In the contrived, operatic world of pro wrestling, you had to give props to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who became the WWE's guilty pleasure not for his headlocks, but for his punchy pregame banter. Everyone, it seemed, could smell just what The Rock was cooking. "Wrestling was like stand-up comedy for me," Johnson, 36, explains. "Every night I had a live audience of 25,000 people to win over. My goal was never to be the loudest or the craziest. It was to be the most entertaining."

Following in his family's footsteps, the 6'5", 240-pound Hawaii-raised bruiser picked up some of that savvy showmanship from his dad, one of the sport's first black stars, and from his equally gifted maternal grandfather. But given the behemoth biceps, expressive eyebrows, and Crest Whitestrips smile, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood jumped into the ring with Johnson. His first five-minute cameo in The Mummy Returns - much snarling in a fetchingly sooty loincloth--was so popular that he swiped the lead in its cheese-crusted spin-off, The Scorpion King. "You've got to keep your finger on the pulse of what your audience is thinking," he says, "and know what they'll accept from you."

Which is to say, Johnson sticks with what works - and these days, that's good-natured family fare like The Game Plan and this month's Race to Witch Mountain, as the world's most ripped cabbie. Not that he'd never bust type - or a move. "I'd love to do a musical," says Johnson. "I've been known to have a good step or two. I'm half Samoan, you know, and part of our culture is singing and dancing daily." The Rock in a hula skirt? We're in.

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