“BURLINGTON, Mass. — Dwayne Johnson, better known until recently as the Rock, is a touch-y guy. A hand on the shoulder, a guiding elbow tap — moving across a studio here for his next movie, he used his 6-foot-4 frame as a form of leadership. Not that you’d be likely to miss him otherwise.
Mr. Johnson made sure of that, hoisting a 10-foot-ladder around scurrying crew members and clowning with a makeup artist, flinching when she patted his brow. As any fan who has followed him from the wrestling ring to the big screen knows, Mr. Johnson is, above all, a goofball.
The entertaining thing came naturally, early on. “I used to think I was Elvis, Sam Cooke,” he said. “I’d perform Richard Pryor monologues, like softly, because my mom didn’t know I was listening, sneaking the tapes, at the time. I was 9.”
Now Mr. Johnson, 43, is gliding on monster waves of attention, thanks to an impressive run at the box office (as part of the “Furious 7” cast) and winning appearances in a televised lip-syncing battle and the White House Christmas celebration.
As a wide-reaching, multiethnic celebrity at a time when audiences crave diversity, and a keen user of social technology amid a fast-changing media industry, he should be the four-quadrant hero of our time, appealing to old and young, male and female alike. Yet he may be the oddest superstar we have, a known quantity whose accomplishments — box-office champ of 2013, four-time host of “Saturday Night Live” — are a continual surprise. Unlike the sequels and franchises he has excelled in, his next film, “San Andreas,” opening May 29, is his first top-lining role in a big-budget original story, so “the stakes are higher,” he said. But along with his HBO series, “Ballers,” debuting in June, it could at last cement his status as a highly bankable leading man.
Already, “in terms of consumer appeal, he’s in the league there with Brad Pitt,” said Henry Schafer, a spokesman for the Q Scores Company, which measures celebrity likability. Since the company began tracking him seven years ago, Mr. Johnson has maintained a Q score that’s consistently way above average, topping Tom Cruise, Mark Wahlberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the earlier paragon of musclebound crossovers…”