Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson: Wrestler, Actor and Per Court Ruling, a Journalist, Too

Someone tried to argue that Dwayne Johnson was merely a celebrity who couldn't do documentaries — only reality television. A judge rejects that contention.
Samir Hussein/WireImage

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is pretty good at laying down "The People's Elbow." He's also undeniably one of the biggest movie stars in the world. But let's add something new to his illustrious résumé: He qualifies as a journalist, too.

Here's the background to a New York Supreme Court decision Wednesday that bestowed Johnson with privileges granted to journalists.

Johnson produced Rock and a Hard Place, an HBO documentary released in 2017 that featured incarcerated juveniles in a rehabilitative six-month "boot camp" program with the opportunity to complete in lieu of a harsher prison sentence.

Christy Laster was a correctional officer at the program at the time Rock and a Hard Place filmed in Miami-Dade County, Fla. She was later criminally charged for bribery, grand theft and extortion.

Laster believes that outtakes from Rock and a Hard Place will help her rebut the allegation of extorting money from the program's cadets and stealing from a lockbox where valuables were kept in an office room. So she issued a subpoena to HBO.

In response, HBO moved to quash the subpoena under New York's Shield Law, which protects against the compelled disclosure of information gathered by journalists.

At a court hearing, Laster's attorney argued that the involvement of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in Rock and a Hard Place rendered it a "celebrity reality TV show," as opposed to a "documentary" that was entitled to the protections afforded under the Shield Law.

Judge Carol Edmead isn't impressed with that argument.

She responds that Laster "cites no authority for the notion that the mere involvement of a celebrity in a project renders it somehow incapable of being classified as a documentary, or that a celebrity known for other endeavors cannot be deemed a 'journalist' under the statute."

The Shield Law's "very broad definition of 'professional journalist' encompasses anyone involved in news gathering," Edmead continues. "Furthermore, the Court notes that even were the project more entertainment-focused, the broad definition would still likely apply as long as one of the purposes of the project was disseminating news to the public about the youth incarceration program."

Having rejected the contention that "The Rock" isn't sufficiently like Bob Woodward or Anderson Cooper, Edmead then moves on to noting that Laster merely hopes that outtakes exonerate her from criminal charges, and without a firmer basis, she's pursuing a fishing expedition that the law simply doesn't allow against journalists. Yes, even Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Here's the full ruling.