higher initially – they planned to make $40 million. Furthermore, we need to mention that it was the first film for Johnson as an executive producer. On Rotten Tomatoes, this reboot scored only 19% and sometimes, it is not enough to have stars in order for the film to be successful – it actually has to be a good movie.
Analyst Paul Dergarabedian said: “No one is 100% bankable because no movie is 100% bankable and as every major movie star can attest (though they may not admit it). It’s about the quality of the movie, not the star power, that drives people to the movie theater. Even [Johnson] is not immune to these market forces and no amount of star power and goodwill can offset bad reviews and negative social media buzz.”
Sometimes, you can have a good opening even if the movie is bad and Dwayne Johnson manages to do that. He is a showman, always positive, always working and in an interview with the GQ, he even said that he might run for the President. At first, this seemed to be a joke, but it has appeared that it may as well be serious and we see Johnson as a political candidate in the future. With Tom Hanks as his running buddy, of course.
However, this could have just been a tactic to draw attention to Baywatch, which Johnson really wanted to sell to the audience. He had a reason – he was an executive producer which means that he had a significant amount of capital invested in Baywatch. The Rock showed this engagement and dissatisfaction on Twitter, and people’s Champion couldn’t believe that critics gave the movie bad reviews. This is something The Rock wouldn’t do – but he did it anyway.
When Johnson arrived in Hollywood he needed some time to adjust but after some time, his popularity sky-rocketed. At the time of his first movie The Mummy Returns where he played the Scorpion King, he was still known as the WWE star. We didn’t have the foggiest idea that Dwayne Johnson would eventually become a huge star and all we expected were cameo roles, and one would think that Tooth Fairy was about to seal his career in the movie industry. But then, the Fast Five came along.
The fourth Fast and Furious film grossed $363 million globally, but the fifth installment with Dwayne Johnson in it recorded $626 million, which was a significant leap. He was on the right track, and every movie he has played in was kind of successful, even the G.I. Joe: Retaliation which wasn’t a complete success made more money than the original title.
San Andreas opened with $54.5 million in a domestic market, while Central Intelligence and Hercules opened with $35.5 and $29.8 million at home, respectively. Baywatch, with $18.5 million even failed to beat Pain and Gain which earned $20.2 million in the opening weekend.
After Baywatch, Dwayne Johnson enters a crucial point in his career. He will either prove that he can create hits and reach the levels of Sylvester Stallone or he will be another star who got stuck in the mud. Dergarabedian added: “Baywatch may have strayed too far into R-rated territory for the true fans of the original Baywatch and nostalgia buffs to jump into the water and go along for the ride and that combined with the historically mixed track record for these TV reboots was too much for the film to overcome.”
“Johnson has one of the best reputations in the industry for being a great guy and a hell of a marketing machine, so he will most certainly be back with a vengeance, and also much the wiser having learned lessons from this sobering experience,” concluded the analyst.