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The news came as a surprise to fans when Dwayne Johnson announced it himself at a UFC event in Madison Square Garden. The actor told the crowd why he’d signed on for the ambitious project:
Mark Kerr’s story is such an incredible story. Like all of us, and like a lot of these fighters, he battled these demons — these demons of addiction, these demons of mental health, these demons of getting out and the pressure of fighting in front of 50,000 people and what that does to somebody. Here’s a guy who has gone through it all, hit rock bottom, but the best part about Mark Kerr is that, like all of us in this room and all these fighters, these warriors, is that everyday, we get up and we want to do a little bit better tomorrow than we did today.
It’s easy to see why Dwayne Johnson would be drawn to playing a fellow former fighter. But this won’t be the first time Mark Kerr’s story was told. In 2002, the documentary The Smashing Machine delved into the two-time UFC heavyweight’s life and career, including his battle with opioid addiction. Dwayne Johnson has Mark Kerr’s blessing to bring his life to the big screen in a new way, and he told fans:
He’s overwhelmed that this is happening, and I love that he trusts me with his life and with his story.
Dwayne Johnson has certainly proven his might at the box office. But up until this point, he’s mostly stuck to action films, comedic roles, and family-friendly fare. His roles in both the Jumanji and The Fast and the Furious franchises couldn’t be more different than taking the mantle of a real life role. This really is his first completely serious acting part -- but it’s one that he feels he’s more than ready for. He told Variety:
It’s a dramatic role, but Mark lives a dramatic life. It’s an opportunity to shine a light on one of our warriors, who not only deserves it, but who has such universal appeal and a universal story.