You might learn a few things from the new glossy Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson photo book. For example, “the big guy gets motion sickness quite easily,” as a caption alongside a photo taken of Johnson on an amusement park ride explains.(He stopped the ride shortly after to get off.) You will discover that The Rock’s on-set trailer for the film Skyscraper was ornamented with shelves filled with big honking bottles of protein powder and a piece of artwork reading “Embrace the Moment” above an illustration of a butterfly. If you are like me, which is to say a fan and scholar of The Rock, these factoids will endear him to you all the more.
Mostly, though, the book is a glimpse at the ceaseless entrepreneurial machine behind Johnson. The Rock: Through the Lens: His Life, His Movies, His World is photographed and authored by Hiram Garcia, Johnson’s longtime friend, former brother-in-law, and business associate. Decades ago, Garcia first met Johnson, who was then dating his sister, Dany Garcia. She is now Johnson’s ex-wife and the co-founder of Seven Bucks Productions, which produces The Rock’s films. Hiram is president of production at the company.
The book has the access of a family-member-slash-friend-slash-business-associate, but with all the managed construction of a press release. It’s filled with pics of Johnson on sets for movies for which Garcia was a producer. The text consists of a brief introduction and photo captions, which inform me that The Rock is “just one of us and—most important—a really good guy!” Flipping through the book often felt like consuming a commercial as standalone entertainment.
There are, for example, an inordinate number of photos from the sets of Disney’s Jungle Cruise, a movie starring The Rock which comes out next summer, and Johnson’s upcoming film Red Notice. Garcia captures shots of the behind-the-scenes at commercial shoots for Under Armour, where Johnson has a special collection. There are photos prominently featuring Johnson’s tequila brand: “Celebrating after a long day of press with a glass of his Teremana tequila,” reads one caption. Another photo features The Rock posing alongside Oprah with a couple of bottles. “I don’t think it’s common knowledge, but Oprah is a massive tequila aficionado,” explains the caption. “So it was only fitting that DJ present Oprah with the first official bottles of his Teremana Tequila.”
Listen, I am happy to learn of Oprah’s tequila hobby. I also find that the sheer capitalistic shamelessness of Johnson’s promotional apparatus (see: The Rock ice cream) has its own odd appeal. (Don’t kink shame me.) However, I did not find the answers to my most pressing questions:
1.) What does The Rock smell like?
2.) What is it like putting together a fan book about your former brother-in-law?
Nor did I find what I most wanted from the book, which was a photo equal parts thirst-trap and ironic fitspo to rip out and paste to the wall of my garage so that The Rock could help me through my covid stationary-bike workouts. (Say, something like this or this or this from Johnson’s Instagram.) Just think of the wasted opportunity! This book could have been the visual equivalent of The Rock’s 2016 alarm clock app, which had him shouting things like “bring it” and “beep beep beep” at you, and which perfectly understood the winking, eye-brow wriggling self-awareness at the heart of his charm and success.
Herein lies the problem: No one understands The Rock’s appeal quite so well as The Rock. Or me.