Considering that The Wrestler is one of his first major film projects, Robert Siegel is very fortunate.
Unlike the film's lead character, Randy "The Ram" Johnson, Siegel is currently on his way up in the world now that his script has been turned into one of the this year's most acclaimed films.
The Wrestler is a tale about a warrior of the "squared circle" who searches for redemption in life after a health scare puts him face-to-face with his own mortality. Set in New Jersey, the film has a kind of lived-in realism to it and the wrestling events that "The Ram" participates in all feel very authentic. That probably has something to do with the fact Siegel actually attended real-life events while writing the film.
By attending wrestling matches held at lodges and other small venues in the Tri-State area, Siegel ran into such wrestling legends as Tito Santana, Bam Bam Bigelow, King Kong Buddy and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.
“The Randy the Ram character is something of a composite of all these guys," Siegel told B OXOFFICE. "They are all much too old to be still jumping off ropes, you know, and getting hit with folding chairs but they’re still doing it because they love it and they don’t know what else to do and they need the money. It’s something of an addiction.”
According to Siegel, some of the harsher elements of the film are based on reality.
“Pretty much all of those guys, if you talk to them, would tell you they’re hooked on painkillers, they need hip replacement surgery, they are having money trouble, they don’t have health insurance...”
While it certainly has similarities to classic boxing films, Siegel has always viewed The Wrestler as something different.
“Hollywood has a rich tradition of boxing movies and if they want to lump us in with those that’s great, I mean that’s an honor," said Siegel. "I thought of [ The Wrester ] more as one of those gritty 70’s character pieces which is the stuff I really love.”
The Wrestler opens in limited release on December 17.
to listen our entire interview with Robert Siegel.