Pro Wrestlers Who Were in Films Nominated for Academy Awards

Dolls, Godfathers, Secret Agents, and More…

By Chris Sabga [E-Mail | Facebook | Website | X]

No wrestler has ever been nominated for an Academy Award, but many of them have appeared in films that have won Oscars or were nominated.

Who will be the first?  My Oscar pool money is on Dave Bautista.

Regardless of which grappler eventually gets to display the gold Oscar statuette next to their wrestling championship gold, Hollywood’s history of casting pro wrestlers goes back decades.

Here are several wrestlers who have appeared in films nominated for Academy Awards.

Note: This is likely not a complete and comprehensive list – just some of the major highlights.

John Cena: Barbie (2023)

Barbie has been nominated for Best Picture and a slew of other Academy Awards.  Actress Margot Robbie and director Greta Gerwig, however, were infamously snubbed.

Also snubbed: John Cena.

I’m partially kidding – or am I? – but Cena’s cameo appearance is one of the most purely fun moments in a film packed with them.

It almost didn’t happen.

Cena’s agency thought appearing in Barbie would be “beneath” their star client.  Thankfully, he disagreed.

His role is brief enough that his catchphrase, “You can’t see me!”, almost applies.  Still, his quick stint as a long-haired Ken is a highlight and a delight.

Dave Bautista (“The Animal” Batista): Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Dune (2021) and Glass Onion (2022)

Of all the wrestlers who became actors, Dave Bautista is carving out the most serious and distinguished filmography by working with a-list actors and directors.

Bautista’s appearances in Best Picture nominee Dune as the sadistic Glossu Rabban Harkonnen and Best Adapted Screenplay nominee Glass Onion as himbo Twitch streamer Duke Cody are two of many examples.  Both roles could not be more different, showcasing his impressive range as an actor.

“Give me what I want!” is something Bautista once famously said.  He undoubtedly wants an Oscar, and I want one for him.  If his current career trajectory continues, an Academy Award could very well be in his future.

Latin Lover: Roma (2018)

A long, slow, weighty, black & white Mexican film about the life of a maid is the last place you’d expect to see a pro wrestler, but legendary luchador Latin Lover shows up as Professor Zovek in Roma – which was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Nathan Jones: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

“The Colossus of Boggo Road” spent more time in prison than WWE, but the vignettes introducing Nathan Jones as a wrestler were undeniably memorable.  That’s already more than most people experience in a lifetime.  Now add Hollywood actor to the list.  Jones appears in the blockbuster Best Picture nominee Mad Max: Fury Road as Rictus Erectus, which almost sounds like a wrestling name.

Lenny Montana: The Godfather (1972)

Everyone has heard of Luca Brasi, but not too many people realize that the actor who portrayed him, Lenny Montana, was once a pro wrestler.

According to Time Magazine, Montana was so in awe of co-star Marlon Brando that he nervously fumbled his lines.  Montana’s stage fright actually benefited the film, highlighting that Don Corleone (Brando’s character) was the one man the fearsome and imposing Brasi was intimidated by.

The Godfather won Best Picture and Best Actor (Brando) and was nominated for multiple other Academy Awards.  Montana, of course, was not among the nominees.  But his Luca Brasi will live forever – overshadowing both his time as a wrestler and many other actors’ careers.

Andre the Giant: The Princess Bride (1987)

Andre The Giant as Fezzik in "The Princess Bride." (Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