First Look at Dwayne Johnson as MMA Legend Mark Kerr in Benny Safdie’s “The Smashing Machine”

A24 has revealed the first look of Dwayne Johnson as MMA legend Mark Kerr in Benny Safdie’s upcoming film The Smashing Machine.

Johnson reunites with his Jungle Cruise co-star Emily Blunt in Safdie’s A24 drama, from a script Safdie wrote with consultation with Kerr. Kerr was a dominant figure in the MMA ring but had no shortage of problems outside of it, including addiction struggles and domestic problems with his wife, Dawn (played by Blunt), more than enough material for the inventive, fearless Safdie to fashion something memorable. The Smashing Machine is in production now in Vancouver and is slated for a 2025 release, but A24 hasn’t yet given it a specific premiere date.

It’s hardly surprising to see Johnson in the ripped physical shape required to play Kerr, a two-time UFC Heavyweight Tournament Champion and World Vale Tudo Championship tournament winner. Where there seems to be a real transformation is in his face, which appears to have been shaped with the help of some prosthetic magic to make him look like the man who won over two dozen MMA titles.

The Smashing Machine is Benny Safdie’s first solo directorial effort. Until now, he has co-directed his previous A24 films, Good Time and Uncut Gems, with his brother Josh. Benny Safdie’s star has risen in front of the camera, recently starring alongside Blunt in Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-winning Oppenheimer.

Blunt had a lot to do with getting Safdie and Johnson back together. She watched a documentary about Kerr, “The Smashing Machine: The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr,” and told Johnson that he had to make a movie about his life. Johnson then reconnected with Safdie—they’d first connected on the project back in 2019—and now the movie is underway.

Speaking with Variety, Johnson has explained what drew him to explore this film with Safdie: “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.”

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Featured image: Dwayne Johnson is Mark Kerry in The Smashing Machine. Courtesy A24.


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