Dwayne Johnson to team with Benny Safdie

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In a long overdue move, Dwayne Johnson is heading back into more dramatic territory as a troubled MMA fighter in A24’s The Smashing Machine.

Here’s a tag team that is surely capable of winning championship gold: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is pairing up with Benny ‘Uncut Gems’ Safdie to form a what could be a formidable creative alliance. The duo will be collaborating on The Smashing Machine for A24.

The project will dramatise the real-life story of Mark Kerr, a two-time UFC tournament champion back in the early days of mixed martial arts when many still saw the sport as little more than ‘human cockfighting’. Kerr was a talented fighter who competed all over the world yet found himself battling painkiller addiction and a sport that was evolving rapidly around him as it struggled to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Benny Safdie has written the project which is set to mark his first solo outing as director.

Safdie has co-directed his other acclaimed films (Good Time, Uncut Gems) with his brother Josh. As it stands, it looks like Josh might be taking on the Adam Sandler 'sports memorabilia’ project that we’ve been hearing about for some time now, whilst Benny (alongside a successful acting career) is helming this project.

As far as Johnson stands, we particularly like this news: the actor has made choices over the last decade that have become increasingly safe so it will be great to see him stretch himself as an actor. If The Smashing Machine works out, it could open a whole new avenue for his career and see him taking on riskier roles in a way that we haven’t seen Johnson do since much. much earlier in his filmography.

Finally, there’s the A24 element to this story: a couple of months ago we heard that the studio was set to move into ‘action and IP-led’ projects.

Whilst this doesn’t quite fit that bill, it is a big movie star project of sorts. If the beloved indie studio can find a way to bring lots of eyeballs to its films (by recruiting stars of Johnson’s profile) whilst still telling stories with drama and urgency then maybe we’ll all still be winners.

We’ll bring you more on The Smashing Machine as we hear it.

The Hollywood Reporter

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