Let’s cut to the chase. Whether you like his work or not, there is no denying that former WWE Champion Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is arguably one of the biggest icons in Hollywood right now. Highest paid actor, stars in blockbuster after blockbuster. The Brahma Bull carries weight in Tinseltown. Along with his ex-wife Dany Garcia, Johnson heads up Seven Bucks Productions, an entertainment company that produced the HBO show, Ballers, as well as several upcoming films, including the DC Comics adaption Shazam. But on February 7, 2017, The Rock shocked everyone when it was announced that their next project underway was a film about England’s Bevis family, the large family of professional wrestlers that includes promoter Ricky Knight, women’s legend Saraya Knight, and WWE Superstar Paige.
It’s been a whirlwind of information in just a few short weeks, so here’s all that’s been announced so far in regards to this production.
IT’S A TRUE STORY
The film is based on the 2012 UK Channel 4 documentary, The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family, that followed the circus life of a family from Norfolk, England – the Bevis’ – that has been a part of the UK wrestling scene for decades. And while many people were quick to question why someone like Paige would be getting a biopic so early in her career, it should be noted that this film is more than a movie about Paige. It’s about a family that has been deeply entrenched in professional wrestling for over 25 years. If you care to watch the original documentary, Channel 4 has it online for free.
THE PRODUCTION TEAM
Seven Bucks isn’t the only team bringing the film to the table. The Rock went with his family, of course, by bringing in WWE Studios as one of the producers. Film4, the film division of Channel 4, will also be a part of the film, as well as another company Johnson is familiar with, Misher Films (who produced The Scorpion King and The Rundown amongst others).
THE DIRECTOR & WRITER
The screenplay has been written by esteemed English comedic writer Stephen Merchant, best known for a long standing working relationship with fellow UK comedian Ricky Gervais, as the co-creator/co-writer of The Office (original UK version), Extras and An Idiot Abroad, as well as his own recent series, Hello Ladies. Merchant will bring a sense of humour to the project and a sense of drama that will help bring the families own comedy and tragedy come to life. And to make sure his words are given fair justice, Merchant will also be directing the feature film.
Within days of the initial announcement, it didn’t take long for them to start announcing the principle cast. The Rock will be appearing in a small part as himself, but the rest of the announced cast is as follows:
Florence Pugh as Paige/Saraya Bevis
A relative newcomer to the film business, the 21-year old Pugh is best known for The Falling (2014), Studio City (2015) and Lady MacBeth (2016).
Lena Headey as Saraya Knight/Julia Bevis
She’s a queen bad-ass of the silver and small screen with memorable roles as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones, as well as in Dredd, 300, and The Brothers Grimm.
Nick Frost as Ricky Knight/Patrick Bevis
Playing Paige’s animated, tough yet lovable father is British comedian Nick Frost, from Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Paul and The World’s End.
Jack Lowden as Zak Knight/Zak Bevis
A Scottish actor just emerging on the film scene after years in theatre, he’s got a few films currently on the verge of coming out, including Dunkirk and Steven, a biopic on Smiths’ singer Morrissey.
Two additional cast inclusions have yet to be confirmed but there is speculation (based on the clues The Rock laid out in the Twitter announcements) on who they could be appearing as.
Vince Vaughn as Jake “The Snake” Roberts
While Vaughn’s role wasn’t mentioned by name, Johnson referred to Vaughn’s character as “a man who I know all too well and those of you who follow wrestling history know well too. The 80’s wrestling star who squandered his money and opportunities because he didn’t have the capacity to handle his fame. One bad decision after another, but these days he owns his past actions and does everything he can to give back to the wrestling business he loves.” For those wondering the connection to Paige and her family, there was a time when Jake lived with the Bevis family in England.
Thea Trinidad as AJ Lee
The former TNA Knockout Thea Trinidad has only been referred to as “the Divas Champion” in regards to her role, but it doesn’t take too much digging to narrow down the choices. There were only two Divas Champions Paige feuded with in the early stages (and before the title was retired), AJ Lee and Nikki Bella. And if the highlight or climax of the film is Paige winning her first WWE Divas title on her first night, then that was against AJ Lee. Although there is a small chance that the film may use a fictionalized character (due to the currently strenuous relationship between the WWE and AJ Lee’s husband, CM Punk).
FILMING HAS ALREADY BEGUN
Just over two weeks after announcing the film was going into production, The Rock began tweeting and instagramming photos from the set at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where they were filming some key wrestling scenes in conjunction with the WWE filming an episode of Monday Night Raw on February 20.
He also showed some ring work photos, indicating that Florence Pugh’s stunt double in regards to the ring work would be performed by indie star and third generation wrestler Tessa Blanchard.
Puttin' in that ring work w/ @theatrinidadtmt (our Divas Champion) and @tessa_blanchard (our bad ass ring/stunt double) for their big match tonight at the Staples Center here in LA once RAW goes off the air. For those insiders who know the wrestling business, you know how hard these two independent female wrestlers work. For those who are are new to the wrestling world when you see our movie, just know you're watching some very unique and special athletes achieve greatness in a male dominated world. Respect is given when it's earned. Tonight, they earn it. Get ready WWE Universe and RAW crowd. It's your night too. #FightingWithMyFamily #SquaredCircleDNA #BloodSweatRespect #StaplesCenter #LA #RAW
We’re only a week into the production, but The Rock is keeping people up to date with details on a “need to know” basis, but it’s clear this movie is a passion project for Dwayne Johnson and the entire Bevis family, and perhaps one of the more ambitious projects that WWE Studios has partnered on. If it’s successful, they could enter an entire realm of compelling wrestler biopics with a mainstream appeal – such as a biography of Bruno Sammartino or an Almost Famous type of film looking at Paul Heyman‘s early days as a photographer entering the wrestling business (really, their options are endless).