it’s for real

WWE stars are muscling their way into screen roles where there’s no fak­ing it.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By STEVEN ZEITCHIK

WWE stars are muscling their way into screen roles where there’s no fak­ing it.

THE day af­ter one of the biggest pro­fes­sional wrestling events of the year, Randy Or­ton, the heav­ily tat­tooed, fre­quently sneer­ing, seven-time World Wrestling En­ter­tain­ment cham­pion, is stand­ing in the bow­els of the Sta­ples Cen­ter con­fess­ing a lack of self-con­fi­dence. Not about his most re­cent per­for­mance in the ring, where he ad­min­is­tered the req­ui­site body slams, clothes­lines and back­break­ers to his ri­val, Ir­ish wrestler Shea­mus. This is about chan­nel­ing his in­ner Humphrey Bog­art more than his in­ner Hulk Ho­gan.

“I can’t say I’m con­fi­dent in my abil­i­ties as an ac­tor,” Or­ton says ten­ta­tively, de­scrib­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence as a dra­matic per­former in the 2011 movie That’s What I Am, a pe­riod com­ing-of-age story with Amy Madi­gan and Ed Har­ris in which Or­ton plays a fa­ther caught up in a school con­tro­versy. “I thought do­ing this for 10 years would give me an edge, but it hasn’t.”

Many a wrestler has at­tempted the leap from the ring to the sil­ver screen. Mike Mazurki moved to mid­cen­tury noir pic­tures, Jesse Ven­tura and Rowdy Roddy Piper popped up in ac­tion movies in the 1980s and 90s and Dwayne “The Rock” John­son has starred in ac­tion movies such as The Scor­pion King and broad come­dies, in­clud­ing The Tooth Fairy.

Or­ton’s shift is dif­fer­ent. It’s part of a far larger trans­forma- tion be­ing or­ches­trated by WWE chair­man and CEO Vince McMahon that may be pure mar­ket­ing ge­nius or sim­ple hubris.

The wrestling im­pre­sario is tak­ing the per­son­al­i­ties from his weekly fight shows – where they can reg­u­larly be seen div­ing off ropes, drop-kick­ing mouthy op­po­nents and goad­ing a blood­thirsty crowd – and try­ing to mould them into sub­tle thes­pi­ans.

Un­like the usual switch to big ac­tion ve­hi­cles or broad come­dies, he’s hop­ing the stars can pull off roles in gen­tle come­dies, dra­mas and po­lice pro­ce­du­rals. In other words, he’s hop­ing they can act.

“When you cre­ate global su­per­stars and part of their skill is their act­ing skills, this is a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion,” McMahon said.

McMahon has cre­ated a film di­vi­sion of WWE, with a slate of more than half a dozen pic­tures dis­trib­uted through Sa­muel Gold­wyn Films, that doesn’t go for a big con­cept built around star power.

In­stead, the movies tell smaller sto­ries with ex­pe­ri­enced ac­tors such as Har­ris, Madi­gan, Pa­tri­cia Clark­son and Danny Glover, and slot the wrestlers in as part of an en­sem­ble, hop­ing their act­ing can carry the day.

There is a new movie, Knuck­le­head, star­ring 180kg Big Show as a gen­tle gi­ant who has got­ten to his mid-30s with­out hav­ing lived out­side of a Catholic or­phan­age. Big Show (real name: Paul Wight) is not new to the big screen; the 38-year-old with a smooth scalp and dark, thick goa­tee has had bit parts in come­dies such as The Water­boy and MacGru­ber, where he es­sen­tially riffed on his in-ring per­sona.

But this is his first full-fledged role as some­one en­tirely fic­tional, and as he sits on

Sil­ver screen suc­cess: Many a wrestler has at­tempted the leap from the ring to the sil­ver screen and Dwayne John­son, seen here in TheToothFairy, is one of the more suc­cess­ful ones. ‘I can’t say I’m con­fi­dent in my abil­i­ties as an ac­tor,’ says Randy Or­ton.

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