Let's face it. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has basically won the Hollywood game, without many of us thinking twice about it save for a quick roll of the eyes. As he continues to dominate the box office and TV, today comes news that Johnson will star in and co-produce a new pilot for HBO about retired athletes in Miami. The other producers are the Entourage duo of Johnson's Pain & Gain co-star Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson — and you can groan all you want, but the sweet smell of Entourage cheese is exactly what The Rock is good at cooking.
Sure, Entourage ultimately became a pain in everyone's gain, and the bro-love world of Vincent Chase his gang seems outdated in HBO's Girls landscape. But Entourage lasted for eight seasons, and continues to live on in perpetuity at Spike, which paid too much money for it. And while The Rock's as yet untitled new effort on HBO may turn out to be eye-roll worthy, it shows how Johnson has worked his way up from WWE novelty to the world of prestige television.
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Not that all of the television Johnson is involved with has the level of clout that comes with a primetime HBO series — that's part of his game, too. The Rock returned to Wrestlemania last month, and in case you haven't been watching every single commercial break during the NBA playoffs, Johnson is also coming to TNT next moth with his reality series, The Hero, where he will be "host, mentor and motivator" to a group of contestants in what is described as "epic competition testing the strength, courage, and integrity." That premieres June 6 and seems to be precisely the kind of strong-man schtick — and likely huge payday — we've come to expect from Johnson.
Meanwhile, Pain & Gain won the weekend box office, with $20 million, though its financial dominance is probably not long for this world with Iron Man 3 in the pipeline. And in case you don't remember the comedic genius of 2005's Be Cool, The Rock can act! Our Richard Lawson, in his Pain & Gain review, revealed that Johnson's performance was more than just muscle — The Rock is "also up to something here, actually playing a character instead of merely a tower of sinew." The Tooth Fairy be gone: serious — or at least seriously savvy — Dwayne Johnson might be here to stay. This man is no jabroni.
That's not to say that Johnson doesn't have a lot of cheese on his resumé. Pain & Gain, let's not forget, is a Michael Bay movie, even if a slightly off-beat Michael Bay movie. But cheese makes money. On Wednesady Lucas Shaw of The Wrap wrote a story titled, "Why the Rock Is the First Pro Wrestler (or Athlete) to Become a Movie Star." Shaw reports that Johnson has been in three movies since February — Snitch, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and Pain & Gain — and each have been the "the top new release" for their weekend. G.I. Joe made $41.2 million, and we'd note that Deadline considered second place for Snitch a "rare failure" for Johnson. None of these have been massive hits, but they've been solid. Up next he has Fast & Furious 6, which will undoubtedly do well over Memorial Day weekend though it faces some competition in the form of The Hangover Part III.
And Johnson's got the love of higher ups, too. The co-president of production at Universal told The Wrap's Shaw that "everyone sitting in my chair is trying to work with Dwayne," adding: "I don't think he's having a moment. This isn't his 15 seconds of fame. He now has enough experience and craftsmanship that it's going to be a long run."
So there you have it: Dwayne Johnson, the smartest cheeseball in Hollywood.