When The Rock pitched his latest movie, ‘Fighting with My Family’, Hollywood executives weren’t interested in the project. It comes as a surprise considering that Dwayne Johnson is the industry’s reigning box office champion. However, having huge hit moves behind, such as the Jumanji reboot, Hobbs & Shaw, Bay Watch, and Rampage didn’t help him convince Hollywood executives about the project.
Therefore, Dwayne decided to go above and beyond to make ‘Fighting With My Family.’ So, he put on his independent film producer’s hat and went outside the traditional studio system to make this film. In order to make this low-budget comedy inspired by WWE wrestler Paige’s life story, he got funding from his Seven Bucks Productions, as well as, WWE Studios and Britain’s Film4. He also makes a cameo appearance in the film.
Dwayne was extremely attached to the film, but no matter how invested he was, every studio passed on this. The Rock knew Paige through WWE, but he learned about his back story from a documentary which he accidentally watched one night when he was unable to sleep. This happened during the time he was filming Fast & Furious 6 in London. Watching the documentary made him identify with the family as he also comes from a crazy wrestling family.
Hence, Dwayne hired Stephen Merchant, his Tooth Fairy co-star, to write and direct. Then he got Florence Pugh to play Paige and Nick Frost and Lena Headey to play Paige’s parents. Stephen Merchant wasn’t really interested in the world of wrestling and he claimed that he could never say whether it was real or fake. Funnily enough, Merchant thinks that he has been hired to do this job because Dwayne only knows one more English person beside him, and that’s Jason Statham. However, his option quickly changed as he became invested in the family’s dream.
Florence Pugh, who plays Paige, is a real wrestling newbie. However, she claims that her aim was not to make this film as an impression of the real-life family but to understand them. Pugh met Paige in person only two weeks prior to the movie’s debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January. She also got some amazing advice from Paige which definitely calmed her nerves.
On the fourth day of shooting, it was time to recreate Paige’s iconic WWE debut match at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. So, Merchant and the crew got help by the WWE camera crews, which were still there after a live-taping of Raw. They asked the 20,000 avid wrestling fans to stay seated and double as extras. This was a very challenging thing for Pugh, as a wrestling newbie. Having in mind that most of the people had seen the real match, the tension was even greater.
Nevertheless, Pugh received pep talks from Dwayne, who was the crowd MC and ringside producer. As she kept getting advice from everyone prior to the match, Pugh decided to message Paige. The message said: ‘I’m about to do the thing that you did four years ago, and I’m feeling the way that you were. … Is there anything that you need to tell me?’
She got back the best possible advice, a long message which said: ‘Remember: The most important thing is you go out there and you be a total badass, and the rest will just happen’. These were definitely the right words Pugh needed to hear.