Ronda Rousey shot to the top of the mixed martial arts world to become its biggest star in record time. Her first professional fight was in 2011, and by 2015, she was on top of the world as the UFC women’s bantamweight champion. That feat is all the more impressive when you consider women weren’t even in the UFC until Ronda made the organization reconsider.
You’d think all that success and acclaim and adoration would make Ronda’s transition to Hollywood easier. But while it has helped her land high-profile bit parts in movies like Furious 7 and Entourage, there’s still a lot of skepticism towards her ability to pull off larger roles. A long profile on movie studio STX takes you deep into the sausage-making process behind filmmaking, and it has some interesting details on how Ronda Rousey’s role in the upcoming Peter Berg movie Mile 22 was downsized considerably.
Originally, the movie was set to star Ronda Rousey and The Raid‘s Iko Uwais in a “race to the Jakarta airport to escape the country, battling bad guys the whole way.” It was light on plot, but heavy on violent martial arts. Sounded pretty good, but then the studio got involved. Via Fightland:
Raising concerns about the fighter’s admittedly wooden performance in Furious 7, the studio head pushed Berg to find a big-name star, like Will Smith, to take on the part of Silva, a shadowy “intelligence hack who’s shoveled s**t on four continents” whose role in the movie was tertiary: nothing a superstar would normally consider. And sure enough, Smith turned down the role (despite his love of MMA) and it eventually went to Mark Walhberg, who agreed to the movie only if his part was beefed up and he became, rather than the tragic turncoat who dies in the film’s third act, its star, and possibly the center of a new franchise.
Berg signed off, as did Fogelson, and the film was rewritten, and Rousey was once more pushed into the role of the fighter without much acting weight to carry, yet another Randy Couture or “Rampage” Jackson. As Fogelson said, with true Hollywood sugar, the new script will allow “Ronda to do everything she can and should do without having to carry any undue acting weight.”
So, we had what sounded like another movie like The Raid, but now it’s been turned into some sort of Indonesian Bourne vehicle for Mark Wahlberg. We can only hope there’ll still be a focus on the action and martial arts … Mark’s karate as Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights was pretty on point, after all.
This just goes to show you how unsure Hollywood is about Ronda Rousey’s ability to actually carry a movie. They’re willing to overlook a solid performance in The Expendables 3 to crap on her Furious 7 role, which consisted of three lines. Three lines! And this was before Ronda lost to Holly Holm via headkick knockout. Who knows what kind of doubts Hollywood is harboring about her now that she’s no longer the invincible superhero.
If you’re wondering why Ronda is taking some time off to concentrate on acting, it’s probably because she’s already proved herself in the cage. Now she has to do the same on the big screen. And as you can see, she’s got an uphill battle ahead of her with a lot of doubters expecting her to fail. It’s enough to make an immediate rematch with Holly Holm sound like the easier route to take.