Dwayne Johnson on Getting Pumped Up for ‘Pain & Gain’

Pain and Gain Dwayne Johnson

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was written in 2013.

Many like to laugh at athletes who decide to try acting because while they may excel in their chosen sport, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be equally successful on stage and screen. Dwayne Johnson, however, has proven to be an exception as he keeps getting better and better with each movie he appears in. In “The Scorpion King,” he proved to have a strong screen presence which would serve him well in future movies like “The Rundown” and “Fast Five,” and he gave one of his best performances to date in “Snitch” as John Matthews, a father who goes undercover for the DEA so he can get his son out of prison. Now he stars in “Pain & Gain,” Michael Bay’s action comedy based on the Miami New Times articles about the Sun Gym Gang who kidnapped a rich businessman in the hopes of extorting him for money so they could live the American dream.

Johnson plays Paul Doyle, an ex-con who has clearly spent hours upon hours in the prison gym. A former drug addict, Doyle has since become a born-again Christian who yearns to do good in life. Still, when his friend Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) comes to him with a plan to kidnap spoiled rotten businessman Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), Doyle cannot resist the pull towards a life of crime.

“Pain & Gain” plays around with Johnson’s image as a bodybuilder, but in an interview with Erin O’Sullivan of Yahoo Movies, he explained there was something more than the physical training which made him want to play this character.

“I was really fortunate because I was coming off of ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation,’ and I was coming off of ‘Fast & Furious’ at that time too. So, a lot of those projects supported and fostered the type of training I was doing,” Johnson told O’Sullivan. “The biggest thing with a movie like this — the biggest departure (for me) was the vulnerability and showing this type of vulnerability, and playing a character who is easily influenced and who’s just out of prison and looking for salvation.”

The movie has garnered quite a bit of controversy as it is said to be based on a true story which involved a brutal kidnapping, torture and murder. The survivors of the Sun Gym Gang’s crimes have been very open about their opposition to “Pain & Gain” as they don’t want the audience to sympathize with the characters played by Johnson, Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie as they are all based on real life killers. None of this was lost on Johnson who told Colin Covert of the Star Tribune he said a prayer every day for the victims of the gang’s crimes and explained how the story hit close to home for him as he lives in Miami where the crimes took place.

“The story rocked our city. It was a crazy time for us down there then. It’s painful for many people to remember it even to this day,” Johnson told Covert. “It’s been a passion project of Michael Bay’s for years, and he had a very clear idea of how to present it; a kind of ‘Pulp Fiction-y,’ fast-moving version that shows what boneheads these criminals actually were. Of course, whenever there is a story based on actual crimes, you have a responsibility to tell it in a way that’s respectful, we were fully aware of that.”

Now you’d think after doing several action movies in a row that Johnson would have all of the muscle and physical training he’d ever need, but even on a movie like “Pain & Gain” which cost only $25 million to make (way below the budgets of Bay’s “Transformers” movies), the actor and pro-wrestler still had a strict training regimen to follow. Johnson discussed his training schedule with the website Bodybuilding.com, and it makes you wonder how he found any free time to work out.

“My routine for this film was training six times per week with George Farah (an IFBB professional bodybuilder and trainer). Many people who go on Bodybuilding.com know who my strength and conditioning coach is. I also have a training coach in Dave Ramsey,” Johnson told the website. “This was a hell of a prep. For a movie like this, that revolves around the world of bodybuilding and the culture of bodybuilding-that we love, by the way, and that we grew up on-the prep was a good 8-10 weeks, six workouts per week, training twice per day. I did my cardio in the morning.”

According to USA Today, Johnson added 12 to 15 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot 4-inch body, and he maxed out at 250 pounds. As a result, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that he recently had emergency hernia surgery even though it was attributed to the WWE match he wrestled in last month. To all this, Johnson said the following:

“When you’re young, you think you’re invincible. When you’re older, you have to start listening to your body.”

Over the past few years, Dwayne Johnson has proved he can handle comedy, drama and action with equal success, and he’s become one of the true bona fide action stars in movies today. We look forward to seeing him again in “Fast & Furious 6” as Luke Hobbs, and he also has “Hercules: The Thracian Wars” to look forward to as well. At this point there should be no doubt, for an athlete turned actor, that Johnson is the real deal.

