To celebrate wrestler-turned-A-list actor Dwayne Johnson's career success — and his place atop Forbes' list of the highest paid actors of 2020 — Wonderwall.com is taking a look at the business of being The Rock. Keep reading to get the scoop on our favorite wrestler-actor's empire and how much money he's made…
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Dwayne Johnson, who was born in California on May 2, 1972, is now one of the richest men in Hollywood, but he faced poverty during his childhood. His family bounced around due to his father's work as a professional wrestler, making it nearly impossible for his mother (pictured in 2015) to keep a steady job. On Thanksgiving 2017, The Rock revealed in a lengthy Instagram post that "there was a time back in '87 when we couldn't even afford Thanksgiving dinner and [were] praying someone would invite us over [to] their house to eat." In May 2015, the wrestler-actor revealed on Instagram that "when I was 14yrs old we were evicted out of our apartment in Hawaii 'cause we couldn't afford the $180 per week rent." (At the time, his mom reportedly made a living by cleaning hotel rooms.) In 2014, he told The Hollywood Reporter that a week before they were evicted, he watched his mother's car get repossessed. He reportedly added to her troubles by joining a theft ring that targeted affluent stores in Waikiki.
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Dwayne Johnson scored his first big financial break when he was just a teenager: The high school football star won a full scholarship to play for the Hurricanes at the University of Miami. He served as a defensive tackle for the college football team from 1991 to 1994 and even helped the Hurricanes claim the National Championship during his freshman year. But playing football wasn't enough for The Rock: He also completed a bachelor of general studies degree — he had a special interest in criminology during his school years.
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In 1995, Dwayne Johnson signed with the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders at a yearly salary of $35,000. According to The Hollywood Reporter, after just two months, he got knocked down to the practice team, which paid just $250 a week. During that time, he reportedly shared a two-bedroom apartment with three other players, "eating ramen noodles and spaghetti and sleeping on a filthy mattress he had found ditched outside a [motel]," wrote The Hollywood Reporter. When he was cut from the team not long after that, he had just $7 to his name.
Dwayne Johnson made his WWE debut in 1996, becoming the first third-generation wrestler in the league. (His father, Rocky Johnson, and his maternal grandfather, Peter Maivia, were both professional wrestlers.) He quickly became one of the sport's biggest stars. According to Fortune, during his second year in the WWE, The Rock made enough money to accomplish a childhood dream: He bought his first Rolex. (He smashed the $35,000 timepiece in the ring just a week later.)
Dwayne Johnson officially transitioned to Hollywood in 1999, the year he played a version of his father, wrestler Rocky Johnson, on "That '70s Show" (pictured with Topher Grace as Eric Forman). The following year, he channeled his wrestling alter ego (complete with cocked eyebrow) to portray an alien gladiator on an episode of "Star Trek: Voyager." A month later, he hosted "Saturday Night Live" for the first time. Each of these television appearances — as well as a few others — helped him prove his acting chops and win fans outside of the wrestling world.
In 2000, Dwayne Johnson released his memoir "The Rock Says…," which debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list.
In 2001, Dwayne Johnson made his feature-film debut as The Scorpion King in "The Mummy Returns." He reportedly banked $500K for his brief appearance in the action-adventure sequel to 1999's "The Mummy." His work in the film was so popular, he scored his own spinoff.
In 2002, Dwayne Johnson scored his very first starring role in a feature film. He portrayed the titular warrior in "The Scorpion King," which explained the origins of his character from "The Mummy Returns." This time, be banked $5.5 million for his efforts. In the process, he set a Guinness World Record for biggest paycheck for an actor headlining a feature film for the very first time.
In 2004, Dwayne Johnson left the WWE to focus on his Hollywood acting career. The following year, he earned raves for his performance as a gay cowboy bodyguard and aspiring actor in "Be Cool." Further signaling his transition from professional wrestler to serious actor, he was credited as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson instead of just "The Rock" for his work in 2006's "Gridiron Gang." With 2008's "Get Smart" — at the urging of his agents at CAA — he officially changed his stage name to Dwayne Johnson.
In 2006, Dwayne Johnson and then-wife Dany Garcia, who fell in love while they were students at the University of Miami, donated $2 million to their alma mater to help fund a renovation to the school's alumni center. In 2007, they donated $1 million to the college's Football Facilities Renovation Fund, which was reportedly the largest donation ever from a former student to the university's athletic department. The University of Miami renamed their football locker room in his honor: It's now the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Football Locker Room.
In 2008, Dwayne Johnson and college sweetheart Dany Garcia divorced after 10 years of marriage and one daughter, Simone. The same year they split romantically, Dany became her ex's manager. "I was already deeply involved with his agents, I was already commenting on scripts. It was a very natural conversation, where he just said to me, 'I would love for you to do this full-time,'" she told Marie Claire in 2017.
In 2010, Dwyane Johnson portrayed star police officer Christopher Danson in "The Other Guys." He reportedly earned $9 million for his role in the action-comedy…. even though (spoiler alert!) his character gets killed off just 15 minutes into the movie.
