Following its premiere, The Iron Claw looks like a major entry into the year’s Oscar race, with buzz for Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White.
Could professional wrestling be headed back into the Oscars race for the first time since 2008’s The Wrestler? That was one of the questions swirling throughout Dallas last night following the world premiere of The Iron Claw, Sean Durkin’s drama about the tragic rise and fall of the Texas-based Von Erich wrestling family. The film stars Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Stanley Simons, Harris Dickinson, Holt McCallany, Maura Tierney, and Lily James, with possible accolades following the principle cast.
We were lucky enough to attend the world premiere on Wednesday evening, and the mood was electric, particularly because of one important piece of breaking news. Literally moments before curtains lifted on The Iron Claw, news broke about the end of the SAG-AFTRA strike, sending the crowd into an uproar. The film had received an interim agreement so that stars Efron, White, Simons, and Dickinson could be on hand for the festivities. Along with Durkin, they introduced the film to an eager audience of press and locals who had grown up hearing stories about the “Von Erich Curse”.
The story centers on Efron’s performance as Kevin Von Erich, who along with his brothers Kerry, David, and Mike were part of a family wrestling legacy started by their taskmaster of a father, Fritz Von Erich. Looming over them is the supposed “Von Erich Curse” that has seen the family hit by numerous tragedies. The film focuses on the brotherly love, the pressures of success, and the cost of being great in the cutthroat world of professional wrestling.
The Iron Claw will be one of many films duking it out to land a Best Picture spot at the Academy Awards, and could slide into contention if it catches fire with audiences beyond wrestling fans (a strong possibility judging by the early reactions). While this is definitely an ensemble affair, Efron could emerge as a Best Actor pick for his performance as Kevin Von Erich, the eldest brother. It’s a demanding role both emotionally and physically, with Efron packing on pounds of muscle to withstand the in-ring rigors. White could be a dark horse for his role as Kerry Von Erich, who would survive a brutal car accident and make his way to the then-WWF. Mátyás Erdély has a real shot for the truly stunning cinematography, in particular capturing the wrestling sequences. There’s also a really great role for veteran actress Maura Tierney as the family matriarch, Doris. But the best chance overall could go to Durkin for Best Screenplay, effectively telling a multi-year tragedy in concise, devastating fashion.
The Iron Claw opens in theaters on December 22nd.