The Rock's Stunt Double On How He Trains to Keep Up With an Action Icon - Men's Health Magazine Australia

The Rock’s Stunt Double On How He Trains to Keep Up With an Action Icon

Stuntman Tanoai Reed has one professional imperative: to make his body look just like The Rock’s. Here’s a snapshot of what it takes.

Tanoai Reed is in paradise. It’s a sunny Friday morning in Laie, an area of Hawaii so remote that the nearest public gym is 40 minutes away. Reed is standing inside the garage that he converted into an old-school home gym, his 190-cm, 118-kg frame hunched under a barbell loaded with 110 kilograms. He glances around. “Dwayne has his Iron Paradise,” he says, referring to the gym that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson famously travels with whenever he’s filming. “I call this my Rusty Paradise.” 

He exhales, stands tall to lift barbell from rack, then reps out 12 squats. Reed enters his version of paradise only when necessary – and more often than not, it’s necessary. Life as a stunt double is never easy. And when you make a living doubling for Hollywood’s preeminent action hero, you always have to be ready for, well, action. “I want to keep my job and make Dwayne look good,” Reed says as he replaces the bar on the rack. “He motivates me a lot.” 

It’s equal parts bodybuilder work ethic and desire to retain his gig that push Reed to pump iron at least four days a week. The 47-year-old Samoan American has spent the past 20 years as Johnson’s stunt double, an invisible starring role that he plays for the 30th time in the comedic action-thriller Red Notice, which landed on Netflix last month. And since The Rock (who also happens to be Reed’s distant cousin) is never out of shape, Reed usually needs to be in shape, too.

Sure, he’ll sneak in a couple weeks off from hard-core gym workouts, instead spending time gardening in his backyard or relaxing with his wife, Suzanne, who’s also a stunt performer. Then the next role approaches and Reed heads back to the Rusty Paradise. Almost always, his focus is on looking the part. Stunt-doubling for Johnson doesn’t necessarily mean performing backflips, and The Rock likes to do his own fight work. (Those WWE days come in handy.) But whenever Johnson’s character slams into a wall or winds up in a car wreck? “Yeah, that’ll be me,” says Reed.

He starts prepping for each film three months before he’s due on set. Right now, he’s just gotten off set, having wrapped up his part in Black Adam, which hits cinemas in 2022. Earlier this year, Johnson promised he’d “deliver the antihero you’ve been waiting for” in his role as DC Comics’ Black Adam, and that meant looking ripped, so Reed followed suit. He’s still in that mode: after his four sets of squats, he blasts through a superset of dumbbell lunges and rear delt flies. He originally drew up today’s workout to prep for 2014’s Hercules, and back then he was already a veteran Johnson stand-in. The man’s
a seasoned lifter, you could say. Not that you couldn’t tell.

How Reed scored his career-defining gig is Hollywood legend. It was 2001 and The Rock was headlining his first film, The Scorpion King, paired with a stunt double who didn’t quite look like him. Enter Reed, then a 27-year-old ex–college football player (sound familiar?) with few stunt credits to his name. He was working as a truck driver on the Universal Studios lot when several stunt guys recognised him and mentioned how much he resembled The Rock. By day’s end, he’d been hired as Johnson’s stunt guy. He hasn’t looked back. “I pinch myself at work when I jump into a  character costume,” he says.

Still, the job can be punishing. Reed remembers his second film with Johnson, 2003’s The Rundown. He spent four days shooting a one-minute scene with a Jeep crashing off a cliff. A few years later, while doubling as a Terminator on Fox’s The Sarah Connor Chronicles, he flew into a windshield, breaking a rib and cracking his kneecap. “They’re like, ‘Do you have another one in you?’ ” he says. “Those are the words stuntmen hate to hear.” Reed did another take.

Yes, the job’s taken a toll on his body, and he admits that it gets harder to prep for each role. But Johnson’s not quitting, so why should Tanoai Reed?

“I love the challenge of doubling Dwayne and the challenge of staying in shape,” he says. “I’ve got abs, and I’m getting paid for them!”

I want to keep my job and make Dwayne look good. I’ve got abs, and I’m getting paid for them


Blast your chest with this push-up circuit  from Tanoai Reed. Do 3 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between each. Don’t rest between moves

Temp push-up

Start in push-up position. Lower slowly, taking 4 seconds. Press back up slowly, taking 4 seconds. Do as many reps as you can. 

Wide-grip push-up

Shift your hands to wider than shoulder width. Repeat the push-up pattern, again doing as many reps as you can.

Close-grip push-up

Shift your hands to just narrower than shoulder width. Repeat the push-up pattern, again doing as many reps as you can.


Go-to cheat food?

“Doughnuts and pizza. I also like my Samoan food. In our backyard, I have an above-ground oven, a Samoan umu. We make a fire with large rocks, and it heats up once the wood is gone. We cook pigs in it and all sorts of traditional Polynesian food.” 

Favourite gym tunes? 

“I like old-school rap: Ice Cube, N.W.A, old-school gangsta rap. I used to listen to it before high school football games. I don’t listen to it when I’m not working out.”

Exercise you can’t stand? 

“Squats are a hate/love relationship. I do hate doing them, but I love doing them. I know they’re so good for me.” 

If you could do one stunt, it would be…

“When you see guys flying through the air backward, they have a harness on with a wire connected to them, connected to a compressed-air cylinder. Push a button and you go flying. I like doing that wire work, high falls.” 

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