Despite mixed responses from critics and moviegoers, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra scored over $300 million at the global box office. As a result, it did not come as surprise when Paramount Pictures announced that a sequel was on the way. However, for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura went back to the drawing board - enlisting the help of Step Up 3D director, Jon M. Chu for a half-sequel/half-reboot with a gritty military tone.
Chu made drastic cuts to the original film roster, retaining only a few key players, filling the cast with fresh faces in iconic Joe and Cobra roles. Replacing Channing Tatum, who is included in a much smaller role for Retaliation, as the headliner for the latest G.I. Joe adventure is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Last year, we had a chance to chat with the WWE wrestler-turned-go-to action guy during a group interview on the Retaliation set. You can read our full G.I. Joe: Retaliation set visit report right now - and make sure to check back in the coming days as we post further interviews including director Jon M. Chu, Ray Stevenson (Firefly), Ray Park (Snake Eyes), Byung-Hun Lee (Storm Shadow), Elodie Yung (Jinx), DJ Cotrona (Flint), as well as Lorenzo Di Bonaventura.
Johnson plays Roadblock in the film.
Check out the original Roadblock character in this Public Service Announcement from the classic G.I. Joe animated series:
In the original series, Roadblock (real name: Marvin F. Hinton) was a heavy-gunner for the Joes - hand-carrying a M2 Browning .50 cal machine gun - and also served as the team's cook when they weren't out foiling Cobra plots. Roadblock shares similarities with Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's Heavy Duty in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but they're entirely separate characters in both the film and the classic animated series.
[NOTE: The following is an abridged (and more concise) version of the interview. You can read the entire transcript - HERE]
How does it feel to be Roadblock?
Johnson: It’s a great character. It’s a lot of fun. The character’s a lot of fun. You start to understand the mythology of the character, how he fits into the G.I. Joe world, so it’s been a lot of fun. And this version of Roadblock, where it’s a bit more “boots to the ground,” badass.
Does he still have his flair for cooking and all that?
Johnson: He does! We’ve made sure to pay homage to all the important details that made him interesting in the world of G.I. Joe and then adding some more layers of that, too. I love that fact that he loved poetry and he could rhyme like Jay-Z [...] Those are all fun, cool layers to him. And then you add the element that he could rip somebody’s fucking face off. That’s fun.
How is it lugging around that .50 caliber gun? [Roadblock's iconic M2 Browning .50 cal machine gun]
Johnson: It’s great. That thing, it’s a beast [...] The cool thing about that gun is it’s never been seen before on film, held, hand-held. Until I come along.
Can you talk a bit about how you got involved with this project?
Johnson: Paramount and Lorenzo [di Bonaventura] had come to me with the idea about joining the franchise. The pitch they had I thought was great. The first movie was really successful. I think this version of it…after sitting down with him and Adam Goodman, who’s the president over at Paramount, seeing their vision and what they wanted to do with this and how they wanted to make this movie was really appealing.
Did they come at you with this particular character or give you a list of characters you could play?
Johnson: There were a couple of characters. This one, in particular, made sense. Not only did this one make sense, but there was a lot of latitude and leeway to, again, pay homage to the qualities that made up Roadblock, but also being able to add to that to make it even more interesting and make it fit me more.
Who on set are you most excited to be going head-to-head with, as far as physicality?
Johnson: The great part about this role is there is a slew of bad guys who we have these great action sequences with at the beginning of the movie. Firefly is great, Ray Stevenson. I’m most excited, not necessarily to go toe-to-toe with them, because there is no toe-to-toe with them, but to join Bruce Willis. We’ve been buddies for some time and to be able to come together like this in this type of role.
Jon Chu was telling us about his preparation process - where he asked you to go in front of a camera and improv.
That was a dynamite process that he had. With all the directors I’ve worked with, they all have their own great processes. He would essentially shoot a documentary and he approached it like he’s shooting a documentary. He came to the G.I. Joes and he wanted to know all about the G.I. Joes, specifically Roadblock. We did that for about two or three days. I thought it was incredibly helpful and it was really cool and I appreciated that. [...] I thought it was great. And we got into it, too. With D.J. [Cotrona], I don’t know if we shared it with you. We got into some heated moments and Jon just let the camera roll and we got into it.
[We'll be posting Cotrona's side of the improv story in a future interview but in the meantime, make sure to check out Cotrona's thoughts on his time prepping for the role of Superman in George Miller's canceled Justice League movie.]
Before our time with Johnson came to a close, we got two final non-G.I. Joe questions in: If Sylvester Stallone called you about Expendables 3, would you jump into something like that?
Johnson: It all depends. Yeah, sure. I like Sly. He’s been a buddy for some time. That continues to grow, too and I’m excited about that and I know a lot of guys are. I love the first one and I’m excited about the second one. Sure, if he needs somebody to hunt somebody down, he knows where I’m at.
Of course, just because Johnson is interested does not mean that Stallone will a) call him or b) that the action stars could actually make it happen. Still, Johnson brought a much-needed shot of adrenaline and charm to the Fast and the Furious franchise in Fast Five (with a return in Fast and Furious 6) - so he's obviously willing to step into a supporting role if it's a worthwhile experience and character.
But would Johnson ever consider a spin-off centered around his Fast and Furious franchise character, Luke Hobbs?
Johnson: That’s always an ongoing conversation, because it’s really such a cool character. Cool and it’s fun in that franchise, to introduce him. That conversation is always an ongoing conversation. That’s a great thing about working with Neal, too, who hustles to get his movies done and has a studio like Universal who ushered me into the business ten years ago. So there’s a relationship there. That conversation is always ongoing. But I think before going Fast…the story of Fast Six should be taken care of and fostered and making sure that’s good, because the bar was raised in Fast Five.
Fast and Furious 6 does not open until May 24th - so we'll have to wait and see.
You can check out Dwayne Johnson in G.I. Joe: Retaliation on March 28th and check back soon for more interviews from the set. However, if you’re eager for more G.I. Joe Retaliation info right now, make sure to check out the G.I. Joe: Retaliation news archive – which includes the following featured articles along with much more:
- ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Set Visit Report: Knowing is Half the Battle
- ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Set Visit Preview: Gravity, Kung Fu, and ‘Yo Joe’!
- ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ 3D Conversion Preview – Was It Worth the Wait?
- ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Clips: Cobra Goes Viral & Joe Colton Reenlists
- New ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Trailer Is Legitimately Exciting
G.I. Joe: Retaliation releases on March 28, 2013.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on G.I. Joe: Retaliation as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.