Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson recently received a letter from a big-name fan, and it's been making him think back a lot to his childhood. "When I was 8 years old, I saw 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' in Charlotte, North Carolina. I walked out of there so inspired. I loved the movie and I knew I wanted to be that guy — charming, kicks ass, cool with the ladies — but I had no connection to Hollywood. So to be sitting here today, I'm grateful and very happy," Johnson says. "And I received a letter from that gentleman who directed 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' Very cool. He reached out and he said a lot of cool, motivating things."
Where exactly Johnson is sitting today is promoting "San Andreas," a Hollywood action flick in which he plays a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue pilot facing off against the biggest earthquake in California history. It's not exactly Indiana Jones, but he clearly overcame that whole no connection to Hollywood thing.
For Johnson, even when making a big, loud summer action spectacle, it's important that the science is right. And even though U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones heavily criticized the film after being invited by the studio to see it — "Bottom line: Don't learn seismology from 'San Andreas,'" she tweeted — Johnson insists that as far as he knows everything on screen passes muster. "We had the best seismologists, top scientists and earthquake scientists from CalTech and USC pore over the script, challenge the script and then ultimately walk away from it saying, 'This could happen. We hope it doesn't, but it could happen,'" he insists.
And, in a sense, it recently did, only on the other side of the world in Nepal. And that kind of front-and-center current event can make turning natural disaster into big-screen entertainment a dicey prospect. "We made the movie knowing and understanding the content of it. These things happen," Johnson says. "It was so unfortunate, incredibly unfortunate. Our prayers and thoughts continue to go out to everybody in Nepal and everybody who was affected by that. But, you know, the truth is you go into a project like this with everything you’ve got — your heart and your soul — and you just want to make a good movie."
And Johnson himself is no stranger to natural disasters. He's hoping that viewers will look past the massive displays of CGI destruction and see the smaller story at the heart of it: a man trying to save his family.
"I think if there's one correlating factor [with the situation in Nepal], it would be the ideology of family and strength coming together in a tragedy like this," he says. "I've been through natural disasters. I lived down in Miami for Hurricane Andrew. There were members of my family who thought they were going to die, everybody was in the bathtub, it was a tough, tough thing. So I think the idea of people coming together, like we are showcasing in our story, resonates with people. If there is any connection, for me it would be that."
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter:@nedrick