Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue is happening - but who should be cast as Hulk Hogan himself? Terry Bollea (better known by his wrestling moniker Hulk Hogan) is no stranger to Hollywood, having appeared in movies like No Holds Barred, Mr. Nanny, and Rocky III in the '80s and '90s. Now, he's getting the Hollywood treatment yet again - only this time, in the form of his very own biopic. And while the "Bollea vs. Gawker" sex tape scandal on which the movie will be based is mostly cut and dry at this point, the same can't be said for who will be cast as the "Sterling Golden" himself.
In 2006, Bollea was at the center of a scandal when Gawker Media published portions of a sex tape that involved Bollea and Heather Clem (she was the wife of radio personality Todd Alan Clem, also known as Bubba the Love Sponge). However, instead of settling things in the ring, Bollea took Gawker to court. The entire hearing erupted into a legal dispute arguing freedom of the press versus personal privacy, but it didn't stop there. Bollea's beef with Gawker only grew from the initial lawsuit. When he was fired from the WWE after Gawker published transcripts of the wrestler using racial slurs, Bollea sued the Gawker yet again - this time with the help of billionaire Peter Thiel (who had been outed as gay by Gawker without his consent).
Now, the movie on which this scandal is based is picking up steam. Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Red Sparrow) will direct, and Charles Randolph (who won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Big Short) will pen the screenplay. Speculation is now open as to who will star in the movie as Hogan, Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio, Gawker CEO Nick Denton, and Clem.
- This Page: Possible Actors Who Could Play Hulk Hogan
- Page 2: Our Top Hulk Hogan Pick & Casting The Other Key Players In The Gawker Story
Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Audiences are more than familiar with the wrestling personality that is Hulk Hogan. Who they may not be as familiar with, however, is the actual man underneath (and, no, his role in the VH1 reality series Hogan Knows Best doesn't count). In a way, this upcoming biopic is giving Bollea a reintroduction. His guard is down, emotions are high, and there will be a kind of vulnerability on display that has been - for over 30 years - mostly nonexistent. Now, the goal is finding an actor who can juggle the physical presence and confidence, but also the sensitive subtleties.
Enter Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Between The Walking Dead, Watchmen, and even less intense roles like The Possession, Morgan has a unique control of himself. When his performances get explosive, they're undercut with finesse; when he's going for extreme, he's reserved; and when he's intimidating, he's able to maintain a sense of calm. Bringing that to a celebrity icon who is fighting for their reputation could be the perfect way to get the humanized makeover this movie is trying to pull off.
When it comes to casting someone as famous as Hulk Hogan, a possible risk is turning the performance into a stylized caricature. In the past, Kevin Spacey tried his hand at Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea (not because he was necessarily right for the role, but because he looked and sounded like him), Leonardo DiCaprio did his best as J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar (despite unforgiving prosthetics), and Ashton Kutcher essentially cosplayed as Steve Jobs in Jobs. So, with that being the case, sometimes not going for the "it" actor to bring someone to life on the big screen, and instead going with someone unexpected but capable is a safer bet.
Dash Mihok, who worked with Lawrence on I Am Legend, has been in the business for decades, but has never been given a shot at headlining a major movie. Now, having grown out of his younger sidekick roles in movies like Romeo + Juliet, and proving his grittier, matured abilities in Ray Donovan, especially, playing Hulk Hogan could potentially become Mihok's crowning achievement, even though he's significantly younger than Bollea.
Even though Woody Harrelson's body type doesn't exactly mirror that of Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea, that shouldn't count him out of the running completely. Especially taking into account his facial likeness, Harrelson's angle on this sort of performance would certainly add to the prestige approach that this movie is apparently going for. A courtroom drama with an Academy Award-winning writer at the helm - someone with Harrelson's gravitas, range, and proven track record with playing real-life people (see: The People vs. Larry Flynt, LBJ) ought to be a given when considering someone to tackle Hogan (not literally, as he clearly wouldn't stand a chance).
Having worked with Lawrence on the Hunger Games series, there is already a relationship between the actor and director; and given that the role requires a lot of attention to detail in order to prevent the performance from feeling hammy or unfocused, comfortability between the director and actor could do wonders in crafting an ideal interpretation.
While aging prosthetics aren't always the most ideal approach with actors, they're not always complete misfires - especially when they're subtly adding realism to a performance (see: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln). What's more is that they allow actors who'd otherwise be incapable of feeling believable in a role believable. And adding to that a specific actor's ability to deliver overwhelmingly commanding performances with extensive range definitely doesn't hurt.
