Thank you to Disney Studios for hosting me during the Moana Event. All interview photos by Louise Bishop/Mom Start.
Two years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would be sitting down with the “Sexiest Man Alive” to talk about his latest movie. All I can say is that I’m a very lucky girl. Dwayne Johnson always seemed like a very nice, very sweet, very funny guy to me. I’m happy to report that my impression was, indeed, correct.
And as a personal side note, when I announced that I was going to interview him as part of the Moana Event, one very specific request was made: “Please touch his bicep!” Did it happen? Well…first…let’s see what he has to say about the film…
Why was this role important to him?
What’s that thing? Money. [laughs] It was important for me to do the role because it was a great opportunity to showcase our Polynesian culture to the world. I’m half Samoan and half black, and it was an opportunity for me… I wasn’t too sure that I was ever going to get the opportunity again to showcase culture, and our culture’s very rich and we’re very proud of it… It was also an opportunity to work with Disney in this capacity, in a classic animated capacity with the element of music. I’ve done two Disney movies in the past, live action movies, but this, it’s a different machine. It’s still the same umbrella, but it’s a different machine, and it was the, again, the opportunity to hopefully make a movie that was not only good, but you have a real good shot at creating something that was like a classic. And that’s what I wanted to do.
What was the biggest challenge in bringing Maui to life?
It’s just a different muscle to exercise, and it was almost like a baptism by fire. And I had a lot of help around me which was nice.… That was the biggest challenge – making sure that the words that I spoke had life and the correct energy and the correct temperament and tone and intonation where it had to go to different places and pitch and things like that. It was a really fascinating experience for me.
What was it like to sing in a Disney film?
I used the word opportunity before; it was a great opportunity to push myself, and to sing. And you know, the bar’s set very high in a Disney movie when there’s the element of music. I felt confident going in because I felt confident that I could prepare and do the things that I can control. And [they] also surround me really amazing collaborators musically, masterful musical people… I was excited to sing a song, and Lin’s [Lin-Manuel Miranda] credit, he did a lot of deep dive research. I’ve sung in the past, but fun, like I would go on a talk show – Ellen, or something – and I would break out a guitar and sing, and just make it kind of fun and silly. But he did his research and he found a comfortable range that I could sing in, and then he also pushed me a little bit, and… I had a real, real, real good time. And rapping too and the whole thing, so… I’m a rapper.
We’ve seen videos of him performing online for his daughter. Does Maui perform for her as well?
So we have Maui action figures and they’re kind of big, but we have separated Maui at home. So Maui kind of sounds like Daddy. But Maui is just Maui. I just didn’t want to confuse her…because when she watches the videos all the time, it’s all about Maui. But now Pikachu, however… So, for those of you who don’t know, I dressed up as Pikachu for my daughter Jasmine, she’s eleven months old, and we were in Hawaii shooting, and she went to a pumpkin patch three weeks ago and she saw Pikachu-someone dressed up as Pikachu-and she freaked out. She loved it. So Lauren and I thought, ‘Well you know, what if Pikachu came for Halloween?’ So I became Pikachu. So the challenge was finding a Pikachu costume that was big enough. We did find one, and it was so hot, boy, in that thing. And so since then, Pikachu makes weekly visits. It’s a whole thing, right? Pikachu… he goes to get dressed in another room and he has to walk out back and around the house; he has to ring the doorbell, and then he has his fun with Jasmine, and it’s very funny. So, usually Lauren is there, my mom is there, and they mess with me ‘cause I can’t talk. So Pikachu just doesn’t speak for obvious reasons and it’s so hot, and after fifteen minutes, I’m like, oh— you know I can’t say anything, so I’m getting ready to say goodbye, and Lauren goes, “Oh, uh, Pikachu wants to dance? He wants to dance?” And she puts on music and… another twenty minutes. But it’s the best.
You can catch The Rock as Pikachu here.
What parts of The Rock made their way into the character Maui?
Yeah there was a good amount that was infused in Maui. I think that there’s a part of Maui that I can appreciate, because it’s my DNA; I share that with him. There’s a fun side to Maui, and a desire to keep things fun, and keep them a little bit on the lighter side. [He’s] not quick to show the vulnerability, and not quick to go down that route. So, I would say that. Yeah. And some bravado, a lot of bravado, because you can mask a lot with bravado. Yes.
What was the voice recording process like?
Yeah, so it’s a really cool process for those of you who don’t know. There’s multiple cameras in the room as you’re sitting in the studio and you’re going through these lines and and your facial expressions will then inform the animators on the facial expressions of Maui. So, if I say, ‘You can’t do that!’ my eyebrows go up, then that will inform the animators… So there’s all these really amazing, unique little things that take place that they capture that informs the animation. And what I found was in the animation, especially when you’re on the ocean, and it is the ocean; it’s outside and it’s mother nature – it becomes really, really beautiful, and gorgeous.
What does he want people to take away from the film?
To have fun, number one, and enjoy it, and come away… Like, I found with the audiences, I’ve seen… I’ve seen the movie with and audience, and unbeknownst to them that I was there, and it was really cool and special when all the kids were leaving, and there was just this energetic thing that happened in the theater where they kind of leave floating. And I think when you accomplish that, it’s just such a cool thing, ‘cause it stays with us for life, you know, as we get older. So to create magic like that for our kids and adults is awesome. And I think the takeaway would a few things. I think number one that comes is having the confidence in yourself, and you are good enough. And you can do this… There’s a saying that we have in Polynesian culture, it’s like, ‘Don’t go beyond the reef.’ And we showcase that in the movie. Well you can go beyond the reef. And also, going back to listening to the little voice inside of you. That life is so noisy and there’s so much noise, and how important that is to listen to. You always want to revert back to the little voice that you have inside of you, saying you are good enough and you can do things.
Now back to that side note I mentioned at the beginning of this post…
When you’re with a group of 25 other bloggers, you never know if you’ll have the opportunity to ask a question to your interviewee. I did get in a question. (The one asking if Maui performed at home.) Most interviews end with a group photo. Again, with 25 bloggers in a photo there’s no way to know if you’ll actually get close to the talent. Well Dwayne was one of those stars who was like, “Come on, get in here, get close” during the photos. So while we’re positioning ourselves for the photo I felt something on my shoulder. I looked over and it was his hand. That’s right-his arms were long enough to easily get around two people. I had my arm around my friend Tara and then realized my hand wasn’t on Tara…it was on The Rock’s bicep. So that mission was accomplished and I didn’t even have to try. And yes…I’ve been mentioning it over and over and over again on Facebook. Because when you touch the Sexiest Man Alive’s bicep you want to bring it up. A lot.
From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes Moana, a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli’i Cravalho) meets the once-mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess & the Frog) and produced by Osnat Shurer (Lifted, One Man Band), Moana sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016.
Stay tuned for more exclusive interviews and extras coming soon! You can find all things Moana here, including full event coverage!