Dwayne Johnson executive produced the 2010 documentary "Racing Dreams." The film, which centers around young drivers chasing the kart racing championship title, marked The Rock's debut as a producer.
In 2011, Dwayne Johnson parted ways with CAA, whose agents had urged him to distance himself from the wrestling world. He signed with WME and legendary agent Ari Emanuel (on whom Jeremy Piven's "Entourage" alter ego, Ari Gold, is based), and officially returned to the WWE that February. He appeared in a number of big WWE events over the course of the next few years and, according to some reports, banked $3.5 million per year for his efforts. Apparently, he was worth every penny: "We set pay-per-view buy-rate records and attendance records each time," he gushed to Fortune of his big return to the WWE. In April 2016, the league confirmed that WrestleMania 32 set a new attendance record for the WWE with 101,763 fans in the crowd at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
In April 2011, Dwayne Johnson made his film-franchise debut as Luke Hobbs in "Fast Five." At the time, the fifth installment in the "Fast & Furious" franchise had the top opening weekend of any film ever to open in the month of April, though that record has since been beat. He went on to appear in the next three films in the series and has become such a fan favorite that he and Jason Statham scored their very own spin-off movie, "Hobbs and Shaw," which is scheduled for release in the summer of 2019.
In 2012, Dwayne Johnson and ex-wife Dany Garcia (pictured together in 2017) co-founded their own production company, Seven Bucks Productions — a nod to that time the wrestler-actor found himself with just $7 to his name after getting the boot from the Canadian Football League. The company has produced several of The Rock's recent films including "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," "Baywatch," "Rampage" and "Skyscraper" as well as the TV shows "Ballers," "The Hero" and "Wake Up Call."
Dwayne Johnson starred in a commercial for the "Got Milk?" campaign that debuted during the Super Bowl in February 2013. He appeared in more advertisements for the campaign later that year.
Dwayne Johnson made his reality TV debut on the TNT competition series "The Hero" in June 2013. He hosted all eight episodes of the short-lived show. The following year, The Rock returned to the network with the eight-episode series "Wake Up Call," which tracked his efforts to help average Americans transform their lives. His third stab at reality TV, "The Titan Games," is scheduled to debut on NBC in January 2019. According to an official synopsis, the competition series (which is in the vein of "American Gladiatiors") is inspired by the wrestler-actor's "desire to motivate global audiences to reach their potential both mentally and physically." Hopefully it fares better than its predecessors!
According to Fortune, movies in which Dwayne Johnson appeared made $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office in 2013 — more than any other actor that year. To be fair, he starred in four movies that debuted in 2013: "Snitch," "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," "Pain & Gain" and "Fast & Furious 6" (pictured).
In May 2015, Dwayne Johnson starred as a rescue helicopter pilot in "San Andreas." He reportedly banked $25 million — the biggest paycheck of his career so far — for his role in the disaster flick. There are reports that the box office hit will get a sequel, though no moves have been made yet on the project.
"Ballers" debuted on HBO in June 2015. According to Variety, Dwayne Johnson makes $650K per episode of the series — more than any other actor makes on TV aside from the five main stars of "The Big Bang Theory," who each bank $900K per episode of the CBS sitcom.
In October 2015, Dwayne Johnson announced that he'd signed on to promote Ford's service departments. Since then, he's appeared in several ad campaigns for the motor company.
Dwayne Johnson launched his partnership with Under Armour in January 2016. The first item from his collaboration with the athletic brand, a duffle bag, sold out within 24 hours. Since then, he's released everything from clothes and wireless headphones to sneakers through his Project Rock collection for Under Armour. On May 28, 2018, The Rock's Project Rock 1 shoes for Under Armour sold out in 30 minutes.
In May 2016, Dwayne Johnson launched an iPhone app, The Rock Clock, that's essentially an alarm clock that wakes up users with exclusive inspirational video messages from the actor-wrestler. Users can also sync their alarms with The Rock's so that they too can rise and shine at 4 a.m. every day to start their daily fitness routines. "Our goal was create a free, direct, uncomplicated, cool, motivating app to help us all get after our goals every morning," the superstar explained on Instagram.
In July 2016, Dwayne Johnson launched his own YouTube channel. Original series on the channel include the cooking show "What The Rock Is Cooking" and "Millennials: The Musical," a collaboration with "Moana" co-star Lin-Manuel Miranda.
In January 2017, Dwayne Johnson launched Seven Bucks Digital Studios, a branch of his Seven Bucks Productions focusing on developing new original online content.
In April 2017, Dwayne Johnson returned to the role of Luke Hobbs in "The Fate of the Furious." The eighth installment in the beloved "Fast & Furious" franchise opened worldwide to more than $541 million. At the time, it was the largest global opening of any film ever. ("Avengers: Infinity War" broke the record the following year.)
In July 2017, Dwayne Johnson starred in an ad campaign for Apple's iPhone 7 and Siri titled "The Rock x Siri Dominate The Day."
In September 2017, Dwayne Johnson and ex-wife Dany Garcia launched Seven Bucks Creative, a creative ad agency within their production company, Seven Bucks Productions. In March 2018, the company released its first campaign: two videos promoting The Rock's Project Rock collection for Under Armour, naturally!
