The wrestler-turned-thespian took to Facebook tonight to answer fan’s questions, teasing Universal’s Hobbs & Shaw 2 and talking about the part that got away: the title role in Par’s feature adaptation of Lee Child’s series of novels about blue collar action hero, Jack Reacher. The role, of course, went to Tom Cruise who played the character over two movies in 2012 and 2016’s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.
Said Johnson, “In Hollywood, actors are kind of like in-a-box. There are actors that can vie for a particular role because it allows for them to have a certain look, skin color, size, etc. Fortunately, for me, there aren’t a lot of guys at all who look like me. So, all of my roles, from the beginning of my career, I’ve been a lucky son of a b***h that they’ve been created and designed for me — except Jack Reacher.”
“Now, this was ten years ago, and I was in a much different place, I recognize that,” explained Johnson, “Tom was the biggest movie star in the world, and I was not.”
Johnson believed at the time that he was prime to play Reacher, given his physical similarities to the character in height (6′ 4″), weight (280 lbs) and they both were ‘bad dudes’.
“I got the call saying ‘Hey, you didn’t get the role’ Look, I didn’t even know if I had a shot for it, but the people around me at that time made me think that I did. I felt like I did, I felt like ‘Why not me?'” he continued in the FB video.
But with every door that closes, another opens, and that’s when Johnson received a phone call from Universal to make a cameo in Fast Five.
“I said ‘Don’t worry about the money’, I’m doing alright right now,'” Johnson remembered, “In success, if I create a character the people are going to like and it hits the zeitgeist of the culture in a cool way, the money is going to be there. They said, ‘Absolutely, it’s a deal’.”
And from there Johnson, with his Seven Bucks producing partner Hiram Garcia and Fast 6, 7, 8 scribe Chris Morgan cracked the role of Hobbs who the former wrestler billed as “an extension of me.”
“I’m positive that the role of Jack Reacher, because it was an established character, an IP that was well known and beloved around the world, that I wouldn’t have had the creative space to do what I wanted with the character,” said Johnson, “I look back in gratitude that I didn’t get Jack Reacher.”
At the tail-end of the video, Johnson talks about how Morgan, Seven Bucks and him are already working on Hobbs & Shaw 2: “We have great characters to create, not the characters that Hobbs can kick the shit out of, but characters I think you’ll fall in love with — villains, heroes and anti-heroes.”
Hindsight being 20/20, Johnson’s jumping over to Fast & Furious enabled him to hit the jackpot. Both Jack Reacher movies by comparison went on to do a combined modest $380.4M at the worldwide box office. Meanwhile, Johnson’s run in the Fast & Furious ensemble movies (Fast Five, 6, Furious 7,Fate of the Furious and Hobbs & Shaw) amounted to over $4.9 billion WW. Hobbs & Shaw alone did $759M last summer around the globe, with $201M of that number coming from China.