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