Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is a jack of all trades … and a master of most of them if we’re being honest. In both 2019 and 2020, the “Rampage” star was the highest-paid actor in the industry, per Forbes. That’s no small feat for someone who just a little over a decade earlier was best known as a WWE fighter.
In the intervening years, Johnson underwent a massive transformation from a wrestler with a failed NFL dream to a beloved film star. His success seems inevitable. After all, he’s funny, handsome, and mostly unproblematic … well mostly. Johnson definitely isn’t the messiest star out there — he’s so likable people even want him to run for president — but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had his fair share of scandals along the way.
If you aren’t convinced that Johnson doesn’t have any skeletons in his closet, just ask his “Fast and Furious” co-stars. His alleged feuds with Tyrese Gibson and Vin Diesel, are as convoluted and entertaining as the series from which they sprung. From his arrest-riddled adolescence to his seemingly never-ending beef with the man behind Dominic Toretto, throw on your finest muscle shirt and flex some serious brawn as we dig into the shady side of Johnson
Dwayne Johnson showed some controversial support
For the most part, Dwayne Johnson doesn’t tap into anything too controversial, but when it comes to Joe Rogan, apparently, he can’t help himself. Per New York Times, back in 2020 Spotify signed an exclusivity deal with Rogan for around $200 million. By the time 2022 rolled around, artists such as Neil Young protested what they believed to be Spotify’s support of misinformation on Rogan’s show regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, and pulled their catalogs from the platform.
Initially, when Rogan posted a video to Instagram addressing the controversy, Johnson appeared to support him. “Great stuff here brother,” he reportedly commented on the post, per CNN. “Perfectly articulated. Look forward to coming on [the show] one day and breaking out the tequila with you.” Johnson’s comment appears to have since been deleted. Despite the video, the controversy was far from over. People began digging into Rogan’s past and unearthed some less than savory stuff, including his allegedly flippant use of racial slurs (Rogan later issued a public apology for his past behavior).
When Johnson was confronted by his fans about the controversy, he publicly distanced himself from Rogan and his previous comments. “I hear you as well as everyone here 100%,” he tweeted in response to crime writer Don Winslow, who criticized his support of the podcast host. “I was not aware of his N-word use prior to my comments, but now I’ve become educated to his complete narrative. Learning moment for me.”
He wasn’t a great husband
Right off the bat it seemed like Dwayne Johnson and his ex-wife Dany Garcia were a match made in heaven. They were both into fitness, both ambitious, business savvy, and both so dedicated to Johnson’s career that to this day, Garcia is still his manager, per CNBC. So it came as something of a shock when the couple, who share one daughter, filed for divorce in 2007. Incredibly, the couple is still extremely close. In the years since their divorce, their professional relationship has blossomed. On top of managing Johnson’s career, Garcia also co-owns their production company and in 2020 the pair purchased the XFL for approximately $15 million, per Newsweek.
Though they eventually landed on their feet and have remained friends, Johnson still has a lot of regret about the ways in which he failed to keep the marriage afloat. “I made a lot of mistakes. I didn’t have the ability … or the capacity to stop for a moment and say, ‘God, I’m really screwing up. Can we just stop for a moment and let’s talk about this,'” he said during a 2011 CNN interview. Johnson added that he was proud of their current relationship and the example they’d set for their daughter. “I was very fortunate that I had her, who had the wherewithal to say, ‘Ok we’re going to go through this. It’s terrible but there’s somewhere on the other side of this where we’re going to become better.'”
He didn’t get along with John Cena
It may be a dream of many professional WWE stars to make it out of the arena and onto the big screen but it’s often easier said than done — unless you’re Dwayne Johnson, of course. Right on Johnson’s heels is John Cena, who was also able to navigate the tricky career jump. Maybe the two are able to bond over their mutual success today, but back when they were both professional wrestlers they could barely be in the same room.
Sometimes the feuds that play out in WWE are completely outlandish and totally fictitious, but the tension between Cena and Johnson was reportedly very much not the work of an over-dramatic writers room. “For two years, The Rock and I kind of made fun of each other a lot,” Cena told fans at Salt Lake Comic Con in 2016 (via Wrestling-Edge). “It got pretty heated and it got pretty personal. I said some things that were less than nice. He said some things that were less than nice.” Cena explained that eventually, after a lot of back and forth for the camera, the feud became serious.
On “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in 2018, Johnson also confirmed that the on-camera rivalry became real. Thankfully, though, that’s all firmly in the past. “Now what’s great about our relationship is he’s one of my best friends,” Johnson explained to the talk show host. “We talk all the time and I’m rooting for him to win.”
Dwayne Johnson can’t let it go with Vin Diesel
Even if you’ve never seen a single “Fast and Furious” film, you’ve likely heard something about Dwayne Johnson’s infamous and longstanding feud with Vin Diesel. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Johnson confirmed rumors that the co-stars opted not to film any scenes together for “The Fate of the Furious.” Scenes within which their characters interacted were apparently crafted via clever editing. Johnson left the series shortly thereafter.
