Dwayne Johnson has announced his intention to focus on more dramatic roles, saying he wants to make movies that address “struggle [and] pain”.
It was recently announced that the 51-year-old actor will portray MMA fighter and UFC stalwart Mark Kerr in A24’s upcoming biopic The Smashing Machine.
The film will be written and directed by Benny Safdie, who previously co-wrote and directed Uncut Gems, one of the independent studio’s biggest commercial successes to date.
Speaking to Variety about his upcoming collaboration with Safdie, Johnson said, “Benny wants to create and continues to push the envelope when it comes to raw and real stories, authentic and at times disturbing and striking characters.”
I’m at a point in my career where I want to push myself in ways that I haven’t pushed myself in the past. I’m at a point in my career where I want to make movies that are meaningful, that are human, that are about struggle [and] pain.
On the other hand, the Black Adam star added that he won’t leave blockbuster productions completely behind.
“I want to be clear that this doesn’t mean giving up on big, mainstream movies. I love making those movies, and [they] have tremendous value and importance… But there’s a time and a place for them.”
I’m at a point in my career where I want more. I’m not saying I want more box office, I want more humanity. That’s why Benny Safdie is the perfect partner for me, open and hungry for collaboration.
A24 touts The Smashing Machine as Johnson’s “most striking project and role to date”.
Johnson will portray Kerr, a former wrestler who competed in mixed martial arts from 1997 to 2009. During his MMA career, Kerr, a two-time UFC Heavyweight Tournament Champion and tournament winner of the World Vale Tudo Championship, also competed in Pride FC.
Previously, Kerr was the subject of a 2003 HBO documentary, also titled The Smashing Machine, in reference to the wrestler’s longtime nickname. The new movie will reportedly be set at the turn of the millennium and will focus on Kerr’s successes in the ring as well as his struggles with love and addiction.
Noah Sacco, A24’s Head of Recruitment, told Deadline:
Dwayne and Benny are unique talents and the vision they share for Mark’s inspiring story is exciting. We are honored to have their trust as contributors as we bring this very special project to life.
Before starting his acting career, Johnson made his name as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) star The Rock.