By Jack Wellington

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has an indomitable spirit. He’s the epitome of the “larger-than-life” personality and a man who tries to lift everyone around him with his energy and optimism. When he greets you before being interviewed, Johnson flashes his neon smile and immediately gives you his full attention, albeit laced with the occasional off-color remark.

This year marks a blockbuster trifecta for Johnson, currently ranked by Forbes as the world's highest-paid actor with earnings of $64.5 million last year. Having helped drive Fast & Furious 8 to over a billion dollars at the box office this spring, The Rock may have stumbled somewhat when Baywatch failed to live up to expectations.

But not to be outdone, Johnson has yet another blockbuster film on the way - Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle - the big-budget Sony Pictures' remake of the 1995 Robin Williams film.

"I once met Robin Williams on stage, and I remember completely fanboying it with him," Johnson said. "I just said, 'I'm such your biggest fan.' I was so thrilled to meet him...We wanted to make a movie that was not only phenomenal and paid homage, but something that had evolved."

Jumanji stars Johnson alongside his Central Intelligence co-star Kevin Hart, comic mastermind Jack Black, and Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy 2) in what promises to be the biggest film of the holiday season when it opens in December.

Billed as an adventure fantasy film, the story centers on the extraordinary world that four school kids discover using an old video game console that transports them into the game's jungle setting. Not only do they find themselves transformed into the adult aviators they have chosen, they quickly learn that to play Jumanji means to survive all the perils of the "game."

The 45-year-old Johnson lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend of 12 years, Lauren Hashian, together with their two-year-old baby girl, Jasmine. Johnson also has a 15-year-old daughter Simone from his marriage to his ex-wife and childhood sweetheart Dany Garcia who continues to manage his career.

The former pro football player, bodybuilder, and wrestling star currently has seven new film projects in the pipeline including a second San Andreas earthquake movie and planned superhero franchises, Doc Savage and Shazam!.

STRIPLV: Dwayne, you seem to love working in Hawaii as much as you can. You shot Central Intelligence there, and then you did Jumanji?

JOHNSON: I love Hawaii. It’s the place where I grew up, and I have a very strong connection to the culture and the people. Hawaii is so beautiful and one of my favorite places on earth. And I love reconnecting to the spirit I feel when I’m there. Any chance I get to go back to Hawaii I’ll grab it.

STRIPLV: You love making these big adventure and action films. How do you feel about Jumanji?

JOHNSON: We’ve made a good film, and I think people are going to like it. I was glad to be able to come on board and work with Sony to get this picture made. I loved working with Kevin Hart and Jack Black who are so great in the movie although Kevin wasn’t that crazy about dealing with all the massive spiders and other insects you find there. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: Very few actors in the history of Hollywood have ever had the kind of year you’re having with three big films in release. How does it feel?

JOHNSON: I want to bring a lot of joy and entertainment to people who are paying their money and expect their money’s worth. I work very hard on my movies, and as a producer, I also try to involve myself in the entire process and make sure that people who see my movies are going to leave the theatre feeling happy and entertained. That’s what it’s all about for me.

STRIPLV: You’re known for having a very exuberant and positive personality. Do you also like to be able to use your energy to inspire others and is it hard sometimes to maintain that attitude?

JOHNSON: We all have bad days. When I get around people, and when I come to work, I try to put my best foot forward. There are a lot of people who depend on me. If we are producing the film, it starts with the company, but then it starts with me. Inevitably, I am galvanizing a lot of people and bringing them together. That in itself will give enough motivation to put your best foot forward. Try to work with a smile. And also I think it’s in my personality.

STRIPLV: What do you do on the days where you don’t feel good or happy and find it hard to be as optimistic as you would like to be?

JOHNSON: If I’m having a bad day, I need to go off to a quiet space and shut out the noise. Because in life, what we do, there’s always a lot of noise, in Hollywood and entertainment there’s a lot of chatter, and there is always a lot of noise, and a lot of news that’s cycling, and it’s just nonstop. So sometimes I need to get away from that and find a quiet space, whether it’s my bedroom or it’s my truck or my trailer, and I will just reset myself and be calm, and I will do a little meditating, or I will try to figure out exactly what the problem is and what is bugging me.

STRIPLV: And what do you do to fix a problem or correct a situation that’s annoying you or affecting how you work on a film?

JOHNSON: l do my best to try and take care of it. Usually, those kind of things are triggered by something that might have happened or something that someone might have said. I deal with that by finding out what’s behind that and then try to get things back where they should be and get rid of all the bullshit. I don’t like there to be any conflict or negativity around me and especially not on a set. A lot of times I’ll drive people crazy by telling them we’re about to get evicted and we need to get to work. (Johnson’s family was once evicted from their home in Hawaii.) You’ve got to motivate people and get everyone working together and share the same sense of purpose.

STRIPLV: You’ve faced many challenges and obstacles in your life. How have you been able to overcome those times?

JOHNSON: You've got to find a purpose in life. Whatever it is, go out and work your butt off and don't ever stop. In my case, sports and later on bodybuilding were the things that helped me set goals for myself and build my self-esteem. Sports made me feel that I had something to point towards in life. I was a pretty good football player, and I was good enough to earn a scholarship to go to the University of Miami where we won the national collegiate football championship in 1991.

STRIPLV: People still like to call you The Rock, which was your pro wrestling nickname. Was wrestling one of the most important steps in your life?

JOHNSON: I wouldn’t have had a career in Hollywood if it hadn’t been for wrestling. I made a name for myself and built up an identity with the public that followed me when I started working on movies. Wrestling was also a huge boost to my self-confidence, and when you’re standing in the ring in front of thousands and thousands of screaming fans, and you’re performing in front of them it’s an incredible feeling. You never forget that feeling.

STRIPLV: What made you choose wrestling after football?

JOHNSON: Wrestling is a family tradition. My grandfather Peter Maivia (a legendary Samoan wrestler) and my father Rocky were professional wrestlers. Grandpa was also an actor. He played a James Bond villain in You Only Live Twice.

STRIPLV: You’re one of the biggest box-office stars of all time. Do you still feel as driven as ever?

JOHNSON: No question, man. You need to stay hungry and ambitious. I’m as hungry today for success and accomplishing great things as I’ve ever been. Maybe more so because I’ve already had a lot of success and you want to keep that momentum and go beyond what you’ve already accomplished. You keep raising the bar. It’s just like exercising. There will be a lot of days where you don’t feel like going to the gym, lifting weights, or doing cardio or go jogging, but that’s exactly what you need to do. You need to have that discipline. The more effort you put into that, the more energy you’re going to have the rest of the day.

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