Dwayne Johnson regrets his last call to his dad: ‘the biggest fight we’ve ever had’


Dwayne Johnson’s Vanity Fair interview is very good. I was nervous because it opens with his political aspirations, and I almost put it down immediately. Fortunately, he seems to be stepping back a bit from that (although not as far as I’d like). But the rest of the article provides a background to stories I’ve heard from DJ before. I mentioned his eviction at the age of 14 was a defining moment in DJ’s life. It was also what brought him from Hawaii to Tennessee and back into his father, professional wrestler Rocky Johnson’s, life. He talks about his dad and their “complicated” relationship throughout the interview. Rocky was unfaithful to DJ’s mom but she stayed with him until DJ was able to buy her a house. When DJ wanted to get into wrestling, Rocky told him, “Absolutely not. You got nothing to offer,” although Rocky eventually ended up training him. DJ recounted the final fight with his dad, which was over Rocky’s book, Soulman. DJ knew he was writing it and encouraged him to do so. All he asked was that Rocky “be real and open and honest and forthright.” When DJ got his copy, the book was full of mistruths, including outright lies that were attributed to DJ himself. Rocky said the fateful eviction never happened and credited a foreword to DJ that he hadn’t written. So DJ called his father and they had “the biggest fight we’ve ever had” close to Christmas 2019. It was the last time DJ ever spoke to his father, who died January 2020.

One section (of Soulman) hit particularly hard, because it related to the moment in Johnson’s life—the eviction from their Hawaii apartment when he was 14—that for him is a foundational moment, a key event in their shared family history and one he has constantly referred back to over the course of his life. “In the book,” says Johnson, “he tells the reader this absolutely never happened. We were never evicted out of Hawaii. ‘And when I asked my son about it, he told me, oh, yeah, dad, I just tell that to make people feel good. I just tell that for people to make them feel good—if they’re going through hard times themselves, they’ll look at this and somehow become maybe a little inspired that they can get through their hard times, too.’ ”

An even more naked affront was loudly trailed on the book’s cover: “Foreword by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.” In this, Johnson purportedly shared detailed tales of how his father’s career had foreshadowed his own, explaining that “my dad was far more successful than I was, and for a much longer period of time.” Problem was, he had never written or said these words. “I was like, am I fucking crazy?” he tells me. “Did I write this? When did this happen? Again, I was so upset.” One sentence, in particular, stuck in his throat: “Rocky Johnson is responsible for everything I’ve done in wrestling, the movies, TV shows and overall business opportunities.”

And so, over Christmas, Johnson called his father to have it out.

“We got into a massive fight,” Johnson remembers. He says his father’s principal defense was one of denial, blaming his ghostwriter and apologizing only for not proofreading the book. The thing about the Hawaii eviction, for instance? He had never said that. The fake introduction? He had no idea it was there. (Later, I find a wrestling podcast in which the book’s ghostwriter, Scott Teal, openly discusses having written this “Dwayne Johnson” foreword, though he states that he did so at Rocky’s instruction and with Rocky’s guidance.)

The conversation between Johnson and his father was a rough one. “It was the biggest fight we’ve ever had, and we had gotten into some doozies in the past,” he says. “I had leaned into my dad like I never had before because I was just really disappointed and hurt.” And that was where things were left between them. Normally, Johnson says, he prefers not to let things fester. “I like to take care of things with expediency. And if there’s some shit we need to take care of, let’s take care of it. Let’s dive into it. Even if it’s hard, it’s okay. But that was a different thing. It’s just a different, unique relationship that you have with your old man.”

That phone call would be the last time they spoke.

“We had some good times,” says Johnson. “We had some rough times. We had some fighting times. And my dad always knew that there were parts of his life that were fucked up. And in the end, away from the noise, we had some pretty raw conversations about who he was, and who he always wanted me to be. And the good stuff is what will always be in the forefront of my mind, because I recognize that in our complicated testosterone-driven relationship, some of the best parts of me that I’ve been fortunate to share with the world I get from him. The resilience, the work ethic, the ‘No one’s gonna give it to you, so you got to get your ass out there and work it, earn respect’ type of credo, I get from him. And I will always carry that with me.”

[From Vanity Fair]

I remember the stories about DJ buying his mom houses and that he’d bought his dad a pickup. I know you can’t put a price on love, but it still made a bit of a statement. It makes sense, Rocky prioritized everything else in his life before DJ. After being evicted, DJ showed up in Tennessee a month before his mother. Rocky was with some girlfriend and wouldn’t take 15-year-old DJ in. Instead, he sent DJ to live in a motel with his wrestling buddy, Bruno, whom DJ had never met. I suppose Rocky gets credit for training DJ in wrestling, but he did not deserve to take full credit for The Rock’s career. And he certainly had no right to make up words for DJ about it. I’m positive DJ knew his father was lying in his excuses for how all those things ended up in the book. It must have broken his heart to have to hear that coming through the phone.

This will probably haunt him for a long time. The thing is, DJ was right to tell his father everything he did. What Rocky did was awful, and he owed DJ an explanation and an apology, neither of which DJ got. Hopefully he can find comfort in the fact that in his last phone call with his father, DJ was “real and open and honest and forthright” with his father, which is something his father never granted him.

Photo credit: Vanity Fair via Instagram

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10 Responses to “Dwayne Johnson regrets his last call to his dad: ‘the biggest fight we’ve ever had’”

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  1. Fanciful says:

    There really are some narcissistic parents around, rewriting history, claiming credit, playing the victim. Adele’s dad did the same..

    Sometimes you gotta tell people you love what you really think. It’s not a pleasant memory but in time he might be glad he did.

    I like DJ he seems genuinely decent, but I really hope he doesn’t go into politics.

  2. Amy Bee says:

    I hope he can get over his regrets. He didn’t do anything wrong. Toxic parents have a tendency to gaslight their children into making them feel that they are the bad ones for standing up for themselves.

  3. Gabriella says:

    From observing his relationship with his ex wife and how hands on of a parent he seems to be, despite his insane work schedule, he seems to be intent on breaking that cycle set in motion by his father. I have so much respect for him- he seems so thoughtful and kind.

  4. Moxylady says:

    Some people are allergic to the truth or to any discussion of the ramifications of their actions. Sounds like DJs dad is one such person. He wanted it to be true so ge said it. Because it didn’t matter if it WAS trur. Only if people believed it was. Narcissist.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      @ Moxylady, I can relate to DJ on this issue. My father to his dying day refused to take responsibility for his actions as a father, a husband and being an awful human being to those who were related to him. I tried to set the record straight many times and he flatly refused, telling me I was lying to him. No, he didn’t beat my mother to a pulp or burn all of her nursing clothes, forced to resign her dreams as an ER nurse. He didn’t beat her up in the front yard on a Saturday morning in front of the neighbors and her bruises and bleeding weren’t from him. This brings up so many issues.

      Though I am incredibly sorry that this was the last conversation he had with his dad, I hope he was able to work through any unpleasant issues that this final conversation developed.

      DJ has broken the cycle and for that, I am more enamored with him!! I have always liked him but I am more impressed now. It’s incredibly hard to stop the cycle of our childhoods. But DJ is certainly a better parent, a better spouse and a better human being.

  5. Apple Cart says:

    He’s like any other crappy parent. Instant amnesia for the horrible things they did to their kids. But want to take credit for all the good that happened to them regardless of what their involvement or better non-involvement was. I know many kids who’s parents did not want to know them until they were successful in life.

    Clearly Dwayne has broken the cycle he is a loving Father to his kids being engaged and present. with them.

  6. JanetDR says:

    I’m sad it ended that way for his sake, but it sounds like his father was never going to step up anyway.
    It makes me love the Rock even more for being such a good person.

  7. Joan Callamezzo says:

    I’m impressed that DJ humbled himself to go to TN and stuck with it. He was coached by his insensitive, ego driven narc father who was threatened by his potential and his relationship with his mom. Imagine the verbal abuse he probably endured. Then for DJ to have a successful long term business partnership with his ex-wife yeah I’m impressed. He has demonstrated so much emotional growth coupled with a killer work ethic.

  8. Ameerah says:

    As someone with a toxic father that I cut out of my life many years ago, I cam fully understand what DJ was dealing with. And honestly Rocky was lucky that DJ even maintained a relationship with him after everything. He did in fact buy his father a house. He talked about it on IG. So he took care of his father up until his death. Despite his father being abusive towards his mother, a cheater and a deadbeat dad and a liar.
    And all I personally can think is I’m glad I cut my toxic father off when I did. Some people – even family- do not deserve to be a part of our lives.