How Brendan Fraser Helped Dwayne Johnson Land His First Role – Yes, Nice Guys Can Finish First
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has credited Brendan Fraser with helping him make his break into Hollywood in the early 2000’s. Now, over twenty years later, Johnson is able to use his fame and success to return the favour.
It’s hard to remember a time when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wasn’t one of the biggest names in Hollywood. He is, after all, a surprisingly versatile performer, able to carry comedies, action films, and even a Disney musical adventure. Younger fans may not even be aware that he was a wrestler in the WWE – despite the fact that he continued wrestling until 2019.
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The jump from sports to acting is a difficult one, with many aspiring performers being known for only a handful of campy performances. It’s no surprise that Johnson faced an uphill battle performing in his first film role as the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns.
Fellow The Mummy Returns alum Brendan Fraser also faced an uphill battle during this year’s comeback performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. Following its release in the film festival circuit, Johnson recalled Fraser’s support during a pivotal moment in his acting career and voiced his own well wishes for Fraser in this upcoming awards season.
How Dwayne Johnson Became ‘The Rock’
Dwayne Johnson has been in the public eye long enough that there are generations of his fans who don’t remember his career as one of the most successful wrestlers in the WWE. But only die-hard fans will know that Johnson’s athletic career actually started with high school football.
Before joining Freedom High School’s football and wrestling teams, Johnson had a hard time as a teen. Johnson said he was often involved in petty crime and fights during this time. It was a football coach in the eleventh grade who motivated him to turn his life around. He soon became one of the strongest players on both the wrestling and football teams. It wasn’t long before NCAA Division 1 college football programs began to take notice.
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The University of Miami offered Johnson an athletic scholarship, which he accepted, vying to be eventually drafted in the NHL. But it just wasn’t meant to be; he spent most of his college football career in the shadow of more prominent players and was overlooked in the 1995 NFL Draft. He did sign with Calgary Stampeders, in the CFL, but was quickly cut from the team.
With his football career struggling to take off, Johnson turned to his other talent: wrestling. He had an in – his father, professional wrestler Rocky Johnson. With his father’s help he landed a wrestling contract within a year of graduating college.
He found great success performing as a charming trash-talker during the WWE’s Attitude Era. Throughout his wrestling career, from which he only officially retired in 2019, he was a ten-time world champion.
How Brendan Fraser Helped Dwayne Johnson Get His Acting Break
Fans of the WWE already knew Johnson was a charismatic performer by the time he acted in 2001’s The Mummy Returns as the antagonistic Scorpion King. Many athletes have tried to make the jump from sports to acting, with varying levels of success. As Johnson recounts it, Brendan Fraser’s support behind the scenes helped him nab the role.
At the time, Fraser was at the height of his career as an actor. He was reprising his most successful role as Rick O’Connell from 1999’s The Mummy and, according to Johnson, he held a lot of sway in the making of the sequel.
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“The Mummy Returns, that was Brendan’s movie. He had to okay it,” Johnson told MTV News. “He had no idea. We had never met. We had never even spoken on the phone. And the word that I got from our director Stephen Sommers was, ‘Brendan loves this idea and is so happy you’re in the movie.”
“I’d just come from WWE. I had no acting experience except in the WWE. I had never been on a movie set before ever and, all of a sudden, I’m in the middle of the Sahara Desert making The Mummy Returns,” Johnson recalled. “And I get that kind of nod of acceptance from the star of the movie, it really meant a lot to me. So many years later, I never forgot it.”
Johnson’s performance in The Mummy Returns led to him starring in the prequel The Scorpion King. His acting career has only gone uphill from there.
Dwayne Johnson’s Support of Brendan Fraser’s Comeback
Fraser recently recalled that, despite voicing his support for Johnson, the two didn’t actually meet during the filming of The Mummy Returns. Johnson only performed in a prologue to the film – the rest of the Scorpion King’s appearance in the film was made possible through CGI.
“The first time I met him was at the reception after The Mummy Returns,” Fraser told Variety. We hadn’t met in person before then, actually, although we were fighting onscreen. But every time I ‘worked with him’ he was just a piece of tape on a stick. So it was nice to go, ‘Hey, man. How are ya? We finally meet!’
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Since then, Johnson has become one of Hollywood’s most successful and popular actors, while Fraser has struggled in his professional and personal life. But Fraser has been making a tremendous comeback, receiving standing ovations and awards nominations for his starring role in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. It’s given Fraser’s career the boost it needed, and given Johnson a chance to pay back his early supporter.
Sharing a video of the ten-minute standing ovation Fraser received at the Venice Film Festival, Johnson tweeted, “Man this makes me so happy to see this beautiful ovation for Brendan. He supported me coming into his Mummy Returns franchise for my first ever role, which kicked off my Hollywood career. Rooting for all your success brother and congrats to my bud Darren Aronofsky.”
Brendan Fraser Proves Being the Nice Guy Pays Off
Johnson went a step further in an interview with MTV News for Black Adam, saying, “I want him to go all the way, man. I wanna see him on that Oscar stage, and hold that sucker up, and deliver, I’m sure, what will be an amazing speech.”
It remains unknown whether or not Fraser will receive an Oscar nod for The Whale, but he seems to have a good chance, having already received other awards and nominations. Fraser has heard Johnson’s support, saying that it “was really nice of him,” in an interview with Variety.
It can be easy to forget that others need our help and support, especially when we’re busy with our own careers. Support can come in all forms. To look outside of ourselves and lend a helping hand to someone starting out or attempting to make a leap into a new profession is one of the nicest and most appreciated acts one can do.