Dwayne Johnson transforms into Mark Kerr

Dwayne Johnson is almost unrecognizable in the first look at his upcoming A24 drama “The Smashing Machine,” directed by Benny Safdie and starring his “Jungle Cruise” on-screen partner Emily Blunt. The film features Johnson as legendary MMA fighter Mark Kerr, who battled addiction and his marriage while becoming a sports icon. Blunt plays Dawn Staples, Kerr’s wife. The film is currently in production.

While Johnson looks typically ripped as Kerr in the first preview for “The Smashing Machine,” he also appears to be wearing facial prosthetics to help him transform into an MMA legend. Kerr is a two-time UFC Heavyweight tournament champion and winner of the Vale Tudo World Championship tournament. During his career, he won more than two dozen MMA titles.

“The Smashing Machine” marks the solo feature debut for Safdie, who collaborated with his brother Josh on A24 indie hits such as “Good Time” and “Uncut Gems.” Benny starred alongside Blunt in Christopher Nolan’s “Opppenheimer.” Johnson and Safdie first connected on the project in 2019, but fell out of contact and put the film on hold due to the pandemic. Years later, Johnson and Blunt were on the phone when Blunt revealed that she had just watched the 2002 documentary “The Smashing Machine: The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr” and encouraged Johnson: “You must make this film.

Johnson already said Variety that he was partly drawn to “The Smashing Machine” because “Benny wants to create and continues to push the boundaries when it comes to raw, real stories, authentic and sometimes uncomfortable and gripping characters.” I’m at a point in my career where I want to push myself in ways that I haven’t 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.

Johnson and Dany Garcia’s Seven Bucks Productions are producing the film alongside Safdie’s Out for the Count banner, Eli Bush and David Koplan.

A24 has not yet announced a release date for “The Smashing Machine.”

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