We’re more used to seeing Benny Safdie working behind the camera with brother Josh, but for his first solo film, he’s certainly striking out with a fascinating subject. He has Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt (sound the Jungle Cruise reunion klaxon!) starring in The Smashing Machine, about mixed martial arts scrapper Mark Kerr. Studio A24 has released a first look at The Rock in the lead role, which you can find in full below…

Kerr was a two time Ultimate Fighting Championship Heavyweight Tournament Champion and World Vale Tudo Championship tournament winner. Over the course of his career, he won over two dozen MMA titles, while also struggling with addiction and his marriage (Blunt plays Kerr’s wife, Dawn Staples) even as he became an icon of the sport.

Johnson and Safdie originally discussed the film back in 2019, but it was put on hold when the pandemic hit. The pair didn’t really stay in touch, but the project re-entered the star’s life when on a random phone call with Blunt, who raved about having seen the documentary about Kerr called The Smashing Machine: The Life And Times Of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr. Blunt had appeared with Safdie in Oppenheimer and told Johnson he had to do the movie.

“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.”

From the looks of it, he’s also making a rare foray into prosthetics that make him more closely resemble Kerr. With the cameras rolling now, there’s no word yet on a release date.


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