Commentary

The Rock, Billy Bob Thornton on 'Faster'

Updated: November 23, 2010, 11:55 AM ET
By Kelley Carter | Special to Page 2

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton are huge sports fans. So on Thanksgiving, while everyone's out watching their new film, "Faster," out on Wednesday, they'll be watching football.

Johnson and Thornton spoke with Page 2 about the new film and their sports obsessions.

Johnson is back to kicking butt and taking names, and his character is out for revenge. "Faster" is a good old-fashioned caper. There's a high body count and a ton of bloodshed -- just the way a film like this should be.

Johnson, a former University of Miami defensive tackle who later gained fame as a professional wrestler in the WWE, talked about his old football team and which NFL game he'll be attending on Thanksgiving.

This is your return to action films. What made you say yes to this one?

I loved the story. It was so well-written, and it was intriguing and moving to me; just the simplicity of the straight-forward storyline. You took something from me, something I love; you took my brother, the only thing I had in my life, and you ripped him away and you killed him. And now I'm gonna find you, and you're gonna pay -- with your life. I love that. I loved it. I want to give credit to the writers because it's not your typical action movie where there are explosions just for the sake of explosions. There's not a big explosion. I don't have big bazookas or anything like that. But I've got a big gun with one big bullet, and it's going right between your eyes.

Which game are you most excited to watch on Thanksgiving?

Oh, that's easy. I am very excited to watch the Lions play the Patriots. The Patriots are having a great year this year, but you never know. That's like the thing in the NFL, you never know what can happen. I think the Lions are gonna be hungry. Of course, I'm a little biased because I'm gonna be at that game. So that's the game for me. I can't wait.

Do you ever watch these games and think, 'If I were still defensive tackle, I would &,' or are you just glad to be a spectator?

No, no, no! All the time. You know, football was my life. I loved the game of football; football was my life. I love the game of football and played it at a great level with great players at a great program. I became a national champion. I played with Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis and all these great guys. I played under great coaches, so it was a big part of my life. When I watch it now, I appreciate so much -- I don't necessarily think, 'If I did this, I could've been there,' because the truth is I was good, but Warren was great. I clearly saw that, which by the way, helped our relationship. I mean, we pushed each other every day. I made him better, he made me better and I can appreciate that today. But, no, I watch a game now and I appreciate all the hard work because I know the discipline that it takes to get to where they're at.

Your nephew, Kaluka Maiava, plays for the Cleveland Browns. Does that change the way you watch the sport a little bit?

I expect from him what I expect from myself, from all my family members at whatever it is they want to do. I have family members playing football, I have family members who are professional wrestlers, I have family members who are preachers, you know? So it is just a matter of creating opportunities and seizing them. It's family, so if it's in the NFL, then you get after it; be a beast.

Any disappointments in the NFL season so far?

I was expecting a little bit more out of my Dolphins, down there. And I say my Dolphins only because we still live down there in Miami. They were expecting a little bit more out of themselves, too. It's been a great year, some great games, great performances.

What have you loved in the NFL season so far?

I love seeing Michael Vick's comeback, just in terms of what he had to do. He had a lot to endure, and I think to come back from that psychologically and to get to the space that he's at right no and the high level that he's playing at right now consistently, is pretty impressive. I love seeing it. And you talk about galvanizing a team and what a performance can do, what a guy can do, what a coach can do, so I'm interested to see how those guys are gonna play out the rest of the year.


Thornton has played some pretty menacing characters over the years -- a crooked Santa, a racist cop and an alcoholic little league baseball coach -- but is actually a really nice guy.

The Oscar-nominated actor is a big-time sports fan -- he narrated the St. Louis Cardinals World Series DVD in 2006 and has a contract provision that when he's shooting a film he has to have a TV with a satellite hookup so he can watch the Cards from wherever he is when the team is in season.

Thornton plays softball with ESPN's Kenny Mayne, and said he can't wait to get back out on the field with his buddy. Baseball's his thing, but on Thanksgiving you'll find him watching everything football.

What made you want to do this film?

Well, it was just a good '70s revenge film vibe. It had Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen; it had all that to it. Good script, [director] George Tillman is a terrific guy, good director and Dwayne and I had been talking through mutual friends for a few years about working together, and it was just a good bunch and a good script.

This is going to be a big Thanksgiving film; which game are you going to be watching?

Here's the problem, I'm such a junkie that I'll watch them all. I drive people crazy because I keep up with all the scores. Like, I can imagine on ESPN, or any of the sports networks, when they have the bank of TVs watching all the NFL games at once -- that's kinda the way I am at home. So, I'll watch everything. And of course if I see something going down like somebody's up like 58-7 or something in the third quarter, then I'll stay off of that game. But I'm a Razorback fan, so I always catch them. I'll definitely be plugging in on the Dallas game to find out if the Cowboys' new lease on life is for real or not.

Is there any team that you've been following that's shocked you this season?

Yeah, well, I'm a Colts fan in the NFL. I was a Baltimore Colts fan and am now an Indy fan, so I'm still hopeful for those guys. But I'm really shocked by the 49ers. I thought the 49ers were gonna have a team this year, I really did. They're a talented team and [head coach Mike] Singletary's a great coach. I thought they were gonna do something this year. And I think everybody's shocked that Tampa Bay and Kansas City and Oakland are playing well.

You've been a gym coach, football coach and a baseball coach as an actor. Any particular sport you've had more fun coaching on film and why?

Well, my dad was a high school basketball coach, so I grew up in all that, and I was a baseball player. I have to say doing the "Bad News Bears" with all those kids, you know, I got to be on a baseball field every day, so that was a lot of fun for me. But I tell ya, I loved playing Gary Gaines in "Friday Night Lights." I loved playing that football coach because that was the real thing. I had never been a football coach on the sidelines and I got to feel what that's like, and I was surrounded by real coaches. I think Pete Berg did a great job on that movie, and I was proud to be in it.

Kelley L. Carter is a Los Angeles-based entertainment freelancer.

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Kelley L. Carter is an Emmy-winning entertainment journalist who has written for publications including USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, Vibe and Essence magazines. She also regularly provides expert pop culture and entertainment commentary for outlets including CNN, E! and the TV Guide Channel.

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