Dwayne Johnson Totally Changing His Acting Choices And We’re Stoked

By Zack Zagranis | Published

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Is The Rock really an uncut gem? That’s what Benny Safdie was banking on when he cast Dwayne Johnson in The Smashing Machine, his solo directorial debut. The A24 film is a biopic about MMA and UFC champion Mark Kerr and a chance for Johnson to spread his acting wings.

Dwayne Johnson Pivots From Action-Comedies

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Since his first role in The Mummy Returns as CGI brute The Scorpion King, Dwayne Johnson has largely stuck to the realm of action-comedies. Some, like Mummy spinoff The Scorpion King, have been more action while others, like Baywatch, have leaned more toward the comedy side. Regardless, most of the Rock’s movie choices have played to his strengths: a dominating physical personality and a fun, affable personality.

Dwayne Johnson Joins Benny Safdie’s Biopic The Smashing Machine

So it was quite a shock to cinephiles everywhere when one of the Safdi brothers—the filmmaking duo behind the nail-biting, anxiety-inducing thriller Uncut Gems—cast Dwayne Johnson in his new movie. Johnson is certainly not known for his serious dramatic work, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t up for the challenge. Clearly, Benny Safdi sees something in Johnson akin to what filmmaker Dennis Villeneuve saw in fellow wrestler Dave Bautista when the director cast him in a dramatic role for Bladerunner 2049.

The Long Road To Making The Mark Kerr Movie Happen

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As Dwayne Johnson tells it, he and Safdie first discussed the project when Johnson’s production company, Seven Bucks Productions, acquired the rights to Kerr’s story. Safdie was so enthusiastic about working with the Rock on this project that he sent him a sweatshirt Mark Kerr wore in the 2002 documentary The Smashing Machine: The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr. Safdie sent a handwritten note along with the shirt expressing the potential he saw in Dwayne Johnson as a serious actor.

Unfortunately, the pandemic put a pin in the two men’s collaboration, and both Safdie and Dwayne Johnson were forced to move on to other projects. Johnson lost touch with Safdi until his Jungle Cruise co-star Emily Blunt reconnected them. Johnson had sent the 2002 documentary to Blunt after telling her it was a project that “really speaks to me” and that the actor really wanted to “sink my teeth into.” After watching the movie, Johnson claims Blunt called him back immediately, insisting he make a movie about Kerr.

“Unbeknownst to me, Christopher Nolan had cast Benny as one of the scientists in Oppenheimer,” Johnson said in a voice memo to Variety. The Rock claims that Blunt spoke to Safdie about him the day after watching the documentary on the set of Oppenheimer. Dwayne Johnson describes Blunt reuniting him with Safdi: “The convergence of kismet and irony.”

Dwyane Johnson’s Most Dramatic Project To Date

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The movie will likely confront Kerr’s triumphs as well as losses in the ring as well as the fighter’s addiction to painkillers. As a result, A24 is already touting The Smashing Machine as Dwayne Johnson’s “most dramatic project and role yet.” Johnson himself, however, doesn’t want anyone to think he’s given up on blockbuster movies like The Fast and the Furious series.

Is He Done With Franchises Like Jumanji?

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“I want to be clear not to say that this is an abandonment of big, four-quadrant movies. I love making them, and there is tremendous value and importance in them.” Johnson told Variety. However, as Rock pointed out, there is a “time and a place” for those kinds of movies, and as the star puts it, “I’m at this point in my career where I want more.” Johnson clarified, of course, that he didn’t mean more profits but rather more “humanity.”We think Dwayne Johnson certainly has the chops to break out as a dramatic actor he just hasn’t been given the opportunity to really show his range yet. Hopefully, that will change with The Smashing Machine.Source: Variety