There are several film buffs on the Cageside staff and — as you’d probably expect given where we work — we have a running discussion about the Hollywood careers of wrestlers-turned-actors.
When it comes to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, one thing we talk about is a brief period in the mid-aughts where Johnson was taking smaller roles in movies like Be Cool, and working with buzzy creators like Donnie Darko’s Richard Kelly (on Southland Tales). It didn’t last long; his run of Disney family films seemed to put an end to it, and with the success of Fast Five he went full popcorn and never looked back.
It’s not necessarily a judgment on movies like Hercules and Skyscraper. We’ve enjoyed a fair amount of Johnson’s filmography over the past decade-plus (shout out to Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain). It’s more a “what if” exercise. Could Rocky have had a more Dave Bautista-like career if he’d chosen a different path?
We may be about to find out. News hit the trades today (Dec. 13) that Johnson will team with A24 — the studio behind last year’s Oscar phenomenon Everything Everywhere All At Once, the upcoming The Iron Claw Von Erichs biopic, and many, many more prestigious & popular projects over the past few years — and writer/director Benny Safdie of Uncut Gems & The Curse fame for a movie about mixed martial artist Mark Kerr, titled The Smashing Machine.
Dwayne @TheRock Johnson will be taking his most dramatic role to date in a new A24 project from one half of the 'Uncut Gems' team, Benny Safdie. He will play Mark Kerr in #TheSmashingMachine: https://t.co/hhENiq7NWE pic.twitter.com/W7ZWqx9FQB— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) December 13, 2023
Johnson announced that his Seven Bucks Production would be working on a film about Kerr back in 2019. At the time no other creative partners were announced, but The Hollywood Reporter now says Safdie has been working with Rock on it since that initial announcement. In addition to producing, Johnson will star as Kerr.
The project takes it’s name from the 2002 HBO documentary The Smashing Machine: The Life & Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr. Kerr, who’s now 50, won the heavyweight tournaments held at UFC 14 & 15 before competing in Japan’s Pride FC from 1998 to 2001. In addition to his career, the HBO doc covered Kerr’s struggles with a painkiller addiction.
We’ll see how it turns out for our guy Rock (Academy Award nominee Dwayne Johnson?). However it goes, it’ll be an interesting change of pace from his upcoming Red Notice 2 for Netflix.