Out Magazine celebrated its 30th anniversary, and former editor Jeffrey R. Epstein (no, not that Jeffrey Epstein) marked the occasion by revisiting some of his favorite cover stories over the years.
Among them was a feature with former WWE wrestler and current blockbuster superstar Dwayne Johnson titled “The Rock Goes Gay!” Reflecting on the piece, Epstein remarked that Johnson was a “class act” and one of “the nicest, smartest humans I have ever interviewed.”
Later that day, Johnson quote-tweeted the memory, sharing that, at the time, he was warned that taking a gay role would ruin his career. His response? “I said ‘hold my tequila and f*ck off.’ Nicely of course.”
Jeff, thanks man so much for these very kind words. I always say, “it’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice”.
I was told back then (by a few influential folks) that playing a gay man would “ruin my career”
I said “hold my tequila and f*ck off”
Nicely of course ? https://t.co/t2Irhk4EF9
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) July 31, 2022
Regardless of your thoughts on gay-for-pay roles, it’s pretty cool for a straight actor like Johnson—especially someone with his star wattage and mass appeal—to have no hang-ups about playing queer.
But this trip down memory lane inspired us to seek out the movie that convinced The Rock to “go gay,” and, uh, it’s a doozy.
Be Cool was the confusing and poorly reviewed follow-up to the 1995 gangster comedy Get Shorty, both based on Elmore Leonard novels. The original followed mobster Chili Palmer (John Travolta) as he fumbled into a career in Hollywood, while its follow-up saw Chili attempting to make the transition into the music industry.
Among Be Cool’s eclectic ensemble is Johnson as Eliot, a gay man with dreams of becoming a movie star, who also happens to be the bodyguard to rival music producers. The actor does his best to play Eliot without making him a stereotype, but the rest of the movie does him absolutely zero favors.
If the central role for Christina Milian didn’t make it obvious, the 2005 film is definitely a product of its era (no offense, queen—we still love “Dip it Low“). But that’s no excuse for the homophobic jokes and remarks that run rampant through the film. Take, for example, this cringey scene where Eliot’s employer, Raj—played noxiously by Vince Vaughn—tries to apologize to him after saying f*gg*t.
The rest of the movie doesn’t fare too well either, trafficking in unfortunate stereotype after unfortunate stereotype.
Be Cool takes great pains to let you know it’s on the joke (like in this deleted music video scene, featuring Johnson’s character performing “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man”), but that doesn’t make it look any less problematic 17 years later.
But we can’t dismiss the film entirely because, thanks to Johnson’s committed performance, it did give us one gift that we’ll cherish forever: A scene where The Rock performs a “monologue” from Bring It On. In it, Eliot recites both Gabrielle Union and Kirsten Dunst’s line from the famous “bring it” exchange just before the movie’s climax. It’s a sight to behold:
Would we recommend Be Cool? No, no way—absolutely not. But do yourself a favor and check out the clip above. It might not ever earn a spot in the Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures, but Johnson definitely earns to laughs with his spirited interpretation of Bring It On. And for that alone, well, we’ll give him a pass for playing gay in this otherwise forgettable movie.