VAN NUYS, California — On the SoCal set of his in-the-works inspirational drama "Gridiron Gang," the Rock mock interviews his teenage co-stars, asking them the title of their favorite film starring the muscular ex-wrestler. "The Pacifier," one of them joked, as the cast and crew got a good-natured chuckle at the expense of fans that confuse the star with fellow coiffure-challenged action hero Vin Diesel.
As the Rock would later reveal, however, his young friend was closer to the mark than he realized. "There's a movie I'm really, really excited about right now, we've got the script in," the man sometimes known as Dwayne Johnson said about his next project. "It's a movie called 'Daddy's Girl.' It's going to be a movie with Disney; it's got a lot of heart, a lot of everything in it which I'm really excited about. It's moving, it's inspirational ... and it's with the producers [Mark] Ciardi and [Gordon] Gray, who produced 'Miracle" and 'The Rookie.' "
The "Scorpion King" star hopes "Daddy's Girl" will combine the audience that has poured out for those two recent tear-jerking blockbusters with the record number of families that recently lined up to see a buff, surly Diesel deal with the stresses of parenting.
"It's an inspirational sports-type of movie," the Rock said of the script. "I play basically Terrell Owens of the NFL, only more obnoxious, if you can imagine. I talk more trash, and I'm better, and I'm everything that I am."
"All of a sudden," he continued, "there's a knock on my door, and there's somebody at my door whom I have to take care of for the rest of my life. And that somebody happens to be a little 5-year-old girl. It's all about how I deal with that. The script came in, they did a great job of writing it, and I couldn't ask for better producers ... they know how to inspire people and move people."
It's a career move that makes sense for Johnson, as he continues to push the boundaries of what roles Hollywood will assign to a burly former athlete. After a half-dozen action films, a handful of dramas ("Gridiron" and the upcoming "Southland Tales"), and even a recent turn as a proudly gay character ("Be Cool"), he believes that the time has now come to embrace his inner child.
"If all goes well, we'll start that in the first quarter of next year, possibly the second," he smiled. "It all depends on my shooting schedule."
The film is currently without a director or any co-stars to surround the self-proclaimed "People's Champion." His longtime fans will no doubt follow the project closely in the upcoming months, however, as they can now smell precisely what the Rock is cooking.
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