LOS ANGELES, April 11 (Reuters) - It was a decades-old, deep love of arcade video game "Rampage" for actor Dwayne Johnson - and now the burly action star has been able to inhabit the treacherous monster-filled science-fiction world in its big-screen adaptation.
"I played the game in Hawaii when I was 13 years old," Johnson, 45, told Reuters ahead of the Warner Bros.-distributed release of "Rampage" in U.S. theaters on Friday.
"I used to not go to school and go to this pool hall, it was very dingy, and we'd play pool and foosball and then play the 'Rampage' video game for hours," added Johnson, who rose to prominence as professional wrestling's "The Rock."
"Rampage," which was first released as an arcade game in 1986, tells the story of primatologist David Okoye, played by Johnson, who joins forces with an albino gorilla named George in an attempt to thwart an invasion of monsters.
Matters are complicated as George grows to be an aggressive beast after he is subjected to a mysterious experiment that also claims a wolf and crocodile who both threaten to destroy much of the United States.
The film directed by Brad Peyton also stars British actress Naomie Harris, Swedish-Canadian actress Malin Akerman and American actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
"Rampage" is a passion project for Johnson, who is also an executive producer and turned heads during the promotional tour by revealing he had often suffered bouts of depression beginning when he was a teenager.
But Johnson says he could not let his early love of the video game get in the way of paying attention to film's the bottom line.
"Money's not growing on trees for anybody, so there's also responsibility there, we had to make sure that it's good," Johnson said. "You want to have fun but you also recognize that the pressure is on to deliver especially in the monster genre."
The film is estimated to gross some $36.5 million in its opening weekend at U.S. and Canadian cinemas, according to boxoffice.com.
Morgan, 51, said the film also brought him back to his childhood memories.
"That kind of stuff is why I wanted to be an actor when I was playing whatever I was playing in the backyard, spy or cowboys and Indians or whatever we were playing when we were 5 years old, recreating 'Godzilla' movies," he said. (Writing by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Stephen Coates)