First Look: Dwayne Johnson in Benny Safdie’s Biopic ‘The Smashing Machine’

Cameras are rolling on Benny Safdie’s “The Smashing Machine,” produced by A24, with the studio unveiling a first-look image. There’s a slim chance we might see this film in late 2024, just in time for awards season—a strategic move A24 is known for.

“The Smashing Machine,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, is based on the life of MMA fighter Mark Kerr. This role is being touted as Johnson’s Oscar vehicle and marks his first independent film since 2005’s “Southland Tales.”

In a previous interview with Variety, Johnson shared his evolving perspective on his career, stating, “I want to make films that matter, that explore humanity, struggle, and pain […] I want more humanity.” It’s a refreshing shift for the actor, signaling his desire to delve into more meaningful roles.

This film also reunites Johnson and Blunt, who co-starred in 2021’s “Jungle Cruise,” and have remained friends since. “The Smashing Machine” marks Benny Safdie’s solo directorial debut, focusing on Kerr’s tumultuous career during the no-holds-barred era of the UFC in the early 2000s. Kerr’s battles with substance abuse provide ripe material for Safdie’s intense and gritty cinematic style.

Johnson has long shown his potential as an actor beyond his muscular physique and action-hero typecasting. His performance as a psychotic, coked-out bodybuilder in Michael Bay’s “Pain and Gain” remains a standout, showcasing his capability for more complex roles. Additionally, his brief but hilarious turn in “The Other Guys” further demonstrated his versatility.

With the right script, Johnson has the talent to deliver a powerful performance. “The Smashing Machine” could be the film that finally earns him the recognition he deserves, proving he’s more than just a blockbuster star.