Sunday, January 23, 2005

Dwayne's World

The gayest thing about me?" Dwayne 'the Rock' Johnson ponders. "Probably all the gay porn I did. Everyone was nicknamed Stretch after me. Oh, that's terrible."

The Rock is known for his over-the-top height, body and looks. But another eye-raising quality—his trademark gay innuendos. Grab a copy of the newest Details—you can’t miss it, he’s the cover—and there are many gay-friendly jokes. Rightly so: Johnson is promoting his role as a gay bodyguard/actor in the upcoming Be Cool.

F. Gary Gray’s film is a sequel to Get Shorty, the 1995 adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel. John Travolta repeats his role as wiseguy-turned-movie producer Chili Palmer. It's a caper about the Russian mob, the music business and Hollywood. Johnson’s character is a gay bodyguard/actor who wants to break into the music business. How does associate editor Laura Brown (get that cover story, girl!) describe it?

[He] recites monologues from the modern pom-pom classic Bring It On and spanks himself in front of a full-length mirror while wearing a satin bodysuit and hitting a high note Mariah Carey would envy.
That sounds about right, for a guy who appeared on Saturday Night Live twice—both times, wearing a dress. In the interview, Johnson pokes more fun at his homoerotic appeal. Once again, he professes a love for gay porn. And after having “spritzed on a little Jil Sander,” he says:

"People ask me what I'm wearing and I say, 'It's called Come to Me.' And they say, 'Come to Me? That's a weird name. Can I smell it?' " Beat. "'Sure—smell like come to you?' "

Sigh. An over-the-top muscle boy who says he smells like ... ahem. Aiight, back on track.

Tom Munro’s sensual photos accompany the article. The flix are in color and black and white, and all—especially the B&W—capture the conflict within the pop phenom. He is hyper-masculine, yet lonely and vulnerable. They are adoringly erotic, but not overtly sexual.

Elmore Leonard’s novels are engrossing. They involve double-crosses, shady women, mobsters and low-lifes...all trying to get a piece of the good life. The characters are unique, quirky and multi-dimensional. Most of the film adaptations have followed suit. Barry Sonnenfeld’s Shorty was magnificent. Tarantino’s Jackie Brown—the film version of Rum Punch—was a love letter to screen goddess Pam Grier.

I’m scared of how cool Be Cool may try to be. Apparently, MGM’s concept is to deliver a blockbuster “urban” comedy. The trailers feature more of Cedric the Entertainer and Andre 3000 than Travolta, Uma Thurman or even the Rock. Don’t get me wrong; I love me some Cedric and Andre. I just don't see them in an Elmore Leonard movie. Hopefully the production will not morph into Hollywood’s standard recipe for an urban comedy: Ruin a good script. Add assorted rappers, hip hop stars and comedians. Just add water. Voila!

F. Gary Gray shot to fame with the brilliant Friday, and followed with the gritty character-driven Set it Off. Since then, he has crossed the color line and failed to impress me. More tired recent films like A Man Apart and the Italian Job were boring tedious. The latter film featured exotic Venetian exteriors, and even those scenes were fast-forwardable.

Be Cool opens in March, and I’ll attend the mid-February screening. Hopefully, it will be cool. If not, at least I’ll have some eye-candy.