Stephen Merchant Is Directing A Film About Wrestling Starring The Rock
It's hard to think of anything more unlikely. Stephen Merchant - who co-wrote The Office and Extras, who is 6ft 7, gangly and bespectacled - is directing a film about wrestling.
He's set to direct a biopic about WWE diva Paige called Fighting With My Family. Dwayne Johnson is starring in the film, and Stephen is writing, producing and directing it.
It centres around Saraya-Jade Bevis, aka former WWE Divas Champion Paige, who was born into a wrestling dynasty.
The Bevis clan are an unusual bunch. Headed by former gangster Ricky, wife Julia, son Zack and sister Paige, they all wrestle professionally - and often against each other.
Saraya-Jade Bevis in the wrestling ring. Credit: WWE
I mean that's one way to resolve bickering I guess?
Wrestling is in her blood - her mum wrestled when she was unknowingly seven months pregnant with Paige, so she was wrestling before she was even born.
Florence Pugh, best known for her work in The Falling and Lady Macbeth, is signed up to play Paige - who is still only 24-year-old and started wrestling professional at 13.
Despite her relative youth, she's had an insane career. Paige is a two-time Divas Champion and was the inaugural NXT Women's Champion in WWE's developmental branch, NXT - and the only person who has held both at the same time.
At 21, she was the youngest person to ever win the Divas Champion.
Florence Pugh will star in the film. Credit: PA Images
The film is based upon the Channel Four documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family, which tracked a year in the life of the wrestling dynasty.
According to Deadline Dwayne Johnson watched the Channel Four documentary and felt inspired.
"Back in 2012, I was in my hotel room in London and stumbled across a documentary on a local UK channel," he said.
BREAKING: Our @sevenbucksprod is excited to announce production on a cool project we've been working on for years based on a very unique and gritty professional wrestling family and a their daughter's journey into the spotlight of the WWE. "Fighting With My Family" Years ago (2012) while shooting Fast & Furious in London, I was up at 3am (too much caffeine) and stumbled upon a documentary on a UK station about a local wrestling family and their daughter's unlikely journey into the global spotlight. That daughter, is current WWE Women's Superstar, Paige. The family strong element I saw in the doc, is what grabbed my attention. That no matter how crazy life gets, no matter how dysfunctional our families can sometimes be and especially regardless of how much we fight - we're always there for each other when it counts. That's what families do. My gut said there was a great movie to be made so I sent to my agent Brad Slater at WME who loved it. He sent it to my long time ace producer Kevin Misher, who immediately responded to the doc and he thought we should go after one of our favorite writer/directors for material like this, Stephen Merchant. Merchant, being from the UK, locked in to a strong POV and vision of how gritty and heartfelt this film needs to be and the rest is history. Pleasure to partner with WWE Studios and Film 4 to bring this cool story to life. Paige and I both know what it's like to come from a wrestling family who's had it's good and hard times. Her and I have talked about this project for years now and we're all excited to bring her and her family's story to life. Cool casting announcements coming this week! #FightingWithMyFamily #SevenBucksProds #MisherFilms #WWEFilms #Film4 #BevisFamily #SquaredCircleDNA
A photo posted by therock (@therock) on
"Not only was I intrigued by this loving and wild family, but I also felt it's the kind of narrative that would make an amazing movie. The Knights' journey is a universal one that all families are familiar with. I relate to Saraya (Paige) and her wrestling family on such a personal level and it means so much that I can help tell their story."
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Set to start filming in London and LA this month, it looks like a must-watch for any wrestling fans.
Is There Anything Stephen Merchant Can't Do?
Credit: PA Images
Stephen Merchant's had a long and weird career. Did you know that the idea for The Office, which he and Ricky Gervais co-wrote together, was actually Stephen's?
The two met in '97, when Ricky was The Head of Speech at XFM London - he hired Stephen as his assistant because his was the first CV he picked up.
When Stephen left and did a production course at the BBC, he wrote a 30 minute short film called Seedy Boss and hired Ricky to play the lead. That became the prototype for The Office.
Merchant on The Office. Credit: BBC
But The Office wasn't a great success initially - when it went on air in 2001 (I cannot believe how long ago that was) it didn't get the best rating. So Ricky and Stephen started recording their radio show The Ricky Gervais Show. It was produced by none other than Karl Pilkington.
When the second series of The Office was commissioned, Stephen made a cameo as the 'Oggmonster'.
Credit: PA Images
He also moved into directing - making a comedy show called The Last Chancers, as well as appearing on cult comedy show Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and being the script associate on Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker's darkly funny Nathan Barley.
And by the time he was done with that, The Office had gone to America and become the success it's considered today. Ricky and Stephen even won Golden Globes and BAFTAs for their work.
After that, they went on to make Extras together. And Stephen went back to stand up and had a few small parts in Hot Fuzz, Run Fat Boy Run and The Invention of Lying.
Credit: PA Images
He's also starred in a play called The Mentalists, been in three episodes of The Big Bang Theory, is an executive producer of Lip Sync Battle and has a role opposite Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in the up-coming Logan film. Oh yeah and he has his own TV series called Hello Ladies.
I mean really, is there anything he can't do?
Words Laura Hamilton
Featured Image Credit: PA Images