Dwayne Johnson unrecognisable in The Smashing Machine

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As A24 releases the first official image from the film, the movie star seems to be fully committing to this new direction of dramatic roles.

When news first emerged that Dwayne Johnson, movie star extraordinaire was signing up for an indie drama for A24, it was quite the revelation. Johnson has built a career which in the last decade has largely been founded upon his brand with each successive film simply being an extension of his movie star persona.

However, a few months ago a sudden career swerve was announced. Johnson was named as the lead in A24’s MMA indie drama, The Smashing Machine, a film about the successes and tragedies of Mark Kerr, a mixed martial arts champion who certainly did not live the ultra-squeaky clean life that we’ve come to expect from most of Johnson’s characters.

As well as hailing from A24, a (mostly) arthouse studio, the film is being directed by Benny Safdie, co-director of gripping dramas such as Good Times and Uncut Gems. Speaking about the film, Johnson previously said, “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.”

A first image for the film has been released and in fairness to Johnson, it looks like he’s fully committed to the bit. We don’t often cover ‘official first images’ but the physical transformation here is so remarkable, it does seem to confirm that Johnson is serious about using this opportunity to do something far outside of his comfort zone and no matter how it turns out, that’s pretty brave.

There’s a wig involved and given how unrecognisable he looks, some facial prosthetics in use too. The star looks to have slimmed down for the role too. Emily Blunt will co-star in the project which will chart the story of Kerr, a’ two-time UFC Heavyweight Tournament Champion. He rose through the fighting world with his no-holds-barred approach. However, an addiction to painkillers ultimately led to an overdose.’

It’s certainly not the kind of story we’re used to seeing Johnson do, and his remarkable transformation is an equally arresting visual reminder that this marks almost entirely new ground for him, certainly at this stage of his career. We’re hoping it all works out and given the quality talent that Johnson has surrounded himself with, he’s giving himself the best possible chance.

Johnson has recently been in the news with less than flattering coverage. We covered the stories of his lateness and, erm, weeing in bottles on the set of Red One in early May, but we’re hoping the actor has since turned a new leaf and has been using the toilet on other film sets.

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

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