Dwayne Johnson has appeared in several films that one might call “terrible.” This ranges from Skyscraper, Rampage, and San Andreas. However, he also appeared in several films that were fantastic in their delivery. Jumanji, Hobbs & Shaw, and Pain & Gain. While people often don’t go to see Johnson appear in intelligent pursuits, it was that of Pain & Gain that offered a much different muscle-bound hero than we are all used to. The funny thing is that the actor nearly quit the role a week before production began to roll, and Michael Bay stopped him before he could by writing a letter that compared Johnson’s feelings to other actors who wanted to quit and how it worked out for them. It was also one of Michael Bay’s best films as well, despite the reviews being poor for the film.
The letter in question was Michael Bay’s final plea to ensure that Dwayne Johnson wouldn’t walk away from arguably his best role, but it was also his “worst” role. Most films that he has come out in feature the man as the titular hero, but Pain & Gain saw the man break down to his worst version. The film follows the real-life story of the Sun Gym Gang who was convicted of extortion, kidnapping, torture, and murder. Johnson played the role of Paul Doyle, who was based on the real-life Carl Weekes, Stevenson Pierre, and Jorge Delgado. According to Bay, “He literally quit the week before. And he goes, ‘I can’t do this.’ And I’m like, ‘Dwayne, you are my secret weapon on this movie.’ And I wrote him this long letter about all the actors I worked with who said they were scared to do something and how it turned out. And he goes, ‘Ok. Ok. Alright.'” Bay then comments on how Johnson was amazing in the film. He truly was.
The character of Paul Doyle is an ex-convict who cleans his life up through the church until he meets Daniel Lugo. Lugo convinces Doyle to kidnap a rich figure who attends their gym and have the man sign over all his assets to the men. However, it is the deep temptation that gets to Doyle (Dwayne Johnson). By the end of the film, he is a cocaine addict, who is literally barbequing a man’s hand out on the front lawn. They make away with hundreds of thousands of dollars, which Doyle blows all on his cocaine addiction. He then attempts to rob an armored car with bags of quarters and gets mercilessly sprayed with an ink sack in the bag that is meant to thwart criminals. One can see why this was a role with which Johnson wanted nothing to do with. He is the more squeaky-clean figure, but in that film, he is everything horrible.
Pain & Gain is a rare look into criminal activity, that saw Dwayne Johnson’s character arguably be the worst out of everyone. Though he is a righteous man, he falls deeper into the pitfalls of addiction. Tony Shalhoub plays the rich benefactor that is tortured and robbed, and even he tries to get Doyle to let him go, which almost works. However, Doyle is long gone at this point and basically helps to try and kill the man before the gang moves on to secure even more money. Thankfully Michael Bay convinced Johnson to stay because it is truly one of his best and most rare performances.