Breaking: Universal Studios Group Terminates Contract with Hollywood Icon Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

Universal is parting ways with actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson this week, as the entertainment giant announced it has canceled its contract with the Hollywood star.

Credit: The Hollywood Reporter

Dwayne Johnson is really good at a lot of things. The former wrestler started in the ring in 1996 and almost immediately became a WWE superstar. Known then by his ring name, The Rock, Johnson was widely regarded as one of World Wrestling Entertainment’s greatest professional wrestlers of all time, winning a long list of awards throughout his career in the ring.

His trophy cases and bragging rights are lavishly decorated with trophies, gold belts, and titles related to being a ten-time world champion wrestler, a two-time Intercontinental Champion, a Royal Rumble winner in 2000, and WWE’s sixth Triple Crown Champion. But Johnson left it all behind in 2004 when he stepped away from the world of professional wrestling to pursue a career in Hollywood.

The decision came following the success of his first film, The Mummy Returns (2001), in which Johnson played the Scorpion King opposite actor Brendan Fraser.

Since that time, Dwayne Johnson has made a name for himself in Hollywood as a very capable and accomplished actor, having been cast in some of Hollywood’s most lucrative films and franchises, including The Scorpion King (2002), DOOM (2005), The Game Plan (2007), Get Smart (2008), Race to Witch Mountain (2009), Tooth Fairy (2010), Moana (2016), and Jungle Cruise (2021).

He has also played bounty hunter and federal agent Luke Hobbs in The Fast and the Furious film series for more than a decade, beginning with Fast Five (2011) and continuing with Fast and Furious 6 (2013), Furious 7 (2015), and The Fate of the Furious (2017). He also starred in Hobbs & Shaw (2019), a spin-off movie in the franchise, alongside actor Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw.

In 2019, Johnson announced his formal retirement as a professional wrestler, allowing him to focus the majority of his time and talents on his acting career and his movie house, Seven Bucks Productions. But recent developments have fans wondering if The Rock should give up the red carpet and get back in the ring.

Though actors like Dwayne Johnson are the faces of today’s films, streaming series, and linear television shows, they are only as good as the delivery of their scripted lines. So when there are no scripts, actors, comedians, and late-night talk show hosts have nothing to say, quite literally. Such is the state of Hollywood in 2023.

Because of changes happening in the entertainment industry–many of them brought about by the rise in streaming, writers and actors in Hollywood are on strike. On May 1, after the deadline for a new contract passed with no agreement between writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), nearly 98% of the members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) voted to strike, beginning at 12:01 a.m. on May 2.

Just over two months later, on July 17, members of the Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA, voted to strike as well, marking the first time in 63 years that both guilds have been on strike against the AMPTP. As of the time of this publication, negotiations remain unsuccessful, leaving more than 171,000 people on strike–11,500 WGA writers and 160,000 SAG-AFTRA actors.

And the strikes are taking a toll on Hollywood.

Credit: ABC News

No More Late-Night Entertainment & Widespread Production Delays

Late-night talk show hosts Jimmy Fallon (NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) and Jimmy Kimmel (ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!) hail as comedians, each one brandishing his own unique kind of comedy. But behind the two comedians’ funny stories, quick wit, and humourous accounts of the day’s events are teams of writers who create the lines, the stories, and the quips delivered by both Fallon and Kimmel.

But writers on strike means no writers creating quips. And that means no quips, which immediately means no Fallon and Kimmel. Or Saturday Night Live or Seth Meyers. The WGA strike effectively put a moratorium on late-night entertainment. But that was just the beginning.

The effects of the ongoing Hollywood strikes are now permeating nearly every arena of entertainment, including the film industry, as well as linear television and streaming, and there are no indications that an end to the strikes is even on the horizon.

The Fallout is Far-Reaching and Real

The inability and/or unwillingness of the parties to come to an agreement has led to a fallout in Hollywood, and entertainment and media organizations are feeling the strain of absentee writers and actors and are being forced to make difficult decisions. One of those decisions has led to Universal canceling Dwayne Johnson’s contract. But he’s not alone.

On Monday, NBCUniversal announced a slew of canceled deals and suspensions–each one having its roots in the fallout from the continuing strikes.

Universal Studio Group, which includes Universal Television, Universal Content Productions, and Universal Pictures, contacted its remaining writing and producing partners, asking if they would contribute non-writing services. Partners who have active projects in progress and agreed to continue working were not affected, but partners who have already completed production, as well as those who did not agree to contribute non-writing services, were suspended on Monday.

Two of the most recognizable production companies affected by the move are Lorne Michaels’s Broadway Video Productions and Dwayne Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions.

Credit: Seven Bucks Productions

The partnership between Universal Studios Group and Seven Bucks is no small one. Since Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his ex-wife Dany Garcia founded the production house in 2012, Seven Bucks has produced a number of successful mainstream films and projects, including Disney’s Jungle Cruise, Universal’s Hobbs & Shaw, Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Legendary’s Skyscraper, New Line’s Rampage, Universal’s Red Notice, Warner Brothers The King, and Netflix’s John Henry and The Statesmen.

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” (2021)/Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Seven Bucks also produces original programming for linear television, like HBO’s Ballers, NBC’s The Titan Games, BET’s Finding Justice, Paramount Network’s Rock the Troops, and HBO Documentary Films’ Rock and a Hard Place.

Universal’s move follows a similar decision by Warner Bros. Discovery, which suspended its contracts with writers like J.J. Abrams, Mindy Kaling, Bill Lawrence, and Greg Berlanti last week. In a securities filing with the SEC on September 5, Warner Bros. revealed a projected $500 million loss as a result of the ongoing strikes in Hollywood.