Dwayne Johnson puts on even more muscle to portray the demigod 'Hercules'

"Creating and maintaining that kind of physique requires astute attention to detail. Sometimes you have to back off on cardio or add cardio or train three times a day or bump calories to 8,000 a day or back off calories. It's a big challenge, but it should be a challenge to play Hercules!"

Johnson is used to challenges. This is a man, after all, who morphed from a professional wrestler known as The Rock into one of Hollywood's most sought-after leading men.

As far as Ratner in concerned, Johnson's unusual back story made him ideal casting for the role of an ever-transforming hero endowed with the strength of a god.

"Dwayne was born to play Hercules," says Ratner. "And his dedication to embodying him was amazing. He trained from the crack of dawn every day. Of course Dwayne has done many big action movies before but I don't think he's ever played a role quite like this one. This has the big spectacles, the fighting and the fun, but it also has incredible emotion and heart."

Up next for Johnson are two more big action movies. On April 3, he'll reprise his role as a police officer in "Fast & Furious 7," which once again stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster and Paul Walker, in his last film before he was killed in a car crash. Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou and Kurt Russell are also featured.

Two months later, Johnson toplines "San Andreas," a disaster movie set in the aftermath of a massive California earthquake. Johnson plays a rescue-chopper pilot who makes a dangerous journey across the state in search of his estranged daughter (Alexandra Daddario, who made her starring film debut in the Lehigh Valley-shot "Bereavement.") The film hits theaters on June 5.

Amy Longsdorf is a frelance writer.

Jodi Duckett, editor

jodi.duckett@Mcall.com

610-820-6704

'HERCULES'

What: Fresh take on Greek demigod renowned for his mighty deeds and valor. Based on the graphic novel "Hercules: The Thracian Wars."

When: Opens Friday

Where: Area theaters

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane

Rating: PG-13 for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language and partial nudity

Running time: 1 hr. 38 mins.

•Info: http://www.mightyhercules.com