A Christmas-themed film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a Santa of sorts wrapped filming in February of this year, and the famed wrestler-turned-actor made history by amassing a $50 million payout upfront–just to take the role. Amazon’s Red One was even slated for a 2023 holiday release, but now, as the holiday season is approaching, the film has suddenly disappeared.
The Midas Touch
Dwayne Johnson’s story is one of rags to riches, of fame and glory to more fame and glory, and one that showcases his Midas touch.
As a pro wrestler, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has proven to the world–and to himself–that he has what it takes to win big in the ring. The son and grandson of pro wrestlers, The Rock began his wrestling career in 1996 and rose to WWE super-stardom almost overnight. Over the course of his wrestling career, Johnson earned the title of one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, amassing numerous awards and championship wins, including being named a ten-time world champion, two-time Intercontinental Champion, a 2000 Royal Rumble winner, and the WWE’s sixth Triple Crown Champion.
Though he enjoyed the ring and the fame he earned with the WWE, Johnson ultimately left the world of professional wrestling in 2004, just a few years after being cast as the Scorpion King opposite Brendan Fraser in his first hit movie, The Mummy Returns (2001). A year later, Johnson starred in the spinoff film The Scorpion King (2002), and his career in Hollywood has only skyrocketed since then.
It’s why now, in 2023, fans don’t understand how a film for which he was paid $50 million upfront has suddenly disappeared.
A Record-Setting Payout by Amazon
In July 2023, news of a record-breaking deal between Amazon Prime Studios and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made the headlines across various media outlets. Amazon Prime Studios cast Johnson in a part in its upcoming holiday film, Red One, which also stars Chris Evans (Captain America), Lucy Liu, JK Simmons, and Nick Kroll. For his part, Johnson received the largest upfront payout in the history of entertainment–a cool $50 million.
The script for the Christmas-themed film was written by screenwriter Chris Morgan, who also wrote scripts for the Fast & Furious film series, and the film was directed by Jake Kasdan (Jumanji). Amazon’s Red One is also–get this–a holiday action-adventure film. It’s produced, of course, by Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions, the production house he owns with Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia.
But fans may just have to use their Christmas imagination to dream up what The Rock would fare as Old St. Nick, as the film seems to have gone missing.
What Happened to the Film?
The holiday season is quickly approaching, and almost every film from every studio that is slated for a holiday debut has already advertised the date of its theatrical debut–all except Amazon Studios and Red One.
Movie buffs and film fans will tell you that even a studio like Amazon likely needs to see the film released this holiday season, especially since Johnson already received his massive payout. But for whatever reason, Amazon seems to have gone radio silent on its new Santa-themed flick, leaving fans to wonder just what has happened to the film.
It wasn’t a situation like PIXAR’s in the late 1990s when the entire film was seconds from total and permanent annihilation.
In this day of advanced technology and the availability of digital formats of film, etc., it’s certainly not a case of “Oops, we lost the film!” or “I thought you had it/No, I thought you had it/No, I know you had it.” And since filming for the new movie wrapped in February–three months before any of this year’s Hollywood strikes began–we’re not so sure we can throw the WGA and SAG-AFTRA under the bus on this one either.
PopVerse has another theory–that the disappearance of Amazon’s Red One might have to do with Dwayne Johnson’s busy appointment calendar:
“‘Red One’ is the type of movie that will rely on the publicity drummed up by its big-name celebrity stars, and if those stars can’t promote the film, the studio may be waiting until they can. But will they wait an entire year for the movie to be seasonally relevant again? Or will they simply take the hit and release a Christmas movie in the summer? Only time will tell.”
Yes, only time will tell. But some of us were hoping that as the year drew to a close, we were getting closer to finally seeing Dwayne Johnson in the Santa suit. It’s one of only a few personas we’ve yet to see him embrace.