SOURCES:

Erin O’Sullivan, “‘Pain & Gain:’ Mark Wahlberg & Dwayne Johnson Talk Bulking Up for Action Movie,” Yahoo Movies, April 20, 2013.

Colin Covert, “Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson talk about new Michael Bay movie ‘Pain & Gain,'” Star Tribune, April 24, 2013.

‘Pain & Gain’ Exclusive with Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” Bodybuilding.com, April 22, 2013.

Bryan Alexander, “Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg pumped for ‘Pain & Gain,'” USA Today, April 25, 2013.

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Anthony Mackie on Playing a Criminal Bodybuilder in ‘Pain & Gain’

Pain and Gain Anthony Mackie

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was written in 2013.

While much of the attention on Michael Bay’s “Pain & Gain” has been focused on Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, there’s another actor in the cast audiences are taking notice of as well: Anthony Mackie. The Julliard School graduate made his movie debut opposite Eminem in “8 Mile,” and he has since gone on to give memorable performances in the Best Picture winners “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Hurt Locker.” “Pain & Gain” is one of several 2013 movies Mackie will be appearing in, and he does not appear to be suffering from a shortage of roles in the slightest.

In “Pain & Gain,” Mackie portrays Adrian “Noel” Doorbal, a bodybuilder and personal trainer who works with Daniel Lugo (played by Wahlberg) at the Sun Gym in Miami. Lugo ended up recruiting Doorbal to help him kidnap rich businessman Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) so they can steal his money and live out the American dream. In an interview with Billy Donnelly of the website Moviefone, Mackie recalled being blown away by the script when he first read it and couldn’t believe it was based on a true story. The actor also took the time to explain how his character differs from the ones played by Wahlberg and Johnson.

“What I love about Doorbal is that he’s the grounding force of this movie,” Mackie told Donnelly. “Everybody else does this crime so they can move into a nice neighborhood and sleep with strippers and buy sports cars. When everybody else got a sports car, he got a minivan. When everybody else blew their money on all kinds of random shit, he got married and bought a house. So, he is the true testament, the epitome of wanting to have the American dream. And I think that’s why the character works so well. Because he’s logical with every aspect of it. But in real life? He was the henchman. He was the dude who was cutting the body up and killing people and doing all the crazy stuff that Mark’s and Dwayne’s characters couldn’t do.”

For Doorbal, living the American dream means having a nice home, a loving wife, a dog and a white picket fence. Compared to Lugo and Paul Doyle (played by Johnson), he is not as greedy in his desires even though he’s every bit as guilty of the crimes they all committed. While talking with Brennan Williams of The Huffington Post, Mackie explained what playing this character had to offer him which others in the past had not.

“I have never portrayed a character in this vein before,” Mackie told Williams. “He was so dynamic and so convoluted. And I’m, for some reason, at this point in my life am really interested in people justifying their wrongs. I feel like there’s so many people that do awful things in their day-to-day life, but some kind of way in their minds, they can justify them. And that was something that I’ve become so interested in. So, I wanted to explore that in a movie. And this movie came at the right time for me to do that.”

Now a lot has been said about the weightlifting and intense workouts Wahlberg and Johnson had to endure for “Pain & Gain,” but Mackie was not an exception. Furthermore, Mackie said he and Wahlberg worked out together every morning and that they were very competitive with one another. They would constantly challenge each other to see who could bench press the most weight, and Wahlberg got to where he could lift almost 400 pounds. Mackie detailed both his workouts and the strict diet he stuck to while making this movie.

“Bodybuilding and weightlifting is more of a lifestyle than anything else, so the diet part was easy because it was just about staying focused and staying on your regimen,” Mackie said. “It wasn’t like I had to eat anything or I couldn’t eat anything. It was all about putting together what nutrients I needed day-to-day to get enough of one thing or another in my body. So, it was fairly easy for me. I ate a lot of lean protein like turkey and chicken. I got my carbs from sweet potatoes. So, it became easier as time went on. But I tell you what, after three months of doing that, I don’t want to see a piece of turkey or chicken for a long time.”

Actually, one big issue Doorbal quickly has to confront at the movie’s start is his use of steroids. He uses them to enhance his body structure, but they end up rendering him impotent and made a certain part of his body horrifically small. We all know by now how steroids are incredibly bad for your body when they are abused, but during a press conference for “Pain & Gain,” Mackie explained what his research into steroids taught him.

