Could Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Play Superman Next?

In the trailer for Hobbs & Shaw, Idris Elba’s villain calls himself “black Superman.” His co-star Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as the Rock, seems to be taking that suggestion to heart. 

In a video interview with Variety, he tells a reporter, “Maybe someday, we will see a black Superman. You’re looking at him.”

It’s not entirely clear if Johnson was actually suggesting himself for the Man of Steel. Johnson may have just been promoting his “super” personality in general, as is his wont. But since he planted the idea in some people’s heads, we’ll take a look at what kind of Superman he would make.

Dwayne Johnson is unquestionably a star

Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne Johnson | Tommaso Boddi/WireImage

Not many pro wrestlers successfully transition from the ring to the movie screen. If it happens, it’s usually just a one-off, as with Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride. However, Johnson is a bona fide movie star now, and he’s come a long way. 

According to IMDb, Johnson was born in Hayward California to a Samoan mother and a Canadian father, who is of black Nova Scotian descent, which is why the Rock refers to himself as black. He joined World Wrestling Entertainment in 1996, winning audiences over not only with his considerable physique, but his considerable charisma.  

It was only a matter of time before Hollywood landed him, with his first theatrical film being The Mummy Returns in 2001, followed by a standalone film with his title character, The Scorpion King.

That debut may have been inauspicious, with CGI that didn’t look good even then. However, it wasn’t long before he landed his first star vehicle with The Rundown in 2003, with a symbolic handover from none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

His career gradually rose to the point where his movies were consistently hits, despite occasional duds like Pain and Gain and Baywatch. Thanks largely to his appearing in four of the Fast and Furious movies, his films have grossed $3 billion here and $9 billion worldwide. In terms of box office clout, he’s already Superman. 

Why he may not be good for Superman

There’s no doubt whatsoever that The Rock could pull off the superhero part of the role. He’s already built like one, and he certainly has more screen presence than some other actors who have played the iconic superhero. 

But what about Clark Kent? 

One of the reasons Christopher Reeve succeeded so well in the role is not so much that he got Superman right – it was because he got Clark Kent right. People like to joke that a pair of glasses doesn’t make much of a disguise for Clark Kent, but watch the scene in the 1978 Superman where for a moment he considers telling Lois Lane his secret. 

He takes off his glasses and straightens his posture while lowering his voice. His whole attitude is different. Then he quickly reconsiders, putting the glasses on, hunching back over and stammering nervously. We buy that Lois Lane, smitten as she is Superman, doesn’t recognize that her very awkward co-worker was flying her around Metropolis only moments before. 

Johnson, talented as his is, may not be able to pull that off.

Here’s how Johnson could succeed as Superman

On the other hand, perhaps Johnson could succeed in the role if the character were rewritten to suit his personality. Perhaps he could eschew Clark Kent altogether, as over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, most of the Avengers do not have secret identities. The most recent Superman, Henry Cavill, did play Clark Kent, but for only a handful of scenes.

Audiences increasingly call for a different take on an established role these days. Elba was talked up for James Bond. Now comes the news that Lashana Lynch may be playing a female 007, if not exactly the Bond character.

Johnson told Variety more non-traditional roles will happen “as everything builds and grows, (and) you take the temperament of what’s happening in society … especially with franchises and characters and publicly traded companies who are sensitive to that kind of thing.”