His desperate attempts to get money for his struggling mother got him in trouble with the law a number of times. "I got arrested 8 or 9 times I think by the time I was 17," he said.
Having truly lived a remarkable life, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows in a few decades. On Sunday, May 2, the wrestling legend and well-acclaimed actor celebrated his 49th birthday, and there's no doubt that he has come a long way from his difficult childhood, where he was kicked out of his home at the age of 14 and put behind bars at least eight times by the age of 17.
Back when he was a teenager, Dwayne Johnson was living with his mother, Ata, while his father, Rocky—also a professional wrestler—was going from one wrestling match to another, trying to make enough to survive. Remembering his childhood "as if it were yesterday," Johnson spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about coming back home one day to find an eviction notice stuck to his door when he was 14 years old.
"We were living in an efficiency that cost $120 a week," he said. "We come home, and there's a padlock on the door and an eviction notice. My mom starts bawling. She just started crying and breaking down. 'Where are we going to live? What are we going to do?'" When he turned 15 years old, Johnson saw his mother try to take away her own life right before his eyes, but he saved her in the nick of time. "She got out of the car on Interstate 65 in Nashville and walked into oncoming traffic,” the actor said about the moment, according to Express.
As big rigs and cars quickly got out of the way, "I grabbed her and pulled her back on the gravel shoulder of the road," Johnson said. "...What’s crazy about that suicide attempt is that to this day, she has no recollection of it whatsoever. Probably best she doesn’t."
Confronted with the need to help his struggling family, Johnson began breaking the law to scramble whatever money he could as a desperate teenager. At one point, he joined a "theft ring" and began stealing from tourists, according to Looper.
"We were part of a theft ring that would target those groups. We would target the money, we would target the high-end clothes and we would target the jewelry–turn around and sell it, best we could," Johnson told Muscle and Fitness.
Along with breaking the law to scrape through, Johnson also began building up his body during this time and lay the groundwork for the bright future waiting for him. "At 14 when I started training, at 14 is when I also started getting arrested—for fighting, theft, all kinds of stupid shit that I shouldn’t have been doing. But, I still found time to go to the Boys Club every afternoon to hit the speed bag, hit the heavy bag, hit the iron. I was building my body because again, it’s that eviction mentality. But, I would still f**k around, get in trouble and get arrested. I got arrested 8 or 9 times I think by the time I was 17."
Eventually, after being nearly broke, Johnson followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and got into wrestling. And as they say, the rest is history.
Today, Johnson is one of the highest-paid actors in the world. And he told The Hollywood Reporter a few years back, "I grew up where, when a door closed, a window didn't open. The only thing I had was cracks. I'd do everything to get through those cracks—scratch, claw, bite, push, bleed. Now the opportunity is here. The door is wide open and it's as big as a garage." After crossing off wrestling, acting, writing a book, and setting up his own fashion line, Johnson might dip his feet in politics next and even teased the idea of considering being the next president.
If you or someone you know shows signs of suicidal thoughts, please reach out to 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Cover image source: (L) The Rock/Instagram and (R) Getty Images | Photo by Stuart C. Wilson