Wrestlers Go Hollywood

(Above: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.’ Source: YouTube screenshot)

This week The Savvy Screener takes a look at some of the great cinematic performances by wrestlers — and where you can stream them.

Yesterday‘s article focused on the distinguished career of Swedish wrestler and Ed Wood favorite Tor Johnson.

Today’s second and final installment reviews the screen roles of George “The Animal” Steele, “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

George “The Animal” Steele

George “The Animal” Steele, known for deranged ring-antics, turnbuckle-chewing and the “chicken-wing” submission hold, recreated Johnson’s Lobo and Inspector Clay roles in Tim Burton’s love-letter biopic Ed Wood (1994). In it, Johnny Depp plays Wood as a ridiculously sensitive, star-struck D-list auteur directing Steele as Tor Johnson.

You can rent Ed Wood starting at $2.99 from Google Play, Vudu and other providers.

“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan

Throughout the 80s, wrestlers like Hulk Hogan in Rocky III (1982) capitalized on the emerging sensation of Vince McMahon’s WWE (originally WWF). Hogan’s appearance in the film consisted of a charity match against Rocky Balboa.

In 2005, Rocky star Sylvester Stallone inducted Hogan into the WWE Hall of Fame.

You can stream Rocky III starting at $2.99 from Amazon, YouTube and other providers.

Throughout his career, Hogan played both protagonist and antagonist.

In 1996, Hogan went over to the dark side, for a time leading the nefarious New World Order (nWo) under the moniker “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan.

Andre the Giant

In 1986’s WrestleMania III, Andre the Giant was coaxed into changing from hero to heel for a battle-royal against Hulk Hogan. Andre lost. After all, what’s a good heel for?

But dedicated WrestleMania fans aside, Andre the Giant has become best known as Fezzik, his breakout acting role in The Princess Bride (1986) –  one of the most charming, engaging cult classics to feature a professional wrestler.

Though Andre’s audition for Rob Reiner was reportedly less than stellar (Andre’s deep bass voice and country-side French accent rendered him almost intelligible), Reiner considered him perfect for the role.

You can rent The Princess Bride starting at $2.99 from Amazon. You can also stream it with an HBO Now subscription or via Amazon’s HBO add-on channel. And it’s available for purchase from numerous providers.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

For contemporary wrestling fans, there’s cinema superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. If you didn’t know about Johnson’s WWF affiliation, you might think he was an actor who focused on body-building to help augment his credibility as an action hero and Schwarzenegger’s legitimate movie successor.

Undoubtedly the first wrestler to head his own HBO series Ballers (2015 to present), Johnson also does nuanced comedy. Here, he plays against John Travolta in Be Cool (2005):

You can stream the first three 10-episode seasons of Ballers with an HBO Now subscription or via Amazon’s HBO add-on channel. You can also purchase individual seasons from Fandango Now and other providers. Season four will start in August.

Be Cool is available with a Starz subscription or via Amazon’s Starz add-on channel.

The rest of Johnson’s movie resume is too extensive to cite here. Perhaps this video of his 10 best movie trailers will provide a good survey:

Actors Portraying Wrestlers

How about actors who have played wrestlers?

Consider Mickey Rourke’s award-winning performance in the documentary-style The Wrestler (2008) or Jack Black’s Mexican parish-cook-turned-wrestler comedy Nacho Libre (2006).

You can rent The Wrestler starting at $2.99 from Microsoft or other providersNacho Libre is available with an Amazon Prime subscription. You can also rent it for $2.99 and up from Google Play and others.

Finally, there’s Netflix’s take on GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), which in its original 1980s version provided a somewhat satirical alternative to viewing Saturday morning cartoons.

GLOW is now ow in its second season, Netflix also offers the documentary about the original series, the 76-minute GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

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Charlie Greenberg is a NY-based theater and instrumental composer.

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