Dwayne Johnson’s first exposure to legendary strongman Hercules didn’t come from mythology class, but from a legendary bodybuilder-turned-actor who played the divine Greek hero on screen twice.
“When I was a kid I remember being visually captivated by the Steve Reeves poster,” says Johnson.
“He’s breaking free of this pillar and chains. I didn’t know the mythology back then but I knew the image. That image captivated me.
“When I was a kid I was always drawn to men who were able to accomplish things, whether they were big things or little things, but men who took care of business physically.”
Years later as Johnson, then better known as wrestling superstar The Rock, was transitioning from the ring to the screen he thought his bulked up physique would make him the new Steve Reeves.
“When I got to Hollywood I spoke to executives and I brought up Hercules. Didn’t have the clout to make anything happen back then. I have a little bit more these days though and I was able to make it happen.”
The result of Johnson’s lifelong dream is Hercules, an action adventure based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars and co-starring John Hurt, Ian McShane and model-turned-actress Irina Shayk.
“There’s been so many iterations of Hercules over the years I wanted to create something different,” he says.
“Hopefully epic and hopefully redefine him for our generation.”
In the film, Hercules rejects his own mythology in an attempt to stay grounded, something Johnson understands.
“I have enjoyed a good amount of success and I’m very grateful for everything that I have,” the bulky actor says.
“Like Hercules not buying into the myth, not buying into the story but just being aware of it, I’m very grateful for being who I am and making sure that I continue to approach every project and everything that I do as if it is going to be my last.
“There was a time when I was in Canada, playing for the CFL and sleeping on a mattress that I got from the garbage of a sex motel. I’ll never forget it. True story. So, for me, those times are kind of in the forefront of my mind.
“The wolf is always scratching at the door. It’s good to remember that. It’s important.”