The following article contains major spoilers for Rampage.
Rampage went through a long period of development, but in a newly published interview with Rolling Stone, Johnson revealed that he came close to leaving the film because he did not like the script's original ending.
The movie, based on the popular video game series, features Johnson as a primatologist whose best friend is an albino gorilla named George, whom he rescued from poachers. But George is one of three animals, along with a wolf and a crocodile, that are transformed into giant, destructive monsters by a genetic virus.
Johnson's character, Davis Okoye, is eventually able to give George an antidote that allows the massive gorilla to calm down and team up with Okoye to stop the other two beasts before they destroy all of Chicago. But the way the story ended struck a sour chord with Johnson, as he recalled:
“So the script comes in, and I’m reading it. And at the end of it – George dies! I’m like, ‘No. Did I miss something? George can’t be dead.’ But I go back, and yeah.”
The Rock was not happy, and began a two-month debate with the studio, the producers and director Brad Peyton in which he was adamant that George had to live. He explained why:
"I don’t like a sad ending. Life brings that s**t -- I don’t want it in my movies. When the credits roll, I want to feel great... We had a big meeting where they gave me all the reasons they thought George should die. He sacrifices himself saving the world. Killing these animals who had ill intentions to harm mankind. He sacrifices himself like a brave soldier. OK. But this is a movie! There’s a crocodile the size of a football stadium -- we’re not making Saving Private Ryan."
Finally, Johnson says he lowered the boom:
"My problem is I have a relationship with an audience around the world. For years I’ve built a trust with them that they’re gonna come to my movies and feel good. So every once in a while, you have to drop this card, which is: You’re gonna have to find another actor. We need to figure something out, otherwise I’m not gonna do the movie."
The two sides ended up reaching a sort of compromise: In the version of Rampage in theaters now, George seems to be fatally wounded during the final battle and breathes his last. Except he doesn't -- he's actually pretending to be dead just to fool Okoye, for reasons known only to a giant albino gorilla and whoever rewrote that scene.
Peyton and producer Beau Flynn both insist that Johnson made the right call ("Watching it with an audience, he was 100 percent right," says Flynn diplomatically), but if you've seen the movie, it seems pretty clear that the film was originally meant to build toward the emotional climax of George giving up his life. Having him shake it off and joke around with his buddy a few minutes later... well, you tell us what you think below (critics have already been less than kind about the film overall).
Do you think Johnson made the correct choice? Could his insistence on leaving the audience with a "feel-good" ending no matter what eventually hurt the movies he's making?