He produced and starred in two hit films, “Jungle Cruise” and “Red Notice,” debuted his biographical sitcom “Young Rock,” saw unprecedented sales growth with his Teremana tequila, and became the most followed American man on Instagram with 285 million followers.
At 49, with grit, charisma and determination to “deliver the goods,” Johnson has segued from professional wrestler to movie star, major entrepreneur and someone nearly half of America would like to see as the next president of the United States, according to one poll.
CNN spoke with Johnson this week about his monumental year. He addressed hype around his possible return to the “Fast and Furious” franchise and his potential political ambitions. He also offered a glimpse at how he plans to top his blockbuster 2021.
Our conversation, which has been lightly edited for flow and clarity, follows below.
You’ve seen some great successes, any highlights? Reflecting back, anything you wish you would have done differently?
“I worked hard, had some luck on my side and was able to accomplish a few things in 2021. A few highlights that come to mind, one would be completing two massive Seven Bucks Productions films, ‘Red Notice’ and ‘Black Adam.’ (Set for release in 2022.) Both presented a lot of challenges during Covid, but like so many businesses out there, we adjust, get clarity, create our new Covid strategy and get to work. Seven Bucks also just completed — two weeks ago — our second season of NBC’s ‘Young Rock.’ I’m quite proud of everyone’s efforts and talents to get the job done and deliver quality. And the other businesses in my portfolio have shown tremendous growth and moved along nicely in 2021 — Teremana Tequila, ZOA Energy, Project Rock and XFL. As for anything I would’ve done differently in 2021, sure, I would’ve listened to my gut when it was telling me to slow down a bit. Enjoy these moments even more with your family and friends, because at the end of the day these joyful moments are the s*** that really matters in life. Sorry to cuss but that’s the truth. Good lesson to always listen to that voice in your gut.”
“Red Notice” received an enormous amount of praise, from both those in the industry and with audiences worldwide by becoming Netflix’s most watched movie in the world for 2021, and most watched of all time. What do you think made “Red Notice” so successful?
“First thing, we made a great movie for families around the world to enjoy. That’s the bottom line. Deliver the goods. I always say I can bring people to the dance and with the trust they have in me, they’ll dance one song. But then it’s up to the quality I’m offering that will make them dance all night. We made a great movie and people are dancing to it. Rawson Thurber did a tremendous job of writing and directing ‘Red Notice’ that attracted two of the biggest stars in the world, in Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, and a dude who’s only famous for his tattoos, raised eyebrow and a fanny pack. But dumb jokes aside, it’s a monumental achievement for our Seven Bucks Productions to produce the most watched Netflix film of all time. ‘Red Notice’ was my first film on a streaming platform so it was critically important for myself and our Seven Bucks Company to deliver and move the streaming needle. What a holy s*** achievement and congrats to everyone involved.”
What are your thoughts on the streaming wars among platforms and its impact on theatrical releases, does this play a part when discussing releases for your projects as a producer?
“I say this with great clarity, we are in a tremendous time in our Hollywood industry as we are in the eye of a massive opportunity to listen and learn what our audience and our consumers want and just as important, how they want it. I believe strongly in our theatrical business and want us to continue to work hard to maintain that theatrical experience for our consumers. When a movie is done right, man it’s pure magic in the theaters. And I also feel strongly that it’s our job as creators, producers and deliverers of entertainment to always take care of and go to the people. I try and approach streaming platforms versus theatrical with an entrepreneurial spirit and vision. The power of possibilities and the needs of the audience, consumers first, best practice will emerge. We just have to be smart, open and flexible to change and listen to what the people say they want.”
There was a lot of buzz that you may rejoin the “Fast and the Furious” franchise. We saw that Vin Diesel recently posted he wants you back. We know you addressed potentially returning months ago, but were you surprised by Vin’s post?
“I was very surprised by Vin’s recent post. This past June, when Vin and I actually connected not over social media, I told him directly – and privately – that I would not be returning to the franchise. I was firm yet cordial with my words and said that I would always be supportive of the cast and always root for the franchise to be successful, but that there was no chance I would return. I privately spoke with my partners at Universal as well, all of whom were very supportive as they understand the problem.
