While the 2019 Sundance Film Festival looked back on the midterms with the crowdpleasing documentary “Knock Down the House,” the field of 2020 presidential candidates has continued to take shape in the outside world. But one Sundance visitor whose name was once floated as a candidate has no plans to announce his run this year: Dwayne Johnson, who produced the festival’s surprise British wrestling comedy “Fighting With My Family,” has been watching the pieces come together from the sidelines — but said in an interview that he hasn’t given up on the idea of a candidacy at some point.
“I saw Kamala Harris’ speech the other day and thought it was good,” he said. “Just for me, I lack the experience, I lack a lot of things. Certainly not right now.”
Johnson first took his name out of the running in a Rolling Stone article last year. Since then, he has kept the possibility in mind, but not for the upcoming 2020 race. “I’m not ruling it out,” he said, “I’m not ruling out this idea that if I could make a bigger impact somehow, or potentially surround myself with good people.”
Of course, a candidacy for the wrestler-turned-movie star formerly known as The Rock would present a challenge to his global star power by injecting partisanship into his brand. Johnson’s manager and ex-wife Dany Garcia, who also produced “Fighting With My Family” through their Seven Bucks Productions studio, said the idea of Johnson pivoting into politics ran counter to their current focus. “At this point, we’re not in politics, so why leverage this to make our audience feel that?” she said.
Like Johnson, however, she left open the possibility of a future shift. “If we were committed, we’d move the production company aside and say, ‘This is who we are,’” she said. “We have a relationship with the audience based upon a premise, and that’s why they chose to have a relationship with us. What’s my right to change that premise so that now you suddenly have a political relationship with me? You didn’t choose to have a political relationship. Maybe now they do. But it’s about respecting why you engaged with us.”
Johnson’s first Sundance trip with his team stemmed from a personal place: “Fighting With My Family” stars Florence Pugh as Saraya Knight, a teenager from a wrestling family much like his own. Johnson plays himself in the movie, reenacting his support for the real-life Knight when she entered the WWE. For Johnson, who recently wrapped the “Fast and the Furious” spin-off “Hobbs and Shaw” and will begin shooting a “Jumanji” sequel this month, his movie projects are giving him plenty of excuses to avoid politics for the foreseeable future.
“We’re staying in our lane,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who are politicians, many former presidents, senators, former senators. You name it, on every level. While it is extremely flattering that a good amount of people feel that I should run for president, or make a decent president, or not suck at a being president, at the end of the day, I have a tremendous amount of respect for that position.”
MGM will release “Fighting With My Family” on February 14. Stay tuned for more from Johnson and his producing partners in IndieWire this week.