Dwayne Johnson IS 'Hercules': See the Rock Go Gladiator in First Teaser Trailer

by Kara Warner

Watch out, mythical monsters, there's a new demigod in town — and he's not taking prisoners.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and his headline-making Yak-hair beard are in full effect in the newly released teaser for his passion project, "Hercules."

Here's Herc ticking off his way through some to-do items on his 12 Labors list. Nemean lion. Check. Three-headed hell hound Cerberus. Check. The Hydra and the great boar Eurystheus. Done and done. But this Hercules is also broken man out for blood, and we see flashes of sadness in the mighty hero as he storms through clips that aspire to epic status, complete with sweeping landscapes, battle scenes, and a voiceover by Ian McShane, who spouts such lines as "Man cannot escape his fate."

The teaser ends with Johnson's hero roaring: "I am Hercules!"

"The tone is a nice, even balance," explains Johnson, who arrived Monday at our Las Vegas interview location at CinemaCon fresh from a workout, protein drink in hand. "I think of 'Gladiator' and '300.' There's also personality in the movie. There's fun. There's some wink in the movie in a way that makes the audience feel good."

Johnson's 10-year labor of love dates back to his first read of the graphic novel by Steve Moore.

"The idea was to take the spirit of the graphic novel, which we liked, and then create a script and a story based on that that still gave a very unique twist on the story of Hercules," Johnson says of the film's backstory. "When we first meet this version of Hercules, he's gone through a tremendous amount of trauma and anguish over the fact that he'd murdered his family. So when we see him and he's introduced in this story, he doesn't care about his faith, and he doesn't care about who he is."

[Related: The Rock Wears Beard Made of Real Yak Hair, Transforms Into ‘Hercules’]

Dwayne Johnson in 'Hercules' (Paramount Pictures)
Dwayne Johnson in 'Hercules' (Paramount Pictures)

Identity crisis or not, we know who Johnson's Hercules is. Grim, muscle-bound, and hirsute. His look, notably the facial hair, had NSA-level secrecy... and its own backstory.

"The beard that I had was the full beard, and a lot of times in Hollywood, as you know, it's a lace beard that we put on, and they take 30 to 45 minutes, an hour tops," Johnson relates, explaining why he decided to wait so long to reveal the final look. "This took two and a half hours to three hours, because we had very long strips of yak hair — really, yak hair — and they would cut them up probably and inch long and a quarter-inch wide, and the process was, they would lay these on my face piece by piece by piece by piece. It was a very, very long process. But in that, what you get is something that is really spectacular.

"The first couple of days of camera testing and seeing it and recognizing, 'Hey, we've got something really special. Let's do our best to make sure that nothing is revealed.' So there was a strict mandate that there were no cameras on set. We fired tens upon tens upon tens of people throughout the process. I would say maybe close to 50 people were fired, crew members, all trying to sneak pictures. So there's that. There's mandate, and we all agree on that."

[Related: 5 Lessons We Learned From Paramount's CinemaCon Presentation]

"Hercules" is serious business for Johnson, and he found an equally serious partner in a surprising place: director Brett Ratner ("X-Men: The Last Stand").

"I got a Brett at a very special time," Johnson admits. "What I mean by that is he has had great success, he's been down, he's gotten back up. It's in that come-up that I was able to get Brett. He knew he had this incredible opportunity. He was very passionate about the project, very passionate about Hercules, and very passionate about doing something that was very special. Also, I got a very hungry Brett Ratner. You guys have known Brett for a long time. You know he's a great guy, he's a talented guy, he's a fun guy. It was good to see him at this level and raise his game."

"Hercules" won't be out until the summer, but the wheels are already turning about how Johnson and crew might pursue other mythical adventures.

"It all depends obviously on the box office and how much fans enjoy it," Johnson said when asked if he'd be up for doing a sequel. "If they enjoy it, one of the cool qualities about Hercules is that the stories and the mythology of Hercules, they continue. They continue, where he teams up with Jason and the Argonauts. So there's a lot of different ways we can go. Yeah, I'd love to [do another one]. Sure."

And could there be any other big-name stars joining Johnson on Hercules's next epic voyage? He laughed and answered, "Well, I'm not giving anything away, but there was a moment where — and we just couldn't make the schedules align — it was going to me and Russell Crowe, and we were going to set something up," Johnson teased. "But that's done with. Maybe down the road, you know, just to give you an idea of just how exciting and the different ways we can go. There are a lot of different characters that Hercules comes in contact with."

"Hercules" opens July 25.