30th Mar2013

Films featuring Fighters Turned Actors – The Ten Best

by Phil Wheat

Given the news that American professional wrestling legend Dave Bautista (The Scorpion King 3: Battle For Redemption) has been cast as Drax in the forthcoming Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought I’d take a look at the ten best films to feature fighters turned actors. Check them out below:

Enter The Dragon (1973)

No list of fighters turned actor would be complete without Bruce Lee. Widely considered to be the best Martial Arts expert ever, he even invented his own Martial Arts philosophy – Jeet Kune Do. Before dying at the age of 32 Lee starred in a string of Kung Fu movies the best known of which is Enter The Dragon. What it lacks in plot and dialogue it more than makes up for in sheer power and energy.

The Mummy Returns (2001)

Dwayne Johnson found fame in the ring as ‘The Rock’ and proved to be a firm fan favourite. His 6 foot 5 inch frame was put to good use as The Scorpion King – the leader of a large Egyptian Army – in this film and the eponymous sequel. Of all the fighters on our list it’s probably Wayne that has enjoyed the most onscreen success. Good looks, a great body and a nice comic touch never did anyone any harm!

Mean Machine (2001)

Who would have thought that football hardman Vinnie Jones would make a half-decent, if limited, actor? While not strictly a fighter, he makes our list for his ‘handshake’ on Gazza’s man-sack if nothing else. He has fast become Hollywood’s go to man if the script requires a cockney enforcer. Here he is in his element as a jailed football star who leads a match against the ‘screws’. High art it’s not.

The Expendables (2010)

Sylvester Stallone leads a team of mercenaries down to a Latin American island to take out its despotic leader. It’s got so much fighting in it that producers thought they’d better include two real-life hard men in the team. Step forward UFC champion Randy Couture and wrestling legend ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin.

Drillbit Taylor (2008)

‘The Iceman’ Chuck Liddell – a super-hero in the Mixed Martial Arts world – turned his hand to acting with a tiny cameo in the Owen Wilson comedy. Chuck is interviewed for the role of bodyguard to two kids, who are being bullied at school, before the job is given to Wilson. I think I know who I would have wanted on my side…

The Hangover (2009)

A huge commercial and critical success, The Hangover followed a group of buddies as they spent a weekend getting hammered in Las Vegas. In the course of their drunken high-jinx they meet boxer Mike Tyson who turns in the perfect cameo and shows he’s not a bad little actor. As if I’m going to tell him any different!

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

When Guy Ritchie filmed his classic East End heist movie he decided to get in some proper villains to give an air of authenticity. Former bare-knuckle fighter Lenny McLean played the psychotic Barry the Baptist and former world middleweight champion Steve ‘The Celtic Warrior’ Collins turned up as an intimidating boxing club doorman.

Snatch (2000)

As he had done previously with Lock Stock, Guy Ritchie decided he needed a genuine boxer for his bare-knuckle movie Snatch. British champion heavyweight Scott Welch was perfect as Horace ‘Goodnight’ Anderson who had the distinction of knocking Brad Pitt into the air before getting flattened himself.

The Princess Bride (1987)

Towering at seven feet four inches, the aptly named Andre the Giant was perfect for the role of a kidnapper by the name of Fezzik in the adventure comedy The Princess Bride. Andre was familiar to sports fans as the nemesis of Hulk Hogan in their long running wrestling feud. Sadly at age 46 he died of a heart attack while visiting Paris for his own father’s funeral.

House of the Rising Sun (2012)

Speaking of Dave Bautista, House of the Rising Sun sees the wrestler make the transition to leading man actor as he portrays Ray, a former cop, who sets out to reform his ways and takes on a low-key job at a strip club called House of the Rising Sun. Unfortunately trouble quickly finds Ray, when the club is robbed and the owner’s son is shot to death. When Ray’s past is exposed, he looks to clear his own name and assumes a criminal search before both the police and the mob close in on him. With blasts of explosive gunplay and enough twists in the plot to keep you guessing right up until the very end, House of the Rising Sun is a dirty ride into a violent criminal underworld.

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