A24’S BIOGRAPHICAL DRAMA stars Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, and Harris Dickinson as three brothers in the famous Von Erich wrestling dynasty whose lives are beset by tragedy. In order to prepare his trio of Hollywood actors for the dramatic stunts they would be required to perform while playing professional wrestlers, director Sean Durkin recruited real-life wrestling legend Chavo Guerrero, Jr. to train the cast like actual fighters.
“All the wrestling you see in this movie is done by our actors,” says Guerrero in an exclusive clip A24 shared with Men’s Health above. “Any time they were in the ring, it was them doing the moves…wrestling is a lot more real than people think.” He explained that he had the actors practice their moves on him first before rehearsing their fights together. “So if they’re gonna mess up, they’re messing up on my face.”
Harris Dickinson, who plays David Von Erich, used to watch Guerrero wrestle when he was younger, and found it to be a “surreal” experience to learn from the pro. “I gained a huge amount of respect for the world of wrestling, because of the discipline and the sacrifices,” he says.
Zac Efron has plenty of experience in transforming his body for roles. He got into the most jacked shape of his life for the 2017 action comedy Baywatch, but even he found rehearsing real wrestling moves to be up there among the toughest things he’s done for a gig, and he would often leave the set with bruises. “It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, physically,” he says. “I was turning purple in parts—they would just cover it in makeup.”
Jeremy Allen White, who plays Kerry Von Erich, has previously joked that the realism of the training was hard at times, particularly the hardness of the wrestling ring, which has plywood and springs directly underneath the mat. “I was like, we’re making a movie, do we need to be doing it this way? We could use a little extra cushion,” he told Jimmy Kimmel. “And they’re like, no, no, this is how it’s done, and I was like, alright.”
However, he acknowledges that the physical side of rehearsals helped him connect with his co-stars. “Chavo made it so clear and important that even in between these moves, there’s a story being told,” says White. “We got to spend all this time together in the ring, to try to do these stunts and compete with one another.”
Guerrero—who also appears in the movie as American wrestler The Sheik—believes that the time the three actors spent physically embodying their roles helped them create the on-screen chemistry and brotherly bond they needed.
“Zac, Harris, and Jeremy became the Von Erich brothers,” he says. “It really seemed like they were just a team. It was magic.”
The Iron Claw premieres on December 22 in theaters everywhere.
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.