In the 2000s, Dwayne Johnson was working on making the shift from wrestler to actor. While his film debut was in 2001’s The Mummy Returns, Johnson quickly found success in various action films like The Scorpion King, The Rundown, and Doom. In 2006, Johnson took a big swing, appearing in Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly’s second film, Southland Tales. The film was an eccentric, twisty and insane satire about celebrity and surveillance that bombed after a small theatrical run. Now, Kelly wants to make a sequel, and would like Johnson to come back to the role.
Coming off of Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly was a promising young writer and director, and Southland Tales allowed the filmmaker to run free with grandiose ideas and wild premises. Kelly intentionally sought out actors who he felt were typecast, which meant that in addition to Dwayne Johnson, the cast starred Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, and Justin Timberlake. The film was rushed so that it could appear at the Cannes film festival, where it was booed, and the film only made $374,000, after opening in a very few theaters.
Yet Richard Kelly stands by Southland Tales, and has tried to flesh out this world in various ways. In 2007, Kelly wrote three graphic novels, which are considered the first part of the Southland Tales story. But with a new Blu-ray of Southland Tales coming out, Kelly is talking once more about continuing the story of Southland Tales. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kelly said of Southland Tales, “I’m not going to ever give up on it.” Kelly also mentions that he would love to have Dwayne Johnson return for future installments.
Richard Kelly has a few ways he would like to expand the story of Southland Tales. Kelly mentions that he would like to turn the graphic novels into an animated film. Southland Tales also centers largely around a screenplay written by Boxer (Dwayne Johnson) and Christa (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and since that screenplay takes place in 2024, Kelly says there is an opportunity to explore what was going on in that screenplay.
Back in 2019, Dwayne Johnson openly talked about the failure of Southland Tales, saying that “Southland Tales hurt.” He mentions that the script was “complex and interesting,” but also that it was confusing. Johnson also says that Richard Kelly was his good friend, so if there is a future to Southland Tales, maybe Johnson would be willing to take the time out of his busy schedule to return to the role of Boxer.
Since Southland Tales, Richard Kelly has only made one other film: 2009’s The Box, starring Cameron Diaz. Beyond that, Kelly has worked on several projects that never took off, but this newfound interest in returning to his past film – which like Donnie Darko, has become a cult classic of sorts – could mark his return. Kevin Smith once said “Richard can be one of our greatest filmmakers. He is right now, but just a lot of people don’t realize it.” Smith points out that there are a lot of similarities between someone like Kelly and Christopher Nolan, but Nolan simply had the backing to make his visions come true to his liking. But getting Dwayne Johnson signed on to another project would certainly bring Kelly back as a filmmaker to watch.