Skip to main content

The Rock is aiming for his next challenge: making "films that matter"

Mr. Demille, the Rock is ready for his close-up now

Dwayne Johnson
Image credit: Seven Bucks Productions

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson has been a football player, a professional wrestler, and a blockbuster actor. But in 2024, he's aiming to add another role: critically-acclaimed actor.

"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," the Black Adam actor tells Variety. "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.”

His first project of this new approach is the recently-announced biopic The Smashing Machine, chronicling the the tumultous life of MMA fighter Mark Kerr. Johnson, who is only four years younger than Kerr now, is expected to have a different kind of body transformation in order to play Kerr throughout his career.

The Smashing Machine, based on a 2002 ESPN documentary of the same name, is being produced by art-house experts A24 - who recently stepped into combat sports drama with The Iron Claw. For their part, the press release for the movie calls this the Rock's "most dramatic project and role yet."

Johnson has been developing this movie since 2019 with Benny Salfdie, but put it on hold in 2020 due to the pandemic. The project only came off the backburner when Johnson had a chat with Emily Blunt while she was on the set of Oppenheimer. Blunt and Johnson co-starred in Disney's The Jungle Cruise, and when he let her know about his idea for this biopic, she urged him to make it a priority.

As Johnson says though, while this is a new priority - he isn't abandoning the blockbuster movies you know him for.

"I want to be clear not to say that this is an abandonment of big, four-quadrant movies. I love making them, and there is tremendous value and importance in [them] … but there’s a time and a place for them."

At 51, Johnson has starred in a big-budget superhero film (Black Adam), co-starred in a classic Disney animated movie (Moana), produced a TV show about his younger self (NBC's Young Rock), done a 'prestige' HBO show (Ballers), become a major part of a major franchise (Fast & Furious), and even filmed a Christmas movie (Red One). Heck, he even has an energy drink, an alcohol brand, and co-owns an entire sports league. But in 2024, he's looking for new challenges.

"I’m at this point in my career where I want more," says Johnson. "And I don’t mean I want more box office. I mean I want more humanity."

Johnson is balancing this desire for new frontiers in his creativity, while also continuing to doing blockbuster movies, and even returning to the wrestling ring just this past Monday towards a anticipated WrestleMania main event.

One of Johnson's nicknames in wrestling is "The People's Champ," and while people watch wrestling and blockbuster movies, Johnson's also realizing people might enjoy some nuanced film-making with their popcorn flicks.

As the year wind downs, it's time to look back and all you've read and watched. Popverse has picked the best movies, best comics, and best TV shows of the year.

But who really cares about what we think? This year, we had you vote for your best movies, best comics, and best TV shows of the year too. Check the lists and mix and see if you agree with our (and your) top choices of the year!

Featured events