A growing trend in Hollywood has set some movie lovers to DEFCON 2 and there is no sign of slowing. The blame can be spread in a number of directions, but this onslaught of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters getting lead gigs as actors in big-budget movies is a bit disconcerting.
So far, we have yet to see any truly worthy fighters-turned-actors in these career crossovers. I’m not asking for Oscar-winning performances, but can we at least pretend like we care about our audiences? There are plenty of people out there who simply won’t go to a movie because it is starring some MMA superstar – and who knows, maybe it was a film that deserved an experienced actor in the role.
I understand the appeal: There are fan bases already in place and putting fighters in films should guarantee a certain audience. But is that really enough to warrant a theatrical release these days? It’s not like they break the bank by appealing to a niche audience or demographic. After all, it’s one thing to hire the men of ring entertainment for direct-to-DVD action flicks like Never Surrender or The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior – but when you look at performances like Cung Le in Pandorum or Randy Couture in Redbelt, it becomes embarrassing.
This year, the presence of MMA fighters in movies will be unprecedented. Gina Carano is starring in the Steven Soderbergh-directed Knockout, Quentin ‘Rampage’ Jackson will be a lead character in the upcoming A-Team remake, and Randy Couture will appear in The Expendables. There’s also the recent casting of Bob Sapp in Conan, which is coming in 2011.
The only real hope of the bunch is Carano, considering her director already worked with “non-actor” porn star Sasha Grey on The Girlfriend Experience and got an adequate enough performance out of her. Despite the slim prospects, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the MMA fighters.
However, you can’t only look in one corner of the bathroom to find the smell. You have look to where it all began and that’s the world of professional wrestling.
Not long ago, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson finally gave entertainers outside of music a path to follow as the original Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns. His continuous string of roles proved that he could bring in audiences and had what it took to last in the industry.
But ever since The Rock, what evidence can the sporting world really hold up to prove its stars have the acting chops? Just look at the state of The Rock’s career right now, with flop after flop and bizarre roles like Tooth Fairy. Somebody is at least looking out for him, considering Superhero Hype‘s report about The Rock possibly doing a superhero movie in the near future.
After The Rock, other wrestlers like John Cena (The Marine), ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin (Condemned), and Kane (See No Evil) were given shots at movie stardom, with little success. If anything, this should be proof that ready-made stars don’t automatically equal crossover success.
Movie stardom isn’t about niche audiences, it’s about mass appeal, and The Rock has the looks and charm to get women in theaters. Frankly, most films with male-specific audiences just don’t do well. I know some have, but it’s not a trend studios should be banking on (pun intended).
Maybe putting the burden on The Rock is a little rough, when Hulk Hogan (Rocky III), ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper (They Live), and Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura (Predator) preceded him with some embarrassing work. I mean, come on, Mr. Nanny!? Lest we forget this gem from Roddy Piper:
In the end, it’s really not the performers’ collective fault. A lot of them broke into wrestling or fighting as a stepping-stone to bigger things. So, in a sense, they have been successful and they deserve praise for working hard. But we have yet to find a ‘real actor’ in the bunch. Will the day ever come when a former wrestler or martial arts athlete wins an Oscar? I find it hard to believe.
Ultimately, I blame the studios. Those businessmen with no creativity and a lazy attitude who choose hard-working athletes with no shame to fill in roles that shouldn’t exist in the first place. The blame can be spread equally to all, but somebody needs to step up and be held accountable for the wasted time of viewers whenever filmmakers stop caring about quality.
I’m sure some of you want to put Arnold Schwarzenegger in this discussion. The man went from body-builder to highly successful actor to governator. Total anomaly. I’ll leave it to you guys to hash-out”The Schwarzenegger Conumdrum” out in the comments section…
Does the growing number of fighters-turned-actors bother you? Who do you think is to blame? Sound off in the comments section below.