I interviewed the delightful Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson the other day for Paramount’s Hercules, a dream role that Johnson has wanted to play since he was a boy.
The bona fide A-lister (the only wrestler to achieve that enviable ranking) is certainly good looking and his muscles are hard to beat, but what sticks with you is his incredible charm.
We happened to be talking about workouts and I showed him my gardening muscles. He surprised me by running with it, making it a connection. He asked how long I’ve been at it, what I grow and what I like about it. It was as though he’d turned on a light. We were connected and went on to a great interview.
His ability to communicate in an intimate but appropriate way with someone who will ask him personal and professional questions and perhaps never see him again reminded me of someone else, another charmer.
Arnold Schwarzenegger! Yes, the unfaithful husband. His charm got out of control, yes indeed. But during an interview once, he stopped the cameras to call in the makeup artist. He’d noticed my tan (well, burn) lines and had the woman cover them. He wanted me to look and feel my best. While she was working he asked me questions about my life and work.
I found out afterwards that he asked everyone something about themselves that he would refer to in the interviews, throwing the spotlight on them. He took a lot of trouble to make us feel at home and to connect. In this business it’s special because many showbiz types are self-involved. You don’t forget.
It’s interesting that many memorably charming stars are A-listers. Their intelligence and interest in others is unusual. A rarity, this gift of curiosity and interest and it has power. That personal power can translate into stardom on a screen, because it’s extraordinary.
I’ve met a A-listers with that disarming charm:  Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, David Lynch, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Drew Barrymore, Emma Thompson. Sandra Bullock and Liv Ullman. Who knows the psychological aspects of the Big Star/ Charm axis?
Not me, but I recognise it.
It’s irresistible and can be intoxicating. It makes us feel like we’ve stepped into a warm bath, that we’re with a friend, someone who is safe and real. It’s authentic. I don’t believe it happens by accident.   It’s good business to go the extra mile.
A-list stars meet people with less conventional status every day of their lives. They make them feel comfortable, and improve their own days by moving out of themselves and giving attention to others. They know the effect is positive.
Whatever it is, we need more of it. Authentic charm is a balm on the wounds of life. It improves everything. And on the big screen, when it’s real, it’s a joy.
And doesn’t it make you feel great?