You can take the guy out of fighting, but you can’t take fighting out of the guy. After becoming a superstar as WWE professional wrestler The Rock, Dwayne Johnson successfully parlayed his way into contemporary Hollywood royalty. But there will always be a bit of Rock in him. Which might explain why, as Variety reported, he sprung a surprise Madison Square Garden press conference on attendees of a UFC fight he was guest presenting. At this conference, Johnson announced that he would be playing renowned but controversial UFC fighter Mark Kerr, and produce the project through his Seven Bucks Productions company.
Kerr’s story, for those unfamiliar with UFC, is undoubtedly fascinating. As shown in HBO’s 2002 documentary about Kerr, The Smashing Machine, Kerr battled many personal demons in addition to his foes in the ring. He had a tumultuous, on-and-off-again relationship. He bruised and battered his body due to his inherently risky profession. And he struggled with opiate addiction and sobriety — the HBO doc shows some graphic footage of Kerr using drugs and overdosing. His story has never been told in a scripted film, and it looks like Johnson is aiming to change that.
Johnson didn’t announce many other details during the conference — a studio, director, writer, and co-stars aren’t coming for awhile — but it might reveal a new path for the actor/producer. While he’s been seeing massive success with huge crowd-pleasers like the Fast and the Furious and Jumanji franchises, Johnson has yet to make a darker-skewing, prestige play. With all of the warts inherent in the Kerr story, this just might be Johnson’s first attempt to explore more grown-up big-screen materials. Could an Oscar be far behind for The Rock? We’ll just have to wait and see if we can smell what else he’s cooking.