Dwayne Johnson Waged A Secret War On Jason Statham While Shooting Hobbs And Shaw

It doesn't take more than a brief glance at the "Fast & Furious" films to see how much testosterone is packed into every frame. Fast cars, giant explosions, bulging muscles, scantily-clad women — the franchise is saturated with so much "dudes rock" energy that it can barely be contained on the screen.

So it comes as no surprise that the stars of the films bring their competitive natures to their off-camera antics in addition to their posturing on-camera. While actual animosity between the actors can certainly happen (and has), that competitiveness can manifest itself in other, more entertaining ways. That's exactly what occurred on the set of 2019's "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw," the franchise's first (and, to date, only) spin-off entry starring Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw.

Where the film itself sees Hobbs and Shaw in a perpetual state of annoyance with each other in the style of many a mismatched comedy duo, Johnson sought to maintain a different kind of one-upmanship with Statham in real life, waging a secret war on his co-star that had one particular goal: make Statham laugh as much as possible.

Johnson knows conflict keeps a comedy duo lively

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is no stranger to pranking his co-stars; his relationship with Kevin Hart through the years has been positively Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis-esque, with the former wrestler constantly razzing the diminutive comedian every chance he gets. For instance, while making "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," he tortured Hart — who has a fear of spiders — by placing a big fake spider on him right before a take.

Of course, Hart understands the nature of his relationship with Johnson isn't a one-way street. He gives as good as he gets, such as dressing up for one Halloween in Johnson's infamous fanny-pack-and-chain look and posting a photoshopped pic of himself and Johnson where Johnson is the smaller of the two for a change.

'The Rock' tries to make Statham crack — on a daily basis

While picking on a fellow actor not known for their physical prowess may be one thing, Johnson had no qualms about continuing his penchant for pranks and teasing when faced with a co-star very well known for kicking ass and taking names, Jason Statham. While the characters of Hobbs and Shaw began as bitter antagonists in the "Fast & Furious" films, beginning with Deckard's first appearance in "Furious 7," their reluctant team-up in "The Fate of the Furious" saw their relationship morph from enemies to frenemies, which is where they begin in "Hobbs & Shaw."

Thus, Johnson wanted to keep things playful while still maintaining a rivalry. As "Hobbs & Shaw" producer, Hiram Garcia, recalled upon the film's release:

"Dwayne had a specific goal in every one of their scenes. And that was to make Jason crack. There were always the lines that were scripted, that were gonna be hilarious. But then Dwayne had a specific goal every day of 'What can I say that is just gonna mess Jason up?' Jason's tough, but once you get really under there and pushing Jason's buttons, he starts cracking every time."

Statham — and director David Leitch — have good senses of humor

Johnson's secret war to break up Statham may have backfired if either the actor or "Hobbs & Shaw" director David Leitch didn't have good senses of humor. Fortunately, the two men have a decent history of not taking their work — or themselves — too seriously.

In Leitch's case, he made "Hobbs & Shaw" right after helming "Deadpool 2," which featured a similar blend of unhinged comedy and outsized action. Thus, Leitch was well versed in maintaining control over a film's tone and production while his actors pranked each other, realizing the dynamic would only make the final movie that much more entertaining.

For Statham's part, his turn as Rick Ford in Paul Feig's 2015 action-comedy "Spy" proved to the world that he was more than just a gravel-voiced action hero. While he doesn't play himself in the movie, the character of Rick is clearly intended as a thinly-veiled riff on the macho characters Statham usually portrays, and the fact that Statham sends up both that archetype and his screen persona so winningly proves he's not so self-serious.

For all these reasons, "Hobbs & Shaw" ended up being the funniest "Fast & Furious" movie so far, proving that the franchise had a sense of humor along with its stars. While the film left a few plot threads dangling that have not been addressed in the main "Fast" series yet (and may not be, if Johnson has anything to say about it), hopefully we haven't seen the last of Johnson and Statham as an on-screen action comedy duo.