In 2006, Dwayne Johnson traveled to Cannes for the premiere of Southland Tales, a bizarro art-comedy from the white-hot director of Donnie Darko that had the potential to propel him from a middling action star to an adventurous character actor. Richard Kelly’s scattered, confounding flick was, unfortunately, a major flop, prompting boos and mass walk-outs at the festival. Twelve years later, despite finding his foothold in Hollywood, Johnson looks back on the experience with a wince.
“Southland Tales hurt. I took it in the gut,” the sports entertainer-turned-actor said during a Sundance interview that appears in IndieWire. “We all went into that movie having so much trust, and a script that was complex and interesting. At times, you’re like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ Richard Kelly, who was a good friend, was so passionate about that movie.” To make matters worse, the disastrous screening was followed by a grueling press conference in which the principle cast was called on to answer for what audiences had just seen. For an actor taking the first bold swing of his Hollywood career, it was almost too much to take.
Southland Tales has, as tends to happen with the wildly ambitious, built up a small but passionate group of supporters in recent years. Sure, it’s a weird, incomprehensible movie in which every character makes the biggest, strangest choice possible, but, hey, it’s not every day you get a Neo-Marxist gang, a floating ice cream truck, and a scarred, beer-swilling Justin Timberlake lip-synching The Killers in the same movie.
Johnson’s having a much more pleasant experience at Sundance than he did at Cannes. Currently, he’s scoring strong notices for his crowd-pleasing Fighting With My Family, which dramatizes the early, inspiring career of WWE’s Paige. Learn more about that flick—Stephen Merchant directed it!—and plenty more in the full interview, which you can read here.
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