His departure was followed by cryptic Instagram posts and a lot of speculation as to what went wrong. In a 2021 Men’s Health interview Diesel implied that Johnson needed a lot of coaching to get his acting up to par. For his part, when speaking to Rolling Stone, Johnson claimed he and Diesel had completely different approaches to on-set professionalism.
Though the “Jungle Cruise” star hasn’t been a direct part of the “Fast and Furious” franchise in years, the feud is far from over. In November 2021, Diesel posted a long plea on Instagram asking him to rejoin the series for the final film. The post had the opposite effect as Johnson told CNN later that month. “Vin’s recent public post was an example of his manipulation,” he said. “… 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.”
He offended Tyrese Gibson
There’s no shortage of drama when it comes to Dwayne Johnson and the cast of the “Fast and Furious” franchise. Back in 2017, the star lashed out at Johnson for accepting the spinoff film “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” which subsequently involved delaying production on “F9.” A few days later he told TMZ, “He’s the reason we’re pushing the release date back now. I just got a problem with Dwayne, it appears that he’s being selfish.” Things escalated to the point that Gibson threatened to quit the franchise altogether if Johnson agreed to return for the ninth installment. Ultimately Johnson didn’t star in the film, but Gibson did.
In 2018, the “Moana” star addressed the feud on “Watch What Happens Live,” describing it as one-sided and a disappointment to him. Ultimately, he shared that he never really felt the need to engage with it. Apparently, time heals all wounds, and by 2021 the actors were reportedly back on good terms. During an appearance on “The Ellen Show,” Gibson claimed that after a long-overdue phone call, they were busy making up for lost time. “I think we’re both better men on the other side of all that stuff that went down,” he said, adorably adding that they’ve been in competition over who can leave the longest voice notes for one another.
His TV show landed in serious legal trouble
There are few who can claim to have transitioned careers and reached A-list status quite as quickly as Dwayne Johnson. After making the jump from WWE star to movie star, Johnson made yet another jump to executive producer with the release of his show “Ballers,” in 2015. The hit HBO series about the cutthroat world of professional football saw Johnson working alongside fellow executive producer Mark Wahlberg as part of a larger creative team. However, it wasn’t long before the series landed in hot water.
Upon the release of the first season of “Ballers,” Johnson, Wahlberg, and several others were slapped with a lawsuit by Everette Silas and Sherri Littleton who claimed that the HBO project directly pulled from their unproduced script, “Off Season,” per The Wrap. As compensation, the writers demanded $200 million for copyright infringement. Silas and Littleton claimed that HBO executives were given their script in 2007 and thus had access to its contents long before “Ballers” aired.
Luckily for the team, a California judge ruled in HBO’s favor and dismissed the lawsuit as meritless, less than a year later, per Deadline. “Ballers” aired for a full five seasons and became a defining moment in Johnson’s career. “My heart is full of gratitude to all of you for rockin’ with us every season,” he wrote on Instagram upon the show’s end in 2019. “To me, the opportunity Ballers created for so many others is the real gold of our show.”
He once used steroids
Long before Dwayne Johnson was a WWE star, he was a star football player at the University of Miami. Like so many other athletes playing at a certain level, Johnson felt the pressure to be bigger, better, faster, and stronger than his competitors. Shortly after Johnson got serious about a future in athletics (his dream was to play in the NFL) he began experimenting with steroids. “Me and my buddies tried it back in the day when I was 18 or 19,” Johnson said in a 2009 MTV interview. “[We] didn’t know what we were doing.”
These days Johnson’s time as a pro athlete is very much in the past. Though he’s moved on to the world of film, he’s never fully been able to shake the rumors that he’s relied a little more heavily on steroids than he’d like to admit. Despite the naysayers, Johnson is adamant that his rock-hard body (pun intended) comes from hard work and nothing else.
“Training is my anchor. Being on a regimented schedule, setting a goal, failing at a goal,” he said in a 2014 interview with Fortune. In that same interview, Johnson also addressed those pesky drug rumors. “Sure, you get a lot of people out there who will suspect, and say sh*t,” he said of those who were insistent that he still relied heavily on the drugs. “They want to negate the hard work you put in.”
Dwayne Johnson has a rap sheet
You may not have guessed that Dwayne Johnson would turn out to be the success he is if you’d known him in his younger years. His father, Wayde Douglas Bowles (also known as “Rocky”), was a professional wrestler and his career demanded that the family move frequently. That lack of stability took its toll on Johnson, and by the time he was 13, he was acting out. “I started getting arrested for fighting, theft, all kinds of stupid [stuff] that I shouldn’t have been doing,” Johnson told The Sun in 2021. The star was living in Hawaii at the time and would pickpocket tourists and then pawn the goods. The bad behavior eventually caught up with him and by the time he was 17, he’d been arrested more than a few times.
Years later Johnson channeled those memories into the sitcom “The Young Rock.” As an executive producer, Johnson drew inspiration from those tough times, particularly his complicated relationship with his late father. “You’ve got to understand this about my dad,” he told the outlet. “He had a lot of friends. He had a lot of enemies.”
Johnson is grateful for both the good and the bad in his past which helped him create the show — a process that he found deeply rewarding. “I get shook. I get teary-eyed as I’m watching these experiences that I have lived,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “Now I get a chance to share them with the world.”