Vin’s recent public post was an example of his manipulation. I didn’t like that he brought up his children in the post, as well as Paul Walker’s death. Leave them out of it. We had spoken months ago about this and came to a clear understanding. My goal all along was to end my amazing journey with this incredible ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise with gratitude and grace. It’s unfortunate that this public dialogue has muddied the waters. Regardless, I’m confident in the ‘Fast’ universe and its ability to consistently deliver for the audience, and I truly wish my former co-stars and crew members the best of luck and success in the next chapter.”
As the most followed American man on Instagram, do you think anything has changed with how you have approached your own social media this past year?
“That answer is yes. I still have my anchoring guidelines I follow: Be authentic, be real and try to make sure every social post has a quality and meaning behind it, offering some takeaway for people and being aware about never wasting anyone’s time with a bulls***post about nothing. But I’ll tell you, as we navigate our way through Covid’s harsh ebbs and flows, I’ve found myself trying to use a much lighter touch with my words since things on social media are so easily triggering these days, clickbait stuff. Lighter touch and quality I try to use daily when connecting with people through social media. And if I can make you laugh and smile, I’ll try and do that too.”
Was becoming a tequila mogul always part of the plan? What’s next for Teremana in 2022 and beyond?
“Tequila mogul was not part of the initial strategy, but I’ll sure take it. Our numbers were disclosed earlier this week and our Teremana growth is truly unprecedented. Our sales have exceeded over 600,000 nine-liter cases and in our spirits industry, that’s an all-time record for first year sales. For context, George Clooney sold his Casamigos tequila brand to Diageo for $1 billion dollars and they were selling approximately 170,000 cases. Teremana is currently selling over 600,000 cases. So you can extrapolate the math and valuation, astounding growth and I think it reflects our ‘highest in quality and best in taste’ mantra. I’m happy but not satisfied with what we’ve been able to accomplish with Teremana tequila thus far. The work is just beginning. My goal for 2022 and beyond is to make Teremana a true international tequila brand. We have the organization and international distribution expertise with our Mast-Jäegermeister partners, our Teremana team and just as important, we have the ambition and work ethic. “
You’ve said in the past, I believe specifically in your interview for your recent Vanity Fair cover, that you would not run for President in 2024 because you “don’t know a thing about politics.” Yet, according to a poll this spring, almost half of Americans would vote in your favor. Could “The Rock” still be a potential presidential candidate in the future?
“Well, I think that poll of almost half of Americans being in favor of me running for president is so humbling. It sits me down and I don’t know any other way to describe it. To have a little ability to potentially galvanize our country is humbling, very humbling. Might be the Teremana talking here but I still don’t know a damn thing about being a politician. I don’t know if I have that politician gene in my DNA. Leader? Yes. Patriot? All day long. Politician? No.
I feel the best position I can be in right now is to be a trusted, nonjudgmental place for people; regardless of what side of the street you live on, what color you are, what you do for a living, how you choose to live your life, what your bank account says, whether you drive a car or take the bus. I don’t care. None of that matters to me. Just work hard, take care of your family, be good to people, be kind to people, be straight up, honor your word and always [have] some fun along the way. And don’t be an a**hole. Like I said, I don’t think I’d make a good politician.”
Do you have a New Year’s goal or resolution?
“To be honest, I usually don’t have New Year’s resolutions. I know I sound like an a**hole here but I’m the guy who usually just does it throughout the year. Whatever change needs to happen, I’ll get it done and move on. But this past year has been different. It’s opened my eyes a bit more to real change that needs to my attention. Work flow, work stream, what and who in my life really need my attention, what truly should be getting me out of bed. I’ve reached a point in my life this past year where I realized just how vital the idea and essence of time is; who and what gets my time these days. We don’t get time back, so in 2022 and beyond, the people, the projects, the energy, the everything. Life. If it gets my time and gets me out of bed, then I’ll go to sleep knowing it was worth it and it was all time wisely spent. Time is our greatest and most valuable currency.”