“From what I understand, it depends on what type you take,” Mackie said. “When doing research, they just talked about all kinds of stuff, and you cycle on this stuff and you would be very surprised at how very easy it is to get caught into it. But there ain’t no lovin’ when you’re juicin’ (laughs). That’s the message I get from the movie; if you want some lovin,’ put down the needle!”

From here, Anthony Mackie has a lot to look forward to as he has “Runner, Runner” coming up in which he co-stars with Justin Timberlake, and he is set to play Falcon in the superhero sequel “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” While Doorbal took the wrong path in life in pursuing his dreams, Mackie did not make that same mistake and he is now one of the busiest actors in Hollywood today. In fact, Mackie made it very clear what his version of the American dream is.

“To not go to jail,” Mackie said. “I grew up in New Orleans at a time where everybody was getting killed or going to jail, so my goal in life was to go to college and not spend one night in a jail cell.”

He has succeeded in doing just that.

 

SOURCES:

Billy Donnelly, “Anthony Mackie, ‘Pain & Gain’ Star, on Excess, the American Dream, and ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier,'” Moviefone, April 26, 2013.

Brennan Williams, “Anthony Mackie Talks ‘Pain & Gain,’ And Filming ‘Runner, Runner’ With Justin Timberlake,” The Huffington Post, April 26, 2013.

“Anthony Mackie on his Lil’ ‘Pain & Gain’ Pickle,” eurweb.com, April 12, 2013.

“Anthony Mackie, Vivica Fox & More Talk ‘Pain & Gain’s’ American Dream,” Eurweb.com, April 30, 2013.

Movies Mark Wahlberg Really Should Beg God’s Forgiveness for

Mark Wahlberg photo

While in Chicago where he shared the stage at the UIC Pavillion with Cardinal Blase Cupich, actor Mark Wahlberg said he prayed to God for forgiveness over starring in “Boogie Nights.” The 1997 film, which marked writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s cinematic breakthrough, starred Wahlberg as Eddie Adams, a high school dropout who later gained fame as porn star Dirk Diggler. Furthermore, he even apologized to the Pope for the crude humor in “Ted.” Wahlberg was quoted as saying, “I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving, because I’ve made some poor choices in my past.”

Sure Mark, you have made some poor choices, but most of them are relegated to your criminal youth. Your are a devout Roman Catholic and attend Mass on a regular basis, but I refuse to believe God would punish you for your work in a movie as brilliant as “Boogie Nights.” Besides, you succeeded in pulling off the ever so difficult transition from being a rap star (Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch) to becoming a legitimate actor thanks to your astonishing performance opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Basketball Diaries.” Since then, you have brought those “good vibrations” to a variety of roles in “The Departed,” “Three Kings,” “We Own the Night,” “The Yards,” and “Lone Survivor.”

Still, while your resume is filled with great movies, it is also littered with bad ones, and I’m stunned you haven’t asked God to forgive you for the following stinkers.

Planet of the Apes Mark Wahlberg poster

Planet of the Apes

Okay, Tim Burton really should be apologizing for this one more than you. The “Beetlejuice” director is a wonderfully unique filmmaker, but I kept having to remind myself he directed this surprisingly bland and forgettable remake of the 1968 classic starring Charlton Heston. Mark, you played astronaut Leo Davidson, and even your boundless energy couldn’t save this one as very little of what I saw remains in my consciousness. It is the equivalent of a McDonald’s Happy Meal in that, whether you enjoyed it or not, it leaves no lingering aftertaste. Even the movie’s twist ending is unremarkable, and I walked out of it wondering why Burton made something so average instead of wonderfully weird.

The Truth about Charlie poster

The Truth about Charlie

Hollywood may still be a remake-happy place with many classics being plundered for a new generation of filmgoers, but there are some this town needs to leave well enough alone. Among them is “Charade,” Stanley Donen’s classic 1963 film starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, but this didn’t stop the late Jonathan Demme from remaking it as “The Truth about Charlie.” Mark, you had as much luck playing the Cary Grant role here as Russell Crowe did in playing a romantic comedy lead in “A Good Year” which is to say, not at all. Please Mark, don’t try to be the next Cary Grant or even the next Robert De Niro. Just be yourself.