This brings us to Tom Hardy. Not only has he literally proven his abilities in the ring like Hogan in movies like Bronson and Warrior, his range is jarring. Can he handle the enthusiastic presence that most people recognize in someone like Hulk Hogan? Yes. But can he also perfect the quieter, struggling demeanor that Bollea was experiencing outside of his popular character during the trial? Without a doubt.
Tackling this sort of role would certainly require a major physical transformation for Hardy, and history has proven that he's more than capable of exceeding expectations.
The Best Hulk Hogan Pick: J.K. Simmons
Lastly, there's Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons. And even though first impressions might not make him feel especially right for the role of Hulk Hogan, his track record proves otherwise.
As opposed to the other actors on this list who convey certain attributes or elements that complement Hulk Hogan, Simmons checks all the boxes. Jarring emotional range? Check. Age? Check. Physique? While he may not be on the same level as Hulk Hogan, he certainly went above and beyond for his performance as Commissioner Jim Gordon in Justice League - so, check.
Simmons, who has played everyone from a small town dad in Juno to J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, may not seem like the most obvious choice for a professional wrestler, but he has the potential to seriously subvert expectations. In his award-winning performance in Whiplash, Simmons managed to be the most intimidating character in the movie, while also conveying a strangely displaced sort of pity. And seeing as this new biopic will undoubtedly show a side of Hulk Hogan that audiences may not be entirely familiar with, Simmons is the kind of actor who could easily do that sort of portrayal justice.
Christian Bale - Peter Thiel
Intermixed with all the legal drama surrounding Bollea and Gawker was billionaire Peter Thiel. Having been outed by Gawker five years prior to the release of the sex tape, Thiel was in a unique position to tip the scales of the case, and it was ultimately with the help of his personal financing that helped give Boellea the upper hand. He co-founded PayPal, is a Facebook board member, and created a nonprofit philanthropic organization called the Thiel Foundation, but it was his personal life - and eventual dispute with Gawker - for which he'll likely be remembered most.
So, when it comes to casting someone with this level of magnitude and complexity, it might help finding an actor who's no stranger to playing someone whose wealthy lifestyle shrouds a deep-seated secret that could potentially change everyone's perception of him where it to ever become public. As it so happens, Academy Award winner Christian Bale has done just that. He's dealt with these themes in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, American Hustle, and even American Psycho. And in mastering this unique balance, as well as expertly curating his emotions amid trauma, scandal, or something else otherwise painful, Bale has proven his skills, making him an ideal choice for this sort of role. It also doesn't hurt that he starred in The Big Short, which Randolph co-wrote.
Sam Rockwell- A.J. Daulerio/Andrew Scott - Nick Denton
As for the other characters in the movie, Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio played a significant role in the events leading up to and during the lawsuit. Having been directly involved with the release of footage from Bollea's sex tape, he ended up standing trial during the proceedings in Gawker's defense. And fresh off of his Oscar win for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Sam Rockwell has proven to be no stranger to playing characters who are staunch in their beliefs, even when those beliefs are outweighed by the majority.
Shoulder-to-shoulder with Daulerio was Gawker CEO Nick Denton. Having gone personally bankrupt due to Bollea's lawsuit against his company, Denton's charismatic, but morally indeterminate disposition seems like the kind of juicy performance perfect for someone like Andrew Scott. While his performance in the series Sherlock as Moriarty is unquestionably grounded in sheer lunacy, the actor has a unique ability to exude charm and unwavering rigidity simultaneously, not unlike Denton during and after the trial.
Marisa Tomei - Heather Clem
The last player on the board is Heather Clem (now Heather Cole). Though the trial famously revolved around Bollea and Gawker, Clem was just as directly affected by the scandal. During the proceedings, Clem had to stand trial and recount deeply personal interactions between herself and Bollea, noticeably bothered by the fact. Regardless of the fact that her husband allegedly encouraged her relationship with Bollea, she had to stand on the sidelines as sensitive material pertaining to her personal life were not only made available to the public, but became the focal point of a widespread scandal.
Academy Award winner Maria Tomei is very much familiar with playing characters who are pushed to the brink of emotional fatigue (see: The Wrestler, In the Bedroom), so this could be yet another role in which she brings some serious emotional depth. Also, having starred in The Big Short, she's already familiar with screenwriter Charles Randolph.