Like a Rock

Wrestlers leap to the screen

In September, UPN insisted that World Wrestling Entertainment remove the controversial Arab-American character Muhammad Hassan from its Smackdown broadcasts. One might have expected Hassan (in real life an Italian-American named Mark Copani) to resurface on USA Network's Raw. Instead, Copani quit the business altogether to pursue movie stardom.

Blame The Rock. For years, wrestlers avoided the big screen for fear of being mocked like Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny. But then the "People's Champ" gets himself some good reviews, and now every ring giant is following suit. Bill Goldberg, whose wrestling persona was based on not talking much, appeared prominently in three films this year -- as a convict with a big schlong in The Longest Yard, as an evil Father Christmas in Santa's Slay, and as himself in Tom Arnold's The Kid and I. Also in The Longest Yard: Kevin Nash playing it effeminate, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, smartly tweaking his redneck-bully image.

The Rock made the best of bad projects in Be Cool and Doom, but his upcoming role in Richard Kelly's quirky Southland Tales should erase those memories. Ironically, he was outperformed in '05 by another self-proclaimed people's champion, Diamond Dallas Page, whose turn as a bounty hunter in The Devil's Rejects was equal to co-star Danny Trejo's.

The Rock  in Doom
The Rock in Doom

In the pipeline: Eminem-wanna-be-on-steroids John Cena recently wrapped the lead role in The Marine, horror-movie-inspired Kane actually gets his own horror movie called See No Evil, and Steve Austin stars in The Condemned. Copani, so far, remains unemployed.

 
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