News & Press

February 4, 2019

“We Wanted a Studio to Buy Into It, And No One Did”: Why Dwayne Johnson Went Indie for His New Movie

Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions — accustomed to spearheading the actor’s own massive blockbusters — tries its hand at lower-budget filmmaking with the wrestling comedy ‘Fighting With My Family,’ which was a surprise hit at Sundance.

Producers making their first trip to the Sundance Film Festival often arrive with small movies financed on credit cards and loans from friends and family. Their entire production budgets would barely cover the catering tab for a typical studio film made by Seven Bucks Productions, the busy company run by Dwayne Johnson, his ex-wife, Dany Garcia, and former brother-in-law Hiram Garcia.

But on Jan. 28 the big personalities behind Seven Bucks were crammed into the tiny bedroom of a condo on Main Street in Park City during the height of the festival to premiere Fighting With My Family. It’s a project that is smaller and quirkier than what the industry has come to expect from The Rock and his producing team, currently making big-budget films with nearly every major Hollywood studio and Netflix.

A comedy based on the life of WWE wrestler Paige, Fighting With My Family is written and directed by Stephen Merchant, best known for co-creating the British version of The Office. Like other Seven Bucks projects, such as the $962 million-grossing Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle or the NBC reality series The Titan GamesFighting With My Family has an onscreen role for Johnson and an uplifting underdog story. But the movie, which opens in limited release Feb. 14 and stars Florence Pugh as Paige, expands Seven Bucks into the indie space. It was shot for about $11 million, including U.K. tax incentives, and sold to MGM in 2017 for $17 million. And while the Seven Bucks team plans most of its business decisions with the meticulousness of a WWE match, the events that brought Johnson and the Garcias to the pre-eminent showcase of independent cinema happened by accident.

“We wanted a studio to buy into it, and no one did,” says Johnson, 46. “We got passed on everywhere. It was a small British comedy about a crazy wrestling family that wasn’t famous.” One stumbling block for studios that looked at the film was the very same issue that had dogged Johnson earlier in his career. “Wrestling is the conduit for Paige’s journey,” says Dany Garcia, 50, who is Seven Bucks’ co-CEO, with Johnson. “And that has a certain stigma.”

Dany and Hiram sprawled on the bed, while Johnson pulled up a chair to tell their story. They met when all three were students at the University of Miami in the early 1990s, and the trio enjoy the comfort of a shared history. They have certain catchphrases in common — “Audience first” is a key one, inherited from Johnson’s WWE days — and a fondness for physical fitness. (Dany is a competitive bodybuilder.) “We have similar tastes in what we respond to,” says Hiram, 42, who serves as Seven Bucks’ president of production, “which is generally some heart, some humor, some soul.”

Original article can be found here

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