Faster - Dwayne Johnson
Driver (Dwayne Johnson) © 2010 CBS Films

In an interesting piece of casting, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton star opposite each other in the new thriller Faster, which tells the story of Driver (Johnson), who has just been released from prison after ten years following a botched bank robbery. However, his mind isn’t on going straight; it’s on avenging the murder of his brother. But the hunter is also the hunted, with a veteran cop (Thornton) on his trail.

Dwayne, in the last couple of years you’ve downsized, you’re 30 pounds lighter than you started out. In this movie you look like you buffed up again, did you?

Faster - Dwayne Johnson
Driver (Dwayne Johnson) paces furiously in his cell as he awaits release © 2010 CBS Films

Dwayne Johnson: Well bigger is always better! I worked my butt off for this movie and it was a role that I was excited about playing and (bulking up) fit with the character, who was incarcerated for ten years.

In that environment, the type of training that they do is very unsophisticated training and there’s a density to a lot of prisoner’s muscularity when they train like that over a period of years.

Billy Bob can you talk about the idea of being a heroin addicted detective? Is this supposed to signal something morally corrupt about this guy from the very start?

Faster - Billy Bob Thornton
Cop (Billy Bob Thornton) © 2010 CBS Films

Billy Bob Thornton: Well, I didn’t work my butt off in terms of being a drug addict! I suppose right off the bat you see that the guy has dipped pretty low in his life, and I think it makes it a more interesting character than just there’s a cop in the movie.

I think one of the flaws in most commercial action movies is that the characters are usually not very developed.

In other words, a lot of times you have the movie star hero and then some bad guys who are just there to be killed by the hero, and they’re nameless, faceless people.

As a result you’re usually not afraid of them, because you don’t see them ask somebody to pass the salt; you don’t see them with their kids.

In this case, which is a tribute to the screenwriters, they have given each character some type of story. And the world-weariness of my character I think added to the movie, because he’s not black or white, it puts him in a very grey area.

Do you see your character as a hero?

Faster - Dwayne Johnson
Driver (Dwayne Johnson) is released from prison © 2010 CBS Films

Dwayne Johnson: When I read the script I didn’t think of him as a hero, nor did I think of him as just a cold-blooded killer. I thought of him as a man who was tortured and there was a lot of turmoil going on.

That which he thought would bring him gratification by killing these men who killed his brother just brings him more pain.

I would go to the ends of the earth to protect my family. I think we all would, so that was something that resonated with me. I read the script and I immediately connected with that man, the man who would do anything to protect the only family he had.

Billy Bob Thornton: I’d like to clear something up. In a day and time when misquotes are used as poisoned darts on a regular basis, I never said that Dwayne’s character was a hero in this movie, I said that in most commercial action movies there’s a movie star hero with a bunch of nameless, faceless bad guys.

I was speaking in general and not about this motion picture.

Dwayne, was it important for you after some very successful collaborations with Disney to kick-ass again?

Faster - Dwayne Johnson and Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Driver (Dwayne Johnson) about to shoot it out with Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) © 2010 CBS Films

Dwayne Johnson: It wasn’t necessarily important to me to go back and kick-ass, or that I had to make an R-rated movie. It was just a matter of getting good material that really resonated with me.

I enjoyed the work that I’d done in the past, whether it was Disney or some of the other studios that I worked with doing comedies and family movies.

But the philosophy has always been pretty straightforward, which is if I see something that I like and I can see its value to the audience, its value to me, then I’m going to take my shot at it, regardless of the genre.

This happened to come along at a time where I’d been waiting for something like this for a long time, something I could sink my teeth into, I read it, I loved it and wanted to do it.

You said that, ‘misquotes are used as poisoned darts on a regular basis,’ when you talk to the press, how do you know how much to give away and how much to keep to yourself?

Faster - Stunt Coordinator Darrin Prescott, Billy Bob Thornton and Director George Tillman
Behind the scenes: Stunt Coordinator Darrin Prescott, Billy Bob Thornton and Director George Tillman walk through the action © 2010 CBS Films

Billy Bob Thornton: I think it’s cool of you to ask that question, because normally we don’t get the opportunity to talk about it that much.

It’s real nice to be able to do good work, work with guys like Dwayne and come in and talk to you guys about it, and I haven’t always been tight-lipped and so as a result I would get in sticky situations every now and then. Because I will talk to you, what I expect from you is not to get stuck-in-the-ass! And for the most part you guys have been really good to me.

Dwayne Johnson: I’ve gotten to know the people in the press over the years and I’ve enjoyed my time. I’ve enjoyed the movies that I’ve done and I enjoy talking about them.

For me it’s always been important to have a private life and keep things pretty simple at home, but I’ve always been pretty open too about answering your questions.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.