IN A MOVE THAT film critics are citing as ‘potentially career-changing’, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has announced his next phase, and it’s a far cry from both the family-friendly and tough-guy pastiche of his past projects, like Black Adam and Fast X. In an announcement this week, it was revealed that Johnson would be starring in The Smashing Machine, a biopic based on the life of MMA champion Mark Kerr.

Produced by A24— the indie production company that blessed us with Midsummer, Uncut Gems, Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Lighthouse and more, and is known for original treatments and pushing the boundaries of cinematic storytelling—The Smashing Machine starring The Rock is a very interesting proposition. And we can bet it will challenge Johnson’s acting chops in a way we’ve never seen before. So get excited. 

Who is Mark Kerr? 

Mark ‘The Smashing Machine’ Kerr is an American former wrestler and mixed martial artist, with a plethora of championships under his name. During his MMA career, he was a two-time UFC Heavyweight Tournament Champion, World Vale Tudo Championship tournament winner, Pride FC Heavyweight Champion, 1992 NCAA National Wrestling Champion, 1994 National Freestyle Champion and four-time ADCC World Submission Champion

He made his debut in UFC in 1997, where he fought in the heavyweight tournament and went onto win the title in his division and caught the attention of the world. Throughout his career, spanning almost two decades, Kerr was consistently considered among some of the best MMA Heavyweight fighters in the world, but in 2002, a documentary ‘The Smashing Machine’ put him on the radar of those outside of the sport’s fandom.

HBO’s The Smashing Machine (2002) detailed Kerr’s career but also highlighted his personal struggles, substance abuse, relationship issues and addiction issues, and how this impacted his life and career—and even led to an overdose. It’s this documentary that has inspired the A24 film. 

Mark Kerr battles Moti Horenstein during the UFC 14 event inside Boutwell Auditorium on July 27, 1997 in Birmingham, Alabama. GETTY

What can we expect from The Smashing Machine?

In short: we can safely expect The Smashing Machine to be a potent rollercoaster if the team behind the film is anything to go by. Set in the year 2000, the biopic has been written by and will see Benny Safdie in his solo directing debut. One-half of the talented Safdie brothers, Bennie directed Robert Pattinson in Good Time, stressed us all out beyond imaginable in Uncut Gems and offered an uncomfortable authenticity surrounding heroin addiction in Heaven Knows What.   

Johnson and Safdie have been working on the project since Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions acquired the rights to the film in 2019. And while Johnson has been working on his brand the past few years, The Smashing Machine will no doubt offer him a way to truly show us what is underneath that braun and bravado and charm, and we’re hoping that with Safdie’s direction, it’s meaty, complex and magical. 

Who else will star in The Smashing Machine? 

So far, Johnson has been the only cast member announced. A key element of Kerr’s story is his relationship with Dawn Staples, his longtime girlfriend he married in 2000 (not a lot is known about their status right now). As seen in the original documentary, Staples and Kerr’s relationship was complex and tumultuous, so we should expect a leading actress to soon be announced for that role. Also, it’s not uncommon for Safdie to be seen acting in his films and we’ve recently seen him in Oppenheimer, Licorice Pizza, Are You There God? and It’s Me, Margaret, so perhaps he’ll cast himself in a role? We will update this article as more are announced.

When is The Smashing Machine coming out in cinemas? 

Stay tuned.


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