Special thanks to Disney for the magical trip to Los Angeles to cover the World Premiere of Moana and its press events.
It’s not every day you get to sit in the same room as People’s Sexiest Man, you know? And it’s not every day you get to sit literally right next to People’s Sexiest Man, and yet I did just that in Los Angeles on November 13th when I sat in the same room, in the chair next to Dwayne Johnson.
He walked into the room with a Voss bottle full of Pink Drink and a bright smile on his face, and took his seat next to Leanette and me. He smelled divine, you guys. No, I did not ask what his cologne was, but I certainly should have. I smelled what The Rock was cooking and it was good. That’s all you need to know.
We weren’t there to talk about his signature scent, we were there to talk about the new movie he stars in, Disney’s Moana. Dwayne Johnson voices the demigod, Maui who is said to be a trickster, a shapeshifter, Demigod of the wind and sea, hero of men. And women. I mean, could there possibly be a more fitting role? Becuase let’s just be honest, Dwayne Johnson IS a Demigod, and certainly a hero of men. And women. Mostly Leanette, but yeah, women.
It was important for Dwayne to take on this role because it meant an opportunity to be part of something that would showcase his Polynesian culture and to be part of something that could potentially be a classic Disney film.
Why was it important for you to do this role?
Um… What’s that thing? Money. Uh, 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 uh for me I felt 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, so it wasthe opportunity, and 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, and it’s a different— it’s a different machine. It’s still the same umbrella, but it’s a different machine, and and it was again, the opportunity to hopefully make a movie that was not only good, but you have a— you have a real good shot at creating something that was like a classic. And that’s what I wanted to do.
As is often the case when filmmakers tackle a project that portrays a culture other than their own, there was a little trepidation in the Polynesian world about how this movie would reflect their culture, and to be honest it’s a concern I think lots of people feel. I want to know that I’m seeing a film that represents other cultures in a fair, honest light, a light thier ancestors would be proud of. Growing up in Alaska helped foster my love of native cultures and their stories, and I hoped Moana would do the Polynesian culture justice. Dwayne felt the same way, and what he had to say about it was so important to me.
What do you want people to take away from the film? It’s so culturally infused. Is that what you want people to take away?
I think there’s a few messages that people can take away from the movie. I also think that’s a wonderful thing about entertainment, and movies, and books that we read, you know, we all have different interpretations of it, so I think the cultural aspect is somethingthat is very cool. I love that. And I also think that they did a tremendous job of representing our culture in a way that makes us proud. First there was a little bit of hesitance, from all of us by the way, but it was quickly quelled when I sat with John Lasseter and our filmmakers. By the time the script got to me, they’d already done years of research in going to all the different islands, and speaking with the high chiefs, and all the villages and trying to understand the cultures, which comes out in the authenticity of the writing. So the takeaway would be showcasing our culture, and seeing that there’s a wonderful quality of our culture, and there’s a fierceness to our culture too, and a tremendous pride.
He also spoke to the importance of listening to your gut intuition, that little voice inside us all moves us forward into the “more” that is waiting for us out there. That element of the movie is so huge for me, because, like most of us, I have that, but mine screams at me constantly. It blinds me, it sometimes paralyzes me, just as it does Moana in the movie, but when you tune into that voice and allow it to lead you, great things can happen.
In the movie, Maui has the ability to earn tattoos based on victories in his life, so I was dying to know what accomplishment in his life Dwayne would like to earn a tattoo for. After a thoughtful moment, he said, “Being a father”.
Seriously, cue the room full of moms and aunts going “awwwwwwww!” becasue that happened.
Amy from As the Bunny Hops brought up his Pikachu performances for 11 month old daughter, Jasmine, and wondered if Maui made any appearances at home. He talked about how Maui kinda sounds like Daddy and they don’t want to confuse Jasmine, so Maui and Daddy are kinda separate, but Pikachu is a different monster all together. No, literally he’s another monster, and Pikachu does make regular appearances at home to say hi to Jasmine.
Pikachu makes weekly visits. It’s a whole thing, right? Like, you guys know 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 with Jasmine, and it’s very funny.
It was hysterical to learn that his wife, Lauren will often see his cues to leave, because hello! He’s hot in there! and she’ll say “OH! Pikachu wants to dance?” She’ll put music on and he’ll have to dance with baby Jasmine.
We wanted to know about his time management tips and he gave us way more than we bargained for. I know in my very average family, there is a lot of give and take and balancing things and checking egos at the door, and what Dwayne said about his own family made it even more evident that he’s really less a Demigod and more an actual down to earth human with a very fortunate look (ahem) and position in Hollywood.
I think it’s just, for us, it’s just been a consistent management of time check-in, and are we doing the right things at the right time, are we checking our ego at the door and asking for help where we need it, ‘cause we find that there’s a lot of people around in our families and friends, our circle, who are willing to say, “I got you! You know, what do you need? What can I help you with?“ and then so often, especially with Lauren, especially with you moms, it’s, “I can do it. I got it. No no no, I’ll get it. I’ll get it.” So it’s just, for us, it’s been just a consistent check-in.”
Did you hear what he said? Us moms try to act like WE are the demigods, when really we need help too, even when we deny we need it, and he’s not wrong.
Then this happened. Leanette from Funtastic Life wanted to know about the whole “Maui moves just like Dwayne Johnson and how does that happen” thing, so she specifically mentioned Maui’s pec movements, but couldn’t quite spit it out, so she was moving her cupped hands up and down in front of her chest while trying to ask about that whole thing. Dwayne laughed and said, “Yes, please continue” and we all diiied. There may have even been some LBL in the room, because – moms – but laughter filled the room.
Dwayne Johnson talked a bit about how the animation process happens:
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 your facial expressions will then inform the animators on the facial expressions of Maui. So, if I say, ‘You can’t do that!’ and my eyebrows go up, then that will inform the animators, compared to you can’t do that [and his eyebrows went down]. So there’s all these really amazing, unique little things that take place that they capture that informs the animators.
While he was answering the question, I noticed his head began to glisten and beads of sweat started rolling down the back and sides of his head. It wasn’t overly warm in this room, so I had a feeling Leanette had just seriously made him sweat – like that HAPPENED. I wanted to get up and get him a napkin, but he was talking and I’m still relatively new to this so I let him sweat. When the next question was asked, he tried to answer but couldn’t make it happen and he halted the interview to get himself AND Leanette a napkin to dry off with.
And we all died of laughter again.
He and Leanette bonded. Those were his words. They’re now bonded. Over pecs and demigods.
We closed the interview with more chatter about his role as a father and how that has played into roles he now takes.
I think with every role, right, there’s that added responsibility, not necessarily is it appropriate for her or for them to watch, but more so, are there qualities there that we look for that are important, and is the takeaway there. That’s important, the messaging is important, even within the context of something more on the comedic side, those questions always still come up, and I always make sure that those boxes are checked.
It was a fantastic interview with a hulking yet gracious man who is literally not much different than you and me.
To sum it all up:
Dwayne believes his culture will be very happy with the movie, he did it for the exposure for his culture, he wants to be remembered for being a father, and a room full of moms talking about his pecs makes him sweat.
Go see the movie on November 23rd, just try not to think about Maui sweating profusely when he does “that pec thing”.
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.
All photos © Louise Bishop/MomStart unless otherwise noted