Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson pays tribute to late father in emotional award speech: 'He was a real trailblazer'

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Blake Harper
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Dwayne
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson dedicated his March 5 Hollywood Critics Association's Trailblazer Award to his late father. (Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was the recipient of the Hollywood Critics Association's Trailblazer Award on Friday night and in an emotional speech, the ex-wrestler turned movie star honored his late father Rocky Johnson.

"I'm going to dedicate this trailblazer award to my dad, my old man who died a little over a year ago," The Rock said during his speech, which he delivered remotely. "Man, that guy was a trailblazer. As complicated as our relationship was — our father-son relationship, complicated, tough love, tough love — but he was a real trailblazer because what trailblazers do is they change people's behavior. And that's what he did. And he did everything he could to send people home happy."

As a professional wrestler, Rocky was, of course, an inspiration to his son but he also had a groundbreaking career in his own right, even as he dealt with industry racism, which he said occurred "a lot," according to GQ Australia. In 1993, Rocky entered the WWE where he teamed up with "Mr. USA" Tony Atlas and together, they were the first Black winners of the World Tag Team Championship, per Rocky's WWE bio.

The Rock has spoken previously about his relationship with his dad, who was "not an 'I love you' guy," as the Jumanji star told Oprah in January 2020. And earlier this year, he revealed that Rocky was homeless by the time he was 13, an experience that influenced his approach to parenting. Despite his dad giving him "an extraordinary life," The Rock acknowledged that their relationship wasn't typical.

However, it sounds like the two had reached a level of understanding before Rocky's death from a heart attack at the beginning of last year. As The Rock told Oprah Winfrey, “The day he died, that night I went to bed, I felt so grateful and moved. Because I realized, oh wow, I have a new relationship with you. Clean slate. No regrets. No pain. No complications. Just me and you."

Now, the actor makes a point to avoid a negative cycle with his own kids — he told Winfrey that his dad's inability to open up and show affection inspired him to do the opposite with his three daughters, Tiana, 2 and Jasmine, 5, whom he shares with wife Lauren Hashian. The Rock also has a 19-year-old daughter named Simone with his ex-wife Dany Garcia.

"My dad loved me with the small capacity with which he was capable of," Johnson explained. "With my daughters, I want to be as full and as present as I can. I want my daughters to know I love them truly unconditionally."

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