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Luke Hobbs is impossibly buff, intimidating-but-affable, and he could kick your ass in an instant or win you over with a smile. In other words, he's just like Dwayne Johnson, who plays the muscular agent in the Fast & Furious films, including the first spinoff, Hobbs & Shaw. David Leitch, who directed the new film, says it's no accident that Hobbs and Johnson are so similar, and that Johnson's pro wrestling tenure as the Rock helped shape Hobbs and Shaw's fight scenes.
"Hobbs blurs the line between Dwayne and Hobbs. Hobbs and Dwayne are very close in their DNA as a person," Leitch tells SYFY WIRE. "We can borrow from stuff he did in the wrestling world, and we can borrow [the People's Eyebrow], and we can borrow the power of Hobbs. We can have fun with all that stuff as we bring his character to life."
Leitch, who has a background as a stunt coordinator and directed Atomic Blonde and the first John Wick (and executive-produced the last two John Wick movies), says Johnson's wrestling experience was a boon when they were making Hobbs & Shaw, and that the Rock had plenty to contribute despite the differences between wrestling and filmmaking.
"Fight choreography from a live-action wrestling show is different than what you're doing for movies," he explains. "Movies, you've gotta do it for the camera, and there are angles that sell hits. And when you're doing a pro wrestling, you're doing moves that sell the impact for a whole audience in 360."
"But, the core of it all is pretty much the same," Leitch adds. "I think the big thing that Dwayne has is the storytelling arc. He just has it innately. He knows what the audience is gonna want because he spent so many years in front of an audience and getting that immediate visceral response."
Johnson's time as the Rock left him with a deep knowledge of various punches, kicks, and wrestling movies — and, more importantly, the knowledge of when to deploy them for maximum storytelling impact.
"He's really good at looking at choreography that we created and then defining the moments that are gonna work for the audience," Leitch says.
Perhaps because of this, Johnson isn't afraid to directly reference his wrestling past. In fact, he's eager too, because he knows what audiences will like. There's a moment in Hobbs & Shaw, during the big final showdown against the baddies in Samoa, where Johnson is fighting alongside his on-screen brother, real-life pro wrestler Roman Reigns. During the fight, Johnson picks up a guy by the chest and throws him across the screen, only for Reigns to burst into frame and just annihilate the poor dude.
Wrestling fans will recognize it as one of Reigns' signature moves, and that's the point.
"Dwayne's like, 'the audience is gonna love this,'" Leitch says. "'They're going to love us coming together and doing some of these signature moves.'"
As for another signature move, one that's perhaps a little less violent, Leitch says Johnson is also game to repurpose it for Hobbs. The People's Eyebrow, The Rock/Johnson's iconic arch, makes an appearance in Hobbs and Shaw, and Leitch says it was Johnson's idea.
"It was his suggestion, and it was that moment of 'they're gonna love it,'" he says. "He's totally fired up to do that stuff."
Reporting for this story was done by Jordan Zakarin.