By LYNN BARKER
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Dwayne Johnson reprises his hulking lawman Luke Hobbs in the action film “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.” As the agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, the wrestler-turned-action star describes himself as “an ice-cold can of whoop-***.” This time Hobbs and former enemy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), introduced in 2015’s “Furious 7,” have to work together to stop a cyber-genetically enhanced baddie with his hands on a biological threat. Shaw’s M16 agent sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) has already tangled with him and helps the two former enemies reluctantly partner up to win the day. The action-packed film, which cost a projected $200 million to make, is directed by David Leitch (“John Wick,” “Atomic Blonde”) from a screenplay by Chris Morgan (writer of six previous “Fast & Furious” films) and Drew Pearce (co-writer on “Iron Man 3”).
Johnson explained in an interview about keeping up the spirit and energy of the previous “Fast & Furious” films while adding in some creative action sequences and a Samoan battle scene that makes him proud of his heritage.
“I’ve been waiting my whole career for a scene like that,” he said.
Not since his role in Disney’s “Moana” has the action superstar been able to shine a light on the Polynesian people while kicking some butt in a mostly gunless battle.
Q: You have the opportunity to showcase your Samoan culture in this film. How did you feel about that?
Johnson: Hobbs has always been a personal character for be because so much of Hobbs and his DNA derive from who I am as a human being and a man. But “Hobbs & Shaw” is a deeply personal film. It means so much more because we were able to showcase one of my cultures (his mom is Samoan) on the big screen. I was able to do that with “Moana” and that was our way of showcasing the Polynesian culture. I was very proud of that and the story we told.
In this case, in terms of live action, this was an opportunity that comes around once in a lifetime if you are lucky. I’m half black and half Samoan. I’m very proud of who I am and what I am and the cultures that I come from. Having this opportunity to showcase my Samoan culture on the big screen in a global event movie, was very special to me and my family. It’s special to Polynesians around the world and certainly Samoans because it had never been magnified before.
Q: Talk about the action and fights in the film.
Johnson: I have waited my entire career to have fight scenes like this that are raging, savage and primal and without weapons or without guns, just these (he indicates his hands) in (a) modern day film. It’s very weird but I felt such joy in these action sequences and fighting this way just using hands and biting somebody’s face and trying to break their neck and using whatever you could.
Q: Was that kind of fight a part of your past, your childhood?
Johnson: Look, I came up in the world of pro wrestling. There’s no guns or weapons or anything like that. You learn at a very early age how to amateur wrestle then go out and have your matches that, yes, are scripted but they are still very primal in a way and you are grabbing and flexing. I’ve applied a few of those moves in my films but generally there is a weapon involved. In this case, I’m very happy with the way it turned out.
Q: How is “Hobbs & Shaw” carrying on the wild spirit of the “Fast & Furious” films?
Johnson: We thought that with “Hobbs & Shaw,” let’s make sure that we raise the bar; make sure it had the elements; big action set pieces, insane, gravity-defying action. (He laughs). It’s because in every “Fast & Furious” movie and on a spin-off, like “Hobbs & Shaw,” you have to defy gravity every once in a while. We do that in spades. It’s very important to us that we had the spirit of a “Fast & Furious” movie.
Q: Yes, but those films had emotional elements as well.
Johnson: Yes. We also wanted the element of the F-word, in this case Family because it’s a very critical element of the “Fast & Furious” universe. All the actors believe deeply in the power and importance of family, trust in family and always taking care of family. That lives and breathes in our DNA as human beings. On one end, we wanted to make sure “Hobbs & Shaw” had that DNA but we also wanted to make sure that we had our own identity and our own voice but also (to make sure we) felt fresh and cool and bad-***. We wanted to tell a cool story so that people can go on a ride with us even if they’ve never seen a “Fast & Furious” movie. For the “Fast & Furious” fans, they know that Hobbs and Shaw are characters they love.
Q: How important was it to create the ultimate bad guy? (Idris Elba plays villain Brixton Lore).
Johnson: We had the opportunity to build the baddest bad guy that the “Fast & Furious” franchise has ever seen who can wipe out our heroes. I think it’s so cool when you can make a bad guy like that; make a bad guy better than your best good guy. It put our heroes on the ropes. It automatically put us in a framework of jeopardy. That’s how I’ve built my career over the years even in wrestling. We laugh and joke now that I lost more than I won in wrestling but I was always better when I was vulnerable and getting my *** kicked and I love being in that position.