How Dwayne 'the Rock' Johnson went from evictions and struggle to making $89 million a year

Actor Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson during an interview on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on September 24, 2007.
Paul Drinkwater | Getty Images

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is the highest-paid actor in the world: He earned $89.4 million over the last year, according to Forbes. But he doesn't take success for granted.

While back in his home state of Hawaii in 2018 to film Disney's "Jungle Cruise," Johnson spent time reflecting on the troubles he faced growing up.

"A lot of you guys know I grew up here in Hawaii with my family where we struggled, man, like a lot of you guys out there struggle to pay the rent, hustled, doing everything we could to get by," Johnson said in a video he posted on Instagram in June 2018. "You know, this life here, this was never my dream. My dream was that I just didn't want to be evicted anymore."

As he puts it: "You know you're getting your ass kicked when your rent is due by the week. We had a weekly rent and we couldn't even afford that. Eventually we got kicked off the island, we got evicted."

As a teenager, Johnson watched as his parents struggled to afford the basics. They got their car repossessed and couldn't make rent on their one-bedroom apartment. In the end, they had to leave the state, he recalls.

To make matters worse, the 14-year-old Johnson had been "getting into fights and joining a theft ring that preyed on the most affluent stores in Waikiki, which often landed him in the hands of the police," The Hollywood Reporter states, explaining that "he was angry at his father for being absent and for forcing him to move some 13 times during his childhood."

"We were living in an efficiency that cost $120 a week," Johnson told THR in 2014. "We come home, and there's a padlock on the door and an eviction notice. My mom starts bawling. She just started crying and breaking down. 'Where are we going to live? What are we going to do?'"

"I reeeeaaaaalllyy hated that feeling of helplessness and never wanted that to happen again," he recalls in an Instagram post. So Johnson decided to take matters into his own hands, literally: He started working out at the YMCA and set himself up to become first a wrestling champion and then a star.

"That was the tipping point," Johnson tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It was about, 'What can I control with these two hands?' The only thing I could do was train and build my body. The successful men I knew were men who built their bodies."

After years as a professional wrestler, Johnson turned to acting, where he now commands eye-popping salaries to star in movies like "Baywatch" and "Jumanji." On top of that, he earned an estimated $650,000 per episode of HBO's "Ballers" in 2018, in which he plays a retired football superstar re-inventing himself as a financial adviser.

He has also taken smaller gigs like hosting the popular online game HQ Trivia, where he helped give away a $300,000 cash prize, and he may even be considering running for president.

In hindsight, the hardship he suffered growing up taught Johnson a major lesson: "If you're going through hard times, you gotta hold onto that fundamental quality of faith and hard work, because on the other side of those hard times is something better, is a better life."

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This story has been updated.