Dwayne Johnson’s Most Epic Role Yet? See Him as Mark Kerr in ‘The Smashing Machine’ First Look

Dwayne Johnson is nearly unrecognizable in the first look at his upcoming A24 drama “The Smashing Machine,” directed by Benny Safdie and co-starring his “Jungle Cruise” screen partner Emily Blunt. The film casts Johnson as legendary MMA fighter Mark Kerr, who struggled with addiction and his marriage while becoming an icon of the sport. Blunt is starring as Dawn Staples, Kerr’s wife. The film is currently in production. Dwayne Johnson’s Most Epic Role Yet? See Him as Mark Kerr in ‘The Smashing Machine’ First Look

Dwayne Johnson’s Unbelievable Transformation

While Johnson looks typically ripped as Kerr in “The Smashing Machine” first look, he also appears to be sporting some facial prosthetics to help him transform into the MMA legend. Kerr was a two-time UFC Heavyweight Tournament Champion and World Vale Tudo Championship tournament winner. Over the course of his career, he won over two dozen MMA titles, making him one of the most decorated fighters in the history of the sport.

Johnson’s commitment to embodying Kerr is evident in the physical transformation he underwent for the role. The meticulous attention to detail in his appearance is aimed at delivering a portrayal that is both authentic and captivating. Fans are eager to see how Johnson’s dedication translates on screen, especially given Kerr’s complex personality and tumultuous life.

Benny Safdie’s Vision and Direction

“The Smashing Machine” marks the solo feature directorial debut of Benny Safdie, who previously collaborated with his brother Josh on A24’s indie hits such as “Good Time” and “Uncut Gems.” Benny acted alongside Blunt in Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.” Johnson and Safdie first connected on the project in 2019 but fell out of touch and put the film on hold due to the pandemic. Years later, Johnson and Blunt were on the phone when Blunt revealed 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 movie.”

Safdie’s approach to storytelling is known for its raw and real depiction of characters, often delving into uncomfortable and arresting narratives. His partnership with Johnson promises a film that pushes the envelope in terms of emotional depth and authenticity. This directorial debut is highly anticipated by fans and critics alike, eager to see how Safdie handles such a gripping true story.

The Story of Mark Kerr: Triumph and Tragedy

Mark Kerr’s story is one of both triumph and tragedy. Known as “The Smashing Machine” for his devastating prowess in the ring, Kerr’s career was marked by incredible highs and devastating lows. His battles with addiction and personal demons were as fierce as any fight in the octagon. This duality of his life makes for a compelling narrative that goes beyond the typical sports biography.

Kerr’s achievements in MMA are legendary. His two-time victory in the UFC Heavyweight Tournament and his win at the World Vale Tudo Championship are just highlights of a career filled with numerous accolades. However, it was his personal struggles, detailed in the 2002 documentary, that captivated audiences and showed the human side of the fighter.

Emily Blunt as Dawn Staples

Emily Blunt’s role as Dawn Staples, Kerr’s wife, adds another layer of complexity to the film. Staples stood by Kerr through his battles with addiction and his turbulent career. Blunt, known for her powerful performances, is expected to bring a nuanced portrayal of a woman who faced immense challenges in supporting her husband.

Blunt’s collaboration with Johnson in “Jungle Cruise” showcased their on-screen chemistry, which will be critical in portraying the intense and often strained relationship between Kerr and Staples. This dynamic will be central to the film’s emotional core, providing a stark contrast to the high-octane action of Kerr’s fighting career.

Why Dwayne Johnson Chose ‘The Smashing Machine’

Johnson previously told Variety that he was partially attracted to “The Smashing Machine” because “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. 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.”

This statement underscores Johnson’s dedication to evolving as an actor and producer. He aims to take on roles that challenge him and resonate deeply with audiences. The story of Mark Kerr, with its themes of struggle, redemption, and the human spirit, aligns perfectly with Johnson’s current career aspirations.

The Production Team Behind the Film

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. This powerhouse team is known for creating high-quality, impactful films that often dominate the box office and receive critical acclaim. The collaboration between these producers and Safdie’s unique directorial vision sets the stage for a potentially groundbreaking film.

Anticipation and Release Date

A24 has not yet announced a release date for “The Smashing Machine.” The film’s production is still ongoing, and fans are eagerly awaiting any news about its premiere. Given the buzz around Johnson’s transformation and Safdie’s directorial debut, anticipation is building rapidly. The combination of a compelling true story, a talented cast, and a visionary director makes “The Smashing Machine” one of the most anticipated films of the year.


Dwayne Johnson’s portrayal of Mark Kerr in “The Smashing Machine” promises to be one of his most epic roles yet. The film, directed by Benny Safdie and co-starring Emily Blunt, is set to deliver a powerful and authentic depiction of Kerr’s life. With a story that encompasses both incredible achievements and personal struggles, “The Smashing Machine” is poised to captivate audiences and critics alike. Stay tuned for more updates on this highly anticipated film.

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