Get a first look at Dwayne Johnson – with hair – in A24’s ‘The Smashing Machine’

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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is doing something different for “The Smashing Machine.” The mixed martial arts biopic is the first film that could get the blockbuster action star some awards attention. And a first-look photo from the film reveals that Johnson looks different than usual. 

Studio A24 released the photo on X. It shows Johnson in character as Mark Kerr, a wrestler and MMA fighter. Johnson appears to have some facial prosthetics, his characteristic tattoos are covered up, and his usually bald head sports a wig. He looks a lot like he did when he emerged as a pro wrestling star in the late ‘90s. 

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“The Smashing Machine” is in production now. It follows the life and career of Kerr, a champion in the brutal sport of Brazilian no-holds-barred fighting and of the UFC in the promotion’s early years, and his struggles with addiction. It’s inspired by a 2002 documentary about Kerr of the same name, which is Kerr’s nickname. The film is written and directed by “Uncut Gems” director Benny Safdie, making his solo directorial debut after splitting from his brother Josh

The cast also includes Emily Blunt as Kerr’s wife Dawn Staples and MMA champion Ryan Bader as Kerr’s trainer Mark Coleman. Blunt previously worked with Johnson on “Jungle Cruise” and with Safdie on “Oppenheimer,” in which Safdie appeared as an actor. Johnson and Dany Garcia are producing alongside Safdie, Eli Bush and David Koplan.

The film seems positioned to do for Johnson what A24 and Safdie previously did for Adam Sandler with “Uncut Gems.” While Sandler was not nominated for an Academy Award for his performance, he earned some of the best reviews of his career for his intense performance as gambling addict Howard Ratner. Kerr is a similarly extreme, psychologically interesting character, and will give Johnson the opportunity to play a more complex character than usual while staying within the ring he knows so well. 

In a Variety profile of Safdie earlier this year, Johnson said that he was drawn to “The Smashing Machine” because “Benny wants to create, and continues to push the envelope when it comes to stories that are raw and real, characters that are authentic and at times uncomfortable and arresting. I’m at a point in my career where I want to push myself in ways that I’ve not pushed myself in the past. I’m at a point in my career where I want to make films that matter, that explore a humanity and explore struggle [and] pain.”

A24 has not yet set a release date for the film.

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