Producer Dany Garcia Says Baywatch's Bikini-Clad Stars Are 'Empowering' to Women

Actors Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron "got to be eye candy, too" she says

Paramount Pictures' World Premiere of "Baywatch"
Photo: Jason Koerner/Getty; Paramount Pictures

Producer Dany Garcia knows a thing or two about strong women.

The manager and producing partner of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — and professional bodybuilder since 2014 — was eager to take on the popular 1990s TV series, Baywatch, and turn it into an R-rated, action-packed comedy for the big screen. Under one specific condition: “I wanted to see if we could change the game for our female actors,” Garcia tells PEOPLE. “Let them own their sexuality and be self-aware. It was so important, I wouldn’t have been able to move forward without that real understanding.”

The result is an impressive array of beach bodies for the audience to enjoy but especially those of the film’s male stars Zac Efron and Johnson. “We wanted to speak to the reality of what life is, which is women checking out men and men checking out women,” Garcia adds. “Dwayne and Zac got to be eye-candy, too. It was so on-point and the women owned it. It’s empowering.”

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Frank Masi

The same could be said of Garcia’s reign in Hollywood. Having graduated from the University of Miami in 1992 with a degree in international marketing and finance, Garcia was a vice president at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith investment firm before starting her own wealth management firm. She and Johnson married in 1997 but split a decade later. When they finalized their divorce in 2008, Garcia became his manager and the two formed Seven Bucks production company together in 2012.

“We are extremely collaborative,” Garcia says of their unique relationship and bond. “We just have so much fun delivering to the audience. Obviously Dwayne works incredibly hard. He’s the only individual on a work basis that has ever matched me. As far as I want to go, he wants to go, or he wants to go farther and then I go. People always ask about the secret to our success: It’s two people who are very passionate about what they do, who love what they do, and are extremely disciplined in the work.”

The two are also committed parents to their 15-year-old daughter, Simone, who signed with IMG Models. Balancing work and motherhood is “more collaborative” now that her daughter is older. “Simone has shifted from needing me the way she did as an infant or when she was three or five,” says Garcia, who married bodybuilder Dave Rienzi in 2014. “Now at 15, she travels with us and she’s on set. We were able to pull her in and let her have a voice, not only because she represents an age group that is important to us but it allows her to be a part of everything.”

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When Garcia became a professional bodybuilder, “Simone was the first person backstage who came running to me with tears in her eyes,” Garcia recalls. “It was so beautiful. I get to flip that and support her now that she’s at the beginning of her relationship with the audience.”

Aside from Seven Bucks, Garcia also runs her own talent and media management firm, The Garcia Companies, which represents Justice League‘s Henry Cavill, in addition to Johnson. “I came from the business world,” she says. “Entertainment is about who are you and what are you saying creatively.” For young women who dream of becoming key players in Hollywood, Garcia insists it’s most important to “become comfortable with your opinion,” she adds. “Then support that point of view. It’s all about investing in yourself. That means expanding your own perception, reading books that help open your thought process and the way you see the world. It’s the greatest tool I have and the reason I’m able to do so many different things.”

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