FIGHT­ING WITH MY FAM­ILY

FIGHT­ING WITH MY FAM­ILY I Stephen Mer­chant is the di­rec­tor of a true un­der­dog story.

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Stephen Mer­chant re­veals his pas­sion for WWE.

Stephen Mer­chant might not seem like the most ob­vi­ous choice for a film about a WWE wrestler, but that’s not how he sees it. “It’s not like I’d sud­denly gone off and made The Avengers, which is com­pletely alien to me,” he tells Teasers. “It’s in my wheel­house, I guess, in terms of it be­ing a work­ing-class fam­ily from Eng­land. So it didn’t feel com­pletely out of the or­di­nary.”

Fight­ing With My Fam­ily is The Of­fice co-creator Mer­chant’s fea­ture de­but as a solo writer/di­rec­tor, and his con­nec­tion to the WWE stems back to his role along­side Dwayne ‘The Rock’ John­son in Tooth Fairy. As de­tailed by his cameos in FWMF, John­son had some be­hind-the-scenes in­volve­ment in the rise of Paige, a WWE star who emerged from a Nor­wich-based fam­ily of wrestlers. “He thought, ‘Ac­tu­ally, there’s quite an in­ter­est­ing story in this,’” ex­plains Mer­chant. John­son in­structed him to watch a Chan­nel 4 doc­u­men­tary on Paige’s story.

“I wasn’t ter­ri­bly look­ing for­ward to it, be­cause I didn’t have any in­ter­est in wrestling,” says Mer­chant. “But I was just very in­trigued by the fam­ily and the world.” A si­b­ling ri­valry emerges when

Paige (Florence Pugh) is se­lected for a spot at a WWE de­vel­op­ment camp, while her brother Zak (Jack Low­den) doesn’t make the cut. “To me, one of the most im­por­tant lines was that idea of, ‘Just be­cause a mil­lion peo­ple aren’t cheer­ing when you do some­thing, doesn’t mean it’s not im­por­tant,’” says Mer­chant. “It’s easy, par­tic­u­larly in the mod­ern world, to feel like un­less you have a mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, un­less you’re win­ning awards, un­less you’re fa­mous, then some­how the things you do don’t have value.”

For all the pathos, it still fol­lows a sports movie nar­ra­tive, which pre­sented a few tests when it came to this par­tic­u­lar sport. “The big­gest chal­lenge was, as a non-wrestling fan, try­ing to un­der­stand wrestling,” ex­plains Mer­chant. “Lit­er­ally the me­chan­ics of how it works. What is the vic­tory if you know a lot of it is fake? You have to con­struct other ways of her vic­tory be­ing win­ning over the crowd. It’s a sort of show­biz story. It’s like A Star Is Born kind of story as much as it’s a sports film.”

Thank­fully, John­son was on hand to help out when needed, not least when they filmed a se­quence at a real Mon­day Night Raw in front of 20,000 fans. “I said, ‘Look, is there any chance you’d come down and kind of host it, and ex­plain to the crowd what’s go­ing on, and ba­si­cally be the first as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of this shoot?’” laughs Mer­chant. “And he did… And if you put him in front of a wrestling crowd, it’s like Elvis has come back. It’s in­sane.”

ETA | 1 MArch / FighT­ing WiTh My FAM­ily opEns This spring.

TAG TeAM Paige (Florence Pugh) in the ring with brother Zak (Jack Low­den).

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