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Wrestler 'The Rock' Battles Ancient Foes in <i>The Scorpion King</i>

Professional wrestler Dwayne Johnson is better known by his nickname in the ring: "The Rock." And now he can add "movie star" to his list of accomplishments. The charismatic athlete plays the title character in a new action adventure set in ancient Egypt. VOA's Alan Silverman has a look at The Scorpion King.

"The Rock" plays Mathayus, a skilled warrior who leads a ragtag band of desert tribes in rebellion against a brutal warlord.

The many battle scenes are energetic updates of the classic "swords-and-sandals" adventures Hollywood used to turn out.

The Scorpion King is very 'kid friendly' and leaves a lot to the imagination," he explains, "especially the love scene. I thought the humor was very creative and simple. It's like a throwback. It reminds me of Indiana Jones and movies like that."

"The Rock," (Dwayne Johnson) says it was important to him that his first starring film role be appropriate for the fans of his World Wrestling Federation performances; although he says it was just as important that The Scorpion King seem like one of those highly theatrical matches.

"There weren't 'suplexes' or elbows being dropped in these fight scenes," he says. "Actuallly, I was adamant about not doing any idiosncratic nuances of wrestling. I didn't want that in there because I felt that if you're going to come spend your hard earned money and see me portray 3000 B.C. as The Scorpion King and suspend your disbelief, I'm going to keep you in 3000 B.C. I'm not going to be flying off the top rope at anybody. I was pretty adamant about that and I thought it really worked," he emphasizes. " I was pretty happy with the fight scenes."

His character also finds unexpected romance with the warlord's sorceress played by Kelly Hu and "The Rock" admits her extremely revealing costumes made some of their scenes a true test of concentration.

"Well you know, it takes a true professional like myself to stay focused in a situation like that and I cam through with shining colors," he notes.

"You know after about one week of wearing those skimpy costumes, it didn't really matter any more, " says Hawaiian-born Hu, who has a "black belt" in martial arts. "I think people just got used to seeing me that way. You could tell when there were new people on the set, though, because they would stare and say 'is that what she's really wearing?' Can I really see through that stuff?"

She says scanty wardrobe aside, the character can certainly hold her own in a fight.

"I think women don't want to be seen as soft, feminine, little helpless creatures any more. That's certainly not where we are and I love this role. I love the fact that I get out there and kick, she explains. " But I must say it wasn't originallly written that way. When I got to play the role of the sorceress, she wasn't doing all that physical stuff. I was attracted to the fact that she was a strong character and I think it was a great role even before all this kicking stuff got put in."

The Scorpion King director Chuck Russell says the battle scenes are fun, but he was most concerned with characters and a story that audiences could care about.

"The spectacle is the icing on the cake and it's so much fun to be a ringmaster in this arena where you get to use all the big colors and lights and wonderful athletes and artists," he says. "But I think we all know that if the characters aren't involving, if the performance doesn't draw us in, if the story is not involving, it doesn't matter how grand a set is or how fantastic a speciall effect is. So first we concentrate on character and story. "

The Scorpion King also features Michael Clarke Duncan as a rival warrior who becomes an ally; and English actor Steven Brand is the evil warlord Memnon.