The Happening movie poster

The Happening

Oh lord, where do I start with this one? Following his box office flop “Lady in the Water,” M. Night Shyamalan continued his descent into cinematic oblivion with this thriller which failed in spectacular fashion. For you Mark, “The Happening” allowed you to play a schoolteacher, something different from what we usually see you as. Shyamalan, however, directs you to some of the worst acting of your career, and your performance became hilarious for all the wrong reasons. Heck, even you were quoted as saying, “It was a really bad movie…   Fuck it. It is what it is. Fucking trees, man. The plants. Fuck it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook.” God must have been scratching his head while and thinking there couldn’t be a more laughable environmental thriller than “The Day After Tomorrow” until this one came along.

Max Payne movie poster

Max Payne

Even by 2008, everyone had come to the conclusion adapting video games into movies was a bad idea and almost always doomed to failure. But this didn’t stop “A Good Day to Die Hard” director John Moore from turning one of Rockstar Games’ most popular titles into a neo-noir action thriller. Mark, you may have described the script for “Max Payne” as being awesome and the character as being one of the edgier roles you have ever played, but Jim Vejvoda was correct when he described your performance as “drab.” This came out the same year as “The Happening,” and you earned a Razzie nomination as Worst Actor for both. Couldn’t you see this adaptation would look like nothing more than a “Death Wish” knock-off?

Pain & Gain poster

Pain & Gain

You may still want to get God’s forgiveness for playing a porn star, but I’m surprised you won’t do the same for playing Daniel Lugo, a man convicted of extortion, kidnapping, torture, murder, and who is now serving a life sentence in prison. Just as with Dirk Diggler in “Boogie Nights,” you were just playing a character, but if you think God has a problem with porn actors, wouldn’t he have an even bigger problem with criminals like Lugo? Furthermore, this marked your first collaboration with the cinematic devil known as Michael Bay, someone who has laid waste to our innocent memories of Transformers toys. With “Pain & Gain,” Bay wanted to do something smaller, a character piece, but this director has never been good at doing things subtly. This black comedy was based on a true story, something Bay keeps reminding us of throughout, but things never gel here despite good performances from you, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie.

Transformers Mark Wahlberg Extinction poster

Transformers: Age of Extinction

After “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” we thought Michael Bay was forever done with this franchise to where we breathed an enormous sigh of relief. But noooooo! He just had to start a new “Transformers” trilogy and drag you along, kicking and screaming I hope. All of our hopes and prayers for a good Michael Bay “Transformers” movie were not answered as “Age of Extinction” proved to be almost as bad as “Revenge of the Fallen” to where it didn’t take long for audiences to get completely numbed to all the endless explosions Bay couldn’t stop setting off. Your line of “I think we just found a Transformer” is the only thing I can bother to remember from this misfire, and this isn’t saying much.

Ted 2 poster

Ted 2

I loved “Ted” as I always dreamed of having a living and breathing stuffed animal in my life. And Mark, seeing you and the teddy bear getting into a nasty fight remains one of the funniest scenes I have ever seen in a motion picture. But with “Ted 2,” it really seemed like you and Seth MacFarlane were just phoning it in. The “Flash Gordon” jokes fall flat here, and this sequel is desperately missing Mila Kunis. As for you getting covered in sperm samples at a lab, you are so much better than that.

Transformers The Last Knight movie poster

Transformers: The Last Knight

Mark, you said this “Transformers” sequel will mark your last appearance in the franchise, and I pray to the heavens above that you keep this promise. No amount of energy you brought to the role of Cade Yeager is enough to divert us from the fact “The Last Knight” is astonishingly incomprehensible. Did the studio executives even question Michael Bay about this film? Even now, I laugh hysterically over how incoherent the storyline is. Thanks to its disappointing box office, this may mark Bay’s end with the franchise, an end which should have come after the first film.

Mark, you probably are not reading this article, but I do admire your work as an actor, and you have given terrific performances recently in “Deepwater Horizon” and “Patriots Day.” You shouldn’t have to apologize for your work in a truly great film. Instead, you should beg God’s forgiveness for all the bad ones you got stuck in. Even the one you pray to cannot understand the plot of “Transformers: The Last Knight,” so seek your penance for that one and all the others on this list. Thanks, and God be with you.