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SYFY WIRE The Mummy Returns

The Mummy Returns Director Didn't Even Know Who The Rock Was When Casting The Scorpion King

From uncanny valley-inducing scorpion monster to mega-blockbuster star!

By Josh Weiss

Before he became a household name associated with massive Hollywood blockbusters, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was a humble WWE wrestler making his feature film debut as an uncanny valley-inducing arachnoid abomination in writer/director Stephen Sommers' The Mummy Returns (now streaming on Peacock alongside its 1999 predecessor).

Johnson opens the 2001 sequel as the Scorpion King, a feared warrior who attempted to bring all of the known world under his control. After a vicious, seven-year campaign, he and his great army were defeated and driven deep into exile, forced to wander the vast desert (later oasis) of Ahm Shere until death. As the last man standing, the Scorpion King pledged his immortal soul to Anubis, lord of the Underworld in Ancient Egyptian mythology, in exchange for an unstoppable force of humanoid jackal soldiers. Once the King's enemies were defeated, however, Anubis came to collect his fee, transforming the man into a half-human, half-scorpion prisoner.

For More on The Mummy:
Why The Mummy Still Delights, 25 Years Later
The Mummy Turns 25: Director Stephen Sommers On Tumultuous Development Process for Hit Monster Movie
The Mummy Turns 25: Director Stephen Sommers Says He'd Make Another Movie if Story Goes Back to Egypt

Stephen Sommers on Casting Dwayne Johnson in The Mummy Returns

"He was great. I had never heard of the guy, but then they sent me some footage of him, and he was just perfect," Sommers recalled of casting Johnson during a The Hollywood Reporter interview centered around The Mummy's 25th anniversary. "I had to shoot so fast with him because he flew into Marrakesh on Wednesday, and he had to be in Detroit for a WWE thing on Saturday. But boy, was he a trooper. As soon as the studio saw the dailies, the president of Universal was calling me up and saying, 'You got to write a movie for him.' Somehow over the next week or so, I came up with this idea that became the Scorpion King movie."

While Sommers co-wrote the 2002 prequel/spinoff (also streaming on Peacock), it was Chuck Russell (known for such titles as A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and The Mask), who ended up as its director. The Scorpion King proved to be a major financial success, grossing over $180 million worldwide on a budget of $60 million and spawning four direct-to-video sequels, none of which featured Johnson. With that said, The Rock does hope to reimagine the Universal property under his Seven Bucks banner.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in The Scorpion King (2002)

“The Scorpion King was my very first role ever on the silver screen and I’m honored and excited to reimagine and deliver this cool mythology to a whole new generation,” Johnson said in 2020 (via Deadline). “I wouldn’t have had the career I’m lucky enough to have had it not been for The Scorpion King and I’m thrilled that we at Seven Bucks Productions can help create those same opportunities for other hardworking actors today. I believe Jonathan Herman will put in the hard work to deliver a fantastic script for our global audience.”

Hiram Garcia, another Seven Bucks producer, last confirmed that the project was still in active development while speaking to ScreenRant back in 2021. The main obstacle, he explained, is finding a way "to bring it back to the fans in a fun way."

The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, and The Scorpion King are now streaming on Peacock.