In December 2017, Dwayne Johnson headlined "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle." The reboot of the original 1995 family action flick "Jumanji" was a surprise sleeper hit, becoming Sony's highest grossing film of all time domestically. It trucked along at the box office for months, becoming the first movie since 1998's "Titanic" to open in December and top the box office in February. All in all, the film was so successful, Sony ordered another installment in the series for late 2019.
In February 2018, before writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber (pictured) had even penned a script, Universal and Legendary teamed up to win a bidding war for "Red Notice," which Rawson described as "a big international heist picture, that is tonally in the vein of 'Ocean's 11' meets 'True Lies' by the way of 'Thomas Crown Affair.'" The two studios agreed to finance the film at $160 million based on a pitch meeting and the fact that Dwayne Johnson is attached to star. (According to Deadline, the deal was the largest for a studio movie in Hollywood at that time.) The Rock will reportedly bank $22 million plus backend to play "an Interpol agent who is tasked with catching the most wanted art thief in the world."
In July 2018, Forbes released its list of the world's 100 highest paid entertainers. Dwayne Johnson came in at No. 5 behind Floyd Mayweather, George Clooney, Kylie Jenner and Judge Judy. "The former wrestler tallied the highest ever acting take-home in Celebrity 100 history, thanks to giant upfront paychecks and a cut of profits on blockbusters including 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.' A huge social following allows him to negotiate an extra seven figures atop his standard contract for promotion, helping nearly double his 2017 earnings," wrote Forbes. So how much did he take home in 2018? A whopping $124 million.
Dwayne Johnson's generosity is practically legendary. In late July 2018, he took to Instagram to share a video of himself surprising his longtime stunt double (and cousin) Tanoai Reed with a new truck. "Not only does Tanoai represent our family and my career with relentless commitment and passion. He also represents an entire Hollywood stunt community that is truly the backbone of our business," The Rock wrote in the caption. Giving thanks where it's due? That's good business! Over the years, the wrestler-actor also bought a Lamborghini Gallardo for one of his cousins, a Cadillac Escalade for his dad, a Cadillac truck for his mom, a Honda Civic for another cousin, a Lexus SUV for yet another cousin, a Ford F-150 for an uncle and another Ford pickup truck for his longtime housekeeper.
In April 2019, Dwayne Johnson was the most followed male entertainer on Instagram with 139 million followers. He was also the fourth most followed celebrity behind Selena Gomez, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo and Ariana Grande at the time. According to Forbes, The Rock "insists on a separate seven-figure social media fee for every movie in which he appears." Basically, his social media accounts are worth millions in marketing and advertising dollars.
In January 2019, Dwayne Johnson launched his own sports competition show, "The Titan Games," on NBC. He serves as the executive producer and host for the series, which drew more than 5 million viewers per episode.
In August 2019, Dwayne Johnson hit the big screen in his very own "Fast & Furious" spinoff, "Hobbs & Shaw," with Jason Statham, Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby. The movie, which was made to appeal to a global audience, earned nearly $600 million worldwide in its first three weeks of release and set some new milestones in China, where it delivered the largest August opening ever in that market with its $102 million first-weekend haul as well as the second largest opening in China for the whole street-racing franchise (just behind "The Fate of the Furious").
In August 2019, Dwayne Johnson reclaimed the top spot on Forbes' list of the world's 10 highest paid actors. According to the magazine, he earned $89.4 million between June 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019. The magazine explained that The Rock made all that green thanks to a lucrative pay formula that allows him to demand an upfront salary of up to $23.5 million (which is what he reportedly got for "Jumanji: The Next Level" — his highest to date) and then up to 15 percent of the pool from his big franchise movies (such as "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," which made $962 million worldwide). Add to that his $700K-per-episode fee for "Ballers" and royalties (said to be in the seven figures) for his Under Armour clothing, shoe and headphones lines.
Cheers! In October 2019, Dwayne Johnson announced that he was launching his own alcohol brand, Teremana Tequila. "TERA is meant to represent 'Terre' which means of the earth and MANA is our powerful Polynesian spirit that guides us. Spirit of the earth," he explained on Instagram. "Our goal is to create a tequila that is the best of quality and taste, but done the right way – by hand. Small batch, hand crafted tequila from our Teremana blue agave, maturing in the highlands of Jalisco, for everyone to enjoy."
A league of his own! On Aug. 3, 2020, news broke revealing that Dwayne Johnson had just purchased the XFL professional football league. The Rock — a former college football player — and business partner Dany Garcia (his ex-wife) are equal stakeholders in the deal in which they're putting up half of the $15 million purchase price along with Gerry Cardinale's RedBird Capital private equity investment firm, Sportico reported.
On Aug. 11, 2020, Forbes revealed its ranking of the highest paid actors of 2020, and Dwayne Johnson topped the list for the second year in a row. According to the business magazine, he made $87.5 million, collecting $23.5 million of that from Netflix for his upcoming action flick "Red Notice." Forbes further noted that The Rock's successful Under Armour line, Project Rock, is behind a big chunk of his 2020 earnings too.