Dwayne Johnson brings Samoan heritage to ‘Fast and Furious’ spinoff ‘Hobbs and Shaw’

Hobbs & Shaw

The day Dwayne Johnson’s mother came to visit the Kauai set of “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw movie ,” emotions were already high. But not even the WWE superstar known in the ring as The Rock was steeled for what he saw after director David Leitch called “Cut!” on one of the most pivotal scenes in the “Fast & Furious” spinoff.

Johnson, in character as Luke Hobbs, the brawny American lawman he’s played since “Fast Five,” had just led an ensemble of fellow Polynesian actors, including Cliff Curtis and WWE’s Roman Reigns, in a siva tau, or Samoan war dance.

Dwayne Johnson, left, and Jason Statham sit facing each other, with Idris Elba standing near, in “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.”
Dwayne Johnson, from left, Idris Elba and Jason Statham in “Hobbs & Shaw.”

This siva tau was special, created specifically for the film with the aid of Samoan cultural consultants. And as a sacred cultural tradition, Johnson told Leitch it warranted sensitivity. With this in mind, Leitch filmed only a few takes rather than the countless coverage angles typical of a blockbuster shoot of this size and scale.

The scene serves as the crackling prelude to a sequence in which Hobbs and his estranged brothers reconcile to face down a threat to humanity as they know it, by daisy-chaining a row of speeding, tricked-out vintage trucks to a helicopter while careening along the edge of a cliff (well, it is a “Fast & Furious” movie). In it, Johnson’s Hobbs, his traditional tattoos glistening under the night sky, roars alongside his brothers in arms, calling upon their ancestors.

“I look over and she is bawling,” Johnson says, grinning as he recounts the moment during a recent stop in Los Angeles. “The mama’s doing the ugly cry! I didn’t show her any rehearsals. She’s never heard me speak in Samoan to that extent. As I’m calling, I’m speaking to God and to atua, and we start our movements and I say, ‘This will be the last face you see before you die,’ and she’s bawling.

“After the take — it’s so beautiful and I’ll never forget this — all the guys go over to her,” he added. “‘Oh, Mama, are you okay?’ and give her hugs.”

Roman Reigns
WWE star Roman Reigns was being treated for leukemia while working on “Hobbs & Shaw.”

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