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The Rock Is Unrecognizable as MMA Fighter in A24’s The Smashing Machine

The Rock Is Unrecognizable as MMA Fighter in A24 The Smashing Machine
Dwayne JohnsonJeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has cooked up quite the transformation for his upcoming movie The Smashing Machine

On Tuesday, May 21, the first image from the upcoming A24 film was released, showing Johnson, 52, as MMA fighter Mark Kerr

The actor can be seen sporting Kerr’s distinctive hairstyle while sitting on a chair in the corner of a ring as Emily Blunt, who plays Kerr’s ex-wife, Dawn Staples, looks on in distress.

The Smashing Machine, written and directed by Benny Safdie, tells the story of Kerr, the troubled wrestler-turned-MMA-fighter who became an icon in the sport. The movie marks the directorial debut of Safdie, 38, who previously codirected movies Uncut Gems and Good Time with brother Josh Safdie

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Johnson, Blunt and Benny have been circling The Smashing Machine since 2019, when Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions bought the rights to Kerr’s life story.

After filming 2021’s Jungle Cruise together, Johnson sent Blunt, 41, the 2002 documentary The Smashing Machine: The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr. As he told Variety in January, Johnson told Blunt he wanted to “sink my teeth” into the role of Kerr. 

Once Blunt watched the documentary, Johnson recalled her calling him and saying, “You must make this movie.”

As the pieces began falling into place, Johnson knew Benny, 38, was the right man for the job. 

“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,” Johnson told Variety. “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.”

The Smashing Machine Dwayne Johnson The Rock

Johnson further explained that The Smashing Machine does not signal a permanent shift away from the blockbusters that he’s built a career on, saying, “There’s a time and a place for them.”

“I’m at this point in my career where I want more,” Johnson continued. “And I don’t mean I want more box office. I mean I want more humanity.”

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On Tuesday, Johnson gave a behind-the-scenes look at his training for the movie via Instagram, which included a visit from Kerr himself. 

“He’s still a f–king machine, that can close the distance with scary speed and power,” Johnson shared alongside a series of photos of him and Kerr working together. “I’ll forever be grateful to the core for his invaluable knowledge he’s been gracious enough to pass onto me and especially for the brotherhood we share.”

A release date for The Smashing Machine has not been announced. 

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