The Rock on His Daughters, Divorce, and Being the Nicest Guy in Hollywood

Unsurprisingly, Dwayne Johnson's actions speak louder than his words.

by Donna Freydkin
Originally Published: 
Kreg Franco for Fatherly

Dwayne Johnson makes his living being relatable. He does this despite being the highest-paid movie star on the planet. Here he is, flying on the private plane he calls his “bird.” Here he is, sipping what looks like top-shelf tequila. Here he is, hoisting up a massive fish he’s caught on rod-and-reel and will, true to form, release back into the ocean so it can return to its school and burble, “YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHO I JUST MET,” to its slack-jawed co-swimmers.

But the man never loses touch. The Rock’s almost comical success hasn’t made him any less appealing to his fans (read: everyone), who think of him as the guy they’d be if everything went right. Maybe. Hopefully. Maybe not. He makes stardom, wealth, charity, and family all look fun. Here he is, dressed as Pikachu and dancing for his daughter Jasmine. Here he is, having his priorities straight.

It would be disingenuous and reductive to say that The Rock is just a dad at heart — his cardio-toned heart is strong enough to multitask — but he is a dad first. And when DJ says that (people who know him call him DJ), it doesn’t come across as a line. He’s soft-spoken and genuine. At 47, he doesn’t need to sell himself as the good guy he’s always been. Want proof? Think about this: Dwayne Douglas Johnson has been in the spotlight since he helped the University of Miami’s notoriously stacked 1991 squad take a national championship by force. Zero scandals. No bad press. Lots of love.

While some A-listers are out chasing a good time in all its many lurid forms, DJ is either working or at home with his girls. He’s raising daughter Simone, 17, from his first marriage, and toddlers Tiana, 15 months, and Jasmine, 2, with his partner Lauren Hashian. He’ll do anything to make them laugh. He’ll do anything for them, period. In return, they do the hardest thing for him. They provide him with normalcy.

“They teach me so much, and continue to check me,” he says. “They’re the equalizer.”

It can be jarring, the juxtaposition between the public version of Dwayne Johnson doing the heavy lifting — truck, helicopter, exposition — in the Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs & Shaw and the private version cuddling his “mini me” and showering her with kisses. But these things aren’t in opposition. The man is a rock, not a hard place. He’s always been a softie. And that’s not going to change.

The Rock recently spoke to Fatherly from Hawaii about the over-the-topness of Hobbs & Shaw, having a second chance at new fatherhood, and what he wants for his daughters.

Hey, there. At last we get to talk!

Aloha from Hawaii. I know it’s super late there, so thank you for staying up. Seriously.

Well, if I’m going to stay up late to talk to one actor, it’s gonna be you. You’re the guy no one says anything bad about. It’s unprecedented.

I pay them all! But thank you. Your check is in the mail.

So you’re back as an agent in Hobbs & Shaw, which may be the ultimate summer movie. We predict great things. Is there already a sequel in the works?

We’re talking about it. The conversations are really soft. I prefer conversations to be really soft or not at all. You don’t want to get ahead of yourself. I have stacked the deck. If audiences do respond favorably and like the movie and the box office warrants it, we’re in a position to make a sequel.

I’m rooting for it, but I also know that you’ll wind up talking about that stuff on the junket. So let’s talk family instead. How did you approach fatherhood the first time around, when you were transitioning from being a pro wrestler to being in movies?

We had Simone when I was 29. I was flying by the seat of my pants. All of the dads out there know, and a lot of moms out there know — when you’re in your 20s, you’re still trying to figure out who you are and your place in the world. I was so effing [Editor’s Note: He really talks like this] excited to be a dad but terrified at the same time. My own references at the time were my own dad, and he raised me with tough love.

How have things changed for you, now that you’re a dad all over again, but this time with this level of fame?

I see the world in a different way, through a different lens. The taste for an idea of success is different. I still chase it today, but with different perspective and a different anchoring. I was making a transition to Hollywood, trying to be the best husband and best dad I could be as a brand-new father. Now, being in my 40s, I’ve lived a little bit of life. I hope I’m a little wiser. It allows me to be a greater dad.

I’m sure you applied that to your relationship with Simone as well.

After my divorce, I’ve learned so much. It’s allowed me to take those experiences with Simone and apply them to her little sisters. Now, years later, I get to have this wonderful relationship with Simone, who is 17, and this beautiful, powerful relationship with my younger daughters, who are 3 years old and 15 months. Through life and experience, I’m a different kind of dad.

Listen, you lead a pretty dope life. How do you keep your kids somewhat normal and appreciative of everything they have?

What we have found is constant dialogue and constant reminding of what they have to be appreciative of, and our own actions. As you raise babies and kids and teenagers, you can say the words. It’s the actions they pay attention to. My first wife is just a spectacular mom to Simone. And Lauren — just bringing motherhood to the next level. Really. She’s balancing being my much better half, and properties and staff, and her career and motherhood and babies and everything. And the unique pressures and responsibilities of being who she is to me.

Just going by your social media, your girls are pretty damn lucky. You seem to stop at nothing to entertain them.

I go above and beyond. I will do honestly anything to bring a smile to my babies’ faces. That unique age of, 12 to 15 months, 2 years, everything is a wonderment, and you can make Pikachu come to life. It’s wonderful magic that I really, really love. I’m like a big kid. I joke with Lauren all the time and I drive her crazy. I’m going to take this whole room and change it up. It’s the fun part, to be Pikachu. Those memories will last forever.

I think of all the people I’ve interviewed, no one had a bad word to say about you or Matt Damon. Ever. Period. How do you manage that, given how famous you are?

I grew up an only child. So admittedly, I grew up selfish in a lot of ways. Before I had children, I always thought I had to eat first. Having success, having babies, understanding what a real partnership was, and having self-awareness — I know that being kind is the easiest thing. I know Matt, by the way. He’s a really good dude.

How do you stay a good dude?

I try to have a real self-awareness of what’s happening around me. I keep people around me who can have an open dialogue. I don’t need yes people. I don’t have yes people around me. I keep my family very close to what I do. You gotta have your partner, who can always check you. This is a very gratifying business. It can be very dangerous. Things can be amplified and magnified. Fame can be very funny. You have to be very careful with it.

And as you get older, you get more perspective on the things that matter.

As you get older, you realize that we all work hard. You hope for a little luck. It could go away quickly if you make the wrong decisions.

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