Having 200 non-English-speaking people cheering, "The Rock! The Rock!" should have been wrestling phenomenon The Rock's outstanding memory from filming his small but pivotal role as the fierce Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns. Instead, the WWF wrestler, a k a Dwayne Johnson, can only remember being sick as a dog during the entire desert shoot.
"It's 100 degrees and I had a fever and was shivering," says the towering star, who made his film acting debut in The Mummy Returns, which opens today. "Outside in the desert between takes I was literally shivering. Food poisoning or sunstroke? I didn't know what it was. You wonder, 'Am I going to die here?' I was living on toast and couscous."
Actor Arnold Vosloo — who's back as the evil mummy who clashes again with Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his now-wife, Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) — tried to warn his novice co-star about the dangers of eating the local food, a lesson he learned while working on 1999's The Mummy.
"I met The Rock in Morocco and the first time I saw him, he had a mound of food on his plate," says Vosloo. "I said, 'Are you going to eat that?' He was eating chicken. He said, 'Yeah, dude, what do you think?' and I said, 'You shouldn't.' The last time I saw him, he was running for the bathroom. Everybody gets sick [in Morocco]. I got sick the first time, but this time I took all my own food. I didn't eat literally anything and I didn't get sick. I was one of the few who didn't."
The Rock doesn't have much to do in this film besides battle and bellow in ancient Egyptian, but Universal Pictures was pleased enough with the footage to fashion a spinoff called — what else — The Scorpion King, which is filming now for release next year.
Says Johnson, "I was in Morocco and got a phone call from my agent. 'They like what they see,' he said." The Scorpion King is set 10 years before the prologue in The Mummy Returns, Johnson says. "Before he was king, he was an assassin and his brother, the last of his family, is murdered in front of him," explains the acting newcomer. "He's taken an oath to kill the sorcerer, the lead villain's right-hand man, who sees the outcome of every battle. It's almost like a WWF show," he smiles.
For Johnson, who is expected to ascend to Arnold Schwarzenegger's throne as Hollywood's action king, those WWF shows may soon be a thing of the past. He says, "I have a passion for … the WWF as well as for film. I'll try to juggle that with film as long as I can."