We’re a week away from the Aug. 15 release of The Expendables 3, which features the motion picture debut of MMA fighter Ronda Rousey. The UFC Bantamweight champion will play Luna, who goes from being a bartender (an athletic one, of course) to fighting alongside Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes and the rest of the vast ensemble assembled for this movie.
The size of Rousey’s role in the film won’t be known until we see her in action, but according to MMA Junkie, it wasn’t written as a bit part. Rousey was set to appear in more than 20 scenes with 35 lines of dialogue, though that could certainly change for the final cut — especially if she’s just more effective kicking someone in the face.
Yet Rousey’s role in The Expendables 3 is just the beginning, as she sees it. Up next for her are parts in Fast & Furious 7 and the Entourage movie (in which she’ll play herself, or perhaps an exaggerated version of herself).
Those sorts of supporting roles are a good way to start a career in Hollywood, something Rousey never entertained thoughts of pursuing. But after getting a taste of being a big-screen action start, she’s aiming higher, setting her sights on the territory previously staked out by Stallone and Arnold Schwarzeneggar.
“If The Rock can become the world’s highest-grossing actor, I can have that same goal,” Rousey said in an interview with ESPN The Magazine’s Sam Alipour. “I want to be the highest-grossing actor in the world someday.”
That sort of ambition is surely what’s fueled Rousey’s success as a MMA fighter. If she’s going to do something, she wants to be the best. And her timing in trying to force Hollywood into submission might just be perfect.
The success of the “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” films show that females can lead action and sci-fi franchises, something movie studios previously didn’t seem to believe was possible. (Yes, those movies also have a built-in audience from the young adult novels, but the bias against female action stars appears to be knocked out. That’s a huge barrier to be cleared.)
Additionally, within pop culture (or more specifically, geek culture), there’s growing support for a superhero movie led by a female character.
Warner Bros. would seem to have the lead, putting Wonder Woman in the upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. But Marvel could easily build a movie around Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow after her appearances in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and is reportedly considering putting another female hero in the Avengers sequel. Sony also just announced plans to spin off a female superhero from the Spider-Man franchise.
That’s not to say Rousey eventually has to play a superhero to reach her goals of becoming the highest-grossing actor in Hollywood. It might actually be better for her brand not to do so. Stallone, Schwarzeneggar and Statham established their careers playing cops, thugs and special operatives. Maybe Rousey could play a federal agent or international spy.
What’s important is that someone take a chance and create something for Rousey, much like Steven Soderbergh did for Gina Carano in 2011’s Haywire. However, that might not be the ideal example for Rousey, as Carano hasn’t been able to jump from Haywire into other lead roles or action franchises. Carano also benefited from an established director like Soderbergh deciding to make an action movie and take a chance on her. Ultimately, Haywire wasn’t a success though, grossing nearly $19 million against a $23 million budget.
Carano also didn’t exactly show herself to be a great actor in that movie and that’s probably held her back to some extent. If Rousey shows acting chops in her upcoming roles, that will help greatly.
Rousey points to Dwayne Johnson as an example to follow, and that’s a good model to emulate. The Rock has headlined his share of films, but he’s been a co-lead or supporting player in many of his projects, smartly attaching himself to the “Fast & Furious” and “G.I. Joe” franchises. Rousey looks like she’s taking a similar path and establishing herself first, rather than waiting for a movie to be created for her. And if she shows genuine acting talent, the opportunities will likely open up.
Does anyone want to suggest to Rousey that she has no chance here?