From our friends at PopTonic:
Picture this: The year is 2001. George W. Bush is president. “Hanging by a Moment” by Lifehouse is somehow the biggest hit song of the year. It’s a time so far removed from our current reality that it seems like a half-remembered dream.
That was the year that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson first dipped his toe into the world of big-budget action flicks. His screen debut involved a loincloth, a big gold cuff bracelet, and some truly appalling CGI that looked back 20 years ago and didn’t age well.
To be clear, I love Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy. It remains one of my favorite action flicks and played no small part in convincing me to pursue a library science degree. The sequel is… not great. Its only real relevance is introducing Dwayne Johnson to a wider audience beyond his WWE fans. He barely speaks and spends most of his screentime as a poorly rendered scorpion monster.
According to director Stephen Sommers, speaking to Entertainment Weekly at a 20th anniversary event for The Mummy, Johnson was violently ill the entire time he was filming:
I saw his stuff and went, oh, he’s got such charisma, he has just oodles of charisma and likability. And, it’s true, you can’t fake that usually. He’d never been in a movie or done anything like that. He flew into Morocco on Wednesday. On Thursday, he had hair and makeup and wardrobe. And I shot him on Friday. I only shot him for one day. I had one day with him, because, on Saturday morning, he had to fly from the Sahara desert to Detroit for a big wrestling deal.
He arrives on the set Friday morning and Dwayne had really bad food poisoning and heatstroke. It was probably 110, 112 degrees, and everybody’s in shorts and tank tops, and he would be covered in blankets, just shivering. And he is such a trooper.
I will always love him, because I’m like, ‘Dwayne, we’ve only got one day! I can’t put it off! We can’t wait for you to get well!’ He goes, just get the camera rolling, and as soon as I hear ‘Background’ I’ll jump up.’ And that’s what he did. We did, ‘…and background!’ All the extras start going and I go, ‘Action!’ and Dwayne, he threw off the blankets and charged forward. And we just went all day. That guy gutted it out, because he was just a mess.”
Johnson impressed audiences—and the studio execs at Universal—enough that he scored his very own starring vehicle. The Scorpion King was a modest box office success. It made less than half of what The Mummy or The Mummy Returns brought in, but it debuted at number one in the box office. Reviewers shredded the movie for the cheesy, cliched plot, nonsensical dialogue, and terrible special effects.
The nicest thing anyone had to say about it was Roger Ebert, who wrote, “The Rock has the authority to play the role and the fortitude to keep a straight face. I expect him to become a durable action star.”
He was right, of course. Johnson’s career has only gotten bigger and better—much like the man himself. Now he wants to use the cache he built in Hollywood to reboot The Scorpion King. He’ll produce a modern-day twist on the story of a warrior rising up to defend his desert homeland against evil.
But he won’t be donning the loincloth again. Instead, Johnson and his production company will be looking for a new actor to take on the role. “The Scorpion King was my very first role ever on the silver screen and I’m honored and excited to reimagine and deliver this cool mythology to a whole new generation,” Johnson told Deadline.
“I wouldn’t have had the career I’m lucky enough to have had it not been for The Scorpion King and I’m thrilled that we at Seven Bucks Productions can help create those same opportunities for other hardworking actors today.”