Dany Garcia Is The DC Superhero You Don’t See Onscreen

“They like to say who you surround yourself is a reflection of yourself. Maybe I take it to heart.”

Dany Garcia is a producer, bodybuilder, and businesswoman.
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Black Adam is, by any measure, a massive movie. The new DC tentpole is tasked with introducing the franchise’s latest superhero, and upending the cinematic universe’s whole “hierarchy of power” in the process. It cost a whopping $195 million to make, and on opening weekend, it soared to the top of the box office. It’s also the “most personal film” that Dany Garcia has produced yet.

Garcia is a bodybuilder, businesswoman, and producer, and though she doesn’t have Black Adam’s name recognition, she’s a pretty big deal herself. Her first career was in wealth management; as a child of Cuban immigrants, Garcia saw financial stability as a way to “take care of the people you love,” she tells Bustle. After spending six years running a boutique wealth management firm, she made a career pivot out of helping her ex-husband and current business partner Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson transition from wrestling to entertainment. Since then, she’s carved out a formidable portfolio as the head of The Garcia Companies, overseeing brands ranging from energy drink Zoa to fintech company Acorns — and, as of two years ago, the XFL, which makes her the first woman to own a professional sports league. There’s also Seven Bucks Productions, the production company behind many of Johnson’s biggest hits, which Garcia helms with Johnson and her brother, Hiram Garcia.

Though Johnson has been publicly attached to Black Adam for 15 years, the project has been brewing since the early ‘90s, when Garcia, her brother Hiram, and Johnson were at the University of Miami. “Dwayne was on the football field and Hiram was the drum major of the marching band,” Garcia recalls. After Garcia met Johnson in the weight room, the three were brought together, and the Garcia siblings realized Johnson reminded them of a certain comic book hero. “We’re like, ‘Black Adam, this character. You, and this character,’” Garcia says. Getting the movie made, she adds, was “an effort of consistency and just being deliberate.”

Over the years, that effort has grown to include more family members — like Garcia’s husband of eight years, Dave Rienzi, who isn’t just a Black Adam supporter but also Johnson’s strength and conditioning coach. “There are some incredible shots of Dwayne without his shirt on, and, you know, Dave was there managing [on] that day,” Garcia says. Over the years, she’s built a team as formidable onscreen as they are offscreen — including Henry Cavill, aka Superman himself, whom she manages. “It’s such an interesting thing to be surrounded by so many superheroes,” she muses. “They like to say who you surround yourself is a reflection of yourself. Maybe I take it to heart.”

Below, Garcia talks Black Adam, the XFL, and what to make of the modern superhero physique.

Hiram Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, and Dave Rienzi at the premiere of Netflix’s Red Notice.Kevin Mazur/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

You’ve said that rowing crew at the University of Miami was the most transformative experience you had as a young woman. What was that like?

I was in the bow pair — I was continuously challenged to defend my seat, and I continuously won. [There was] the camaraderie of being with incredible female athletes. That experience gave me the sink-or-swim aspect of learning to adapt and not only have discipline, but smart discipline. It shaped the tenacity that I’ve carried through my professional career.

Is that drive to “defend your seat” still a part of your mentality today?

Oh, yeah. Especially in the business areas that I went into, there wasn’t cachet. I didn’t come from a family who had been successful in these different ventures. Everything I did, I was going in — and I still go in — only as myself, taking the first step forward. Many of my ventures have never been done before. I’m usually laying down the path.

Knowing Black Adam comes from such a personal place is interesting. You’ve been reading comics since you were a kid, right?

I was a huge X-Men fan, and Superman, and Wonder Woman, and Aquaman — I had such a thing for Aquaman. And my brother was deep, deep into Superman, Batman, and X-Men as well. I had a very nice collection of comic books. It was a big part of who we were.

You and Dwayne come from bodybuilding and wrestling backgrounds. Now, we’re seeing a boom of superhero movies starring actors with these big, ripped physiques — is that something you bought into before the rest of the world did?

Asking anyone to take the walk of building a physique that is a superhero physique, the time and the commitment is intense. The easy part for us — which is really interesting, because nothing’s easy — is that I have a passion for it. My husband has a passion for it. Dwayne has a passion for it. Henry has a passion for it. They love training. And when you’re playing a superhero, there is a truth to the authenticity of training, and to grow muscle. You actually care. There is a grind, there is a rebuilding. And that’s a very grounding experience. It’s a very disciplined experience.

So when you go through that and then you put the moniker on and the character on, you actually have greater depth because it literally is the closest thing you could do to [being a superhero]. Superheroes are reaching for something that’s deep inside of themselves. If you utilize training and you’re not only transforming how you look, but the process of what it takes to do that, it absolutely shows up on film.

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How do you leverage your experience in both sports and entertainment with the XFL?

I love football. And I feel so excited about understanding professional wrestling, understanding filmmaking, being a professional athlete myself, knowing what my athletes are feeling, having every aspect of what it takes to create a phenomenal moment — I'm not just sitting in one chair.

The natural inclination is that the XFL is The Rock’s XFL. And [as co-owner], he's done so much to support my narrative and to allow people to understand that the decision for the XFL came from me and the leadership of the XFL has been through my effort and continues to be my effort. He won't answer [some questions] because he knows I'm there. That's so invaluable. Until everyone can be accustomed to this idea — which of course by itself is unique, having a female owner of a sports league is historic — he's come in such great ways to nuance and say, "Gentlemen, let me introduce you to Dany Garcia."

What does that working relationship look like?

If Dwayne or myself were the exact same person we were in 2008, it would be very difficult to have an empire. So the agreement was a commitment to self-evolution and growth. When you are so different from who you were, it actually is very easy. In addition to that, you have to give an incredible — and I do — incredible level of credit to my husband, Dave Rienzi, and DJ's wife, Lauren Hashian Johnson. They are not only involved in everything we're doing, but they are so supportive of who we are and what our aspirations are because it's a team.

You’ve said before that if women are succeeding quietly, we’re failing. Who are some women that inspire you?

They’re surrounding me. I get inspiration from the female executives who work with me all the time. [And] my daughter [Simone], she's fantastic. Since she's 21, she forces my viewpoint to really bump out of my demo. And all I have to do is just treat her opinions with respect and I learn so much. She is phenomenal.

On the topic of inspiration, what media have you been turning to recently?

I actually am pretty strategic about what I watch and what I don't watch. If I do watch television, I go for light, four-quadrant, humorous. I try not to watch films that are reflective of what society is today, because the type of content I like to make is a bit more aspirational. I'm very specific on that. I did love Only Murders in the Building. Oh my God, I was so delighted.

But I do a tremendous amount of reading. I read a lot of fiction — I spend the majority of my time developing philosophy and strategy, so every once in a while I’m like, “OK, paranormal romance is up. Let’s go.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.