As I even just begin to type these words it has just been revealed that Chris Hemsworth has been cast to play the Immortal Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Bollea) in a brand new biopic for Netflix. It’s just about the best possible timing as we sit on the eve of the wide release of what is probably the biggest movie about professional wrestling ever made, Fighting with My Family, ( a small movie by blockbuster standards, but still a wide release film with major names, like former wrestler Dwayne Johnson attached) that we learn that one of the biggest names the industry has ever seen will get his own movie. And the choice of Chris Hemsworth to play the part seems like the best possible choice one could make. He’s played Thor in the marvel Cinematic Universe, and what is Hulk Hogan if not a comic book character brought to life? At the same time, I’m not sure any living person will be able to quite do justice to the over-the-top personality that is Hulk Hogan.
While the question of who is the best professional wrestler ever is a hotly debated topic, Hulk Hogan is part of any conversation. While Hogan was never the best technical performer in the ring, he is almost certainly the biggest name the industry has ever seen. His personality transcended wrestling. He was able to become the biggest name the industry had ever seen despite any in-ring shortcomings because he could sell a match on the mic alone. You didn’t have to know anything about the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) to know the name Hulk Hogan.
Chris Hemsworth may not be quite the star in Hollywood that Hulk Hogan was in his wrestling heyday, but he’s a major name and getting him to play the role is a major get. Hemsworth is 6’3″, slightly shorter than Hogan, but we know he can put on serious muscle. The same workout plan that turns Hemsworth into Thor will be perfect to turn him into Hulk Hogan. Hemsworth is also 35-years-old, the same age Hogan was in the late 1980s, when he was at the height of his wrestling career.
At the same time, trying to picture Chris Hemsworth as Hulk Hogan isn’t easy. Picturing Thor, but with a blonde handlebar mustache and a (balding) mullet feels almost cartoonish. Hulk Hogan’s look was something I’m not sure anybody else could actually pull off and keep a straight face.
Beyond the look though, is the performance. We’ve never seen Chris Hemswrth play a character with quite the energy of Hulk Hogan. Even when he’s playing a more comedic version of Thor, he tends to be more grounded than many of those he plays against. Hemsworth’s characters tend to be serious and reserved. That’s not Hulk Hogan.
Hulk Hogan was at the top of professional wrestling during an era when keyfabe, the attempt to portray wrestling as real, even outside of the ring, was in full effect. While the biopic will certainly endeavor to still show the “real” Hulk Hogan, every time we see Chris Hemsworth in a public setting, he’ll be performing as the Hulkster. And the Hulkster was unlike anybody else. Can you imagine Chris Hemsworth trying to pull off the wrestling promo below.
Sure, Chris Hemsworth is an actor and if one man can do it, any actor can certainly try to imitate, and no portrayal of a real person is ever exactly right, that’s essentially impossible. Still, what made Hulk Hogan so memorable wasn’t simply the way he carried himself, it was that you bought every second of it. The wrestling promo above, while ridiculous, still works because you can believe that the guy saying it believes every word of it. I feel like that combination will be difficult for any actor to put together in just the right way the way Hogan did.
There are some ways that the Hulk Hogan movie could deal with these complications. The most obvious is to give the entire film a bit of a comedic edge to it. Lean into the ridiculousness of the whole thing.
While that could work, it’s not the best option the movie could choose. Professional wrestling is home to countless stories that are worthy of their own movies, and it feels like now is the time for those films to maybe be made. Fighting with my Family is one of the first films about professional wrestling that is really going to treat the subject, if you’ll pardon the expression, realistically. Hulk Hogan deserves the same treatment.
The movie could also avoid the issue by simply skipping over that part of the story. However, since the movie reportedly is going to focus on the “rise of Hulkamania” I don’t see how you do that without really showing Hulk Hogan as he really was in front of the camera in the 80s.
Certainly, Chris Hemsworth would not have signed on to play Hulk Hogan if he didn’t think he could do it, and the producers (one of which is Hogan himself, and another is Hogan’s long time friend and business partner Eric Bischoff) would not have have brought him on board if they didn’t believe he was the right man for the job.
I hope this movie turns out great. I would love to see a movie about the life of Hulk Hogan and I would love to see Chris Hemsworth really nail the role. Until I see Hemsworth pull off a full wrestling promo in character (which would make for a fantastic trailer by the way) I won’t be 100% sold on this.
There is, it needs to be said, one other potential problem with this Hulk Hogan biopic. If Hogan himself is acting as a producer and a consultant on the project, what sort of biopic are we really going to get? Will we really see the true story? Even if unintentionally, Hogan will naturally want to be sure he is painted in the best possible light and if you know anything about the career of Hulk Hogan, you’ll know that making sure he came out on top of every story was one thing the former wrestler was incredibly good at.
Biopics don’t need to make their subjects out to be monsters, but they shouldn’t always be the hero either. Every person has both sides to them throughout life and any Hulk Hogan movie needs to show the reality of that as best it can. It’s no accident that the only guy in Bohemian Rhapsody who ever looks like an asshole is the one who’s no longer around to defend himself.
As a fan of professional wrestling since the age of nine, I have high hopes for this brand new project. It could be something really great. Chris Hemsworth has a lot of work ahead of him, and Hulk Hogan needs to make sure he doesn’t get too involved in his own story. If everybody plays their role properly, however, then this could be the movie all the Hulkamaniacs have been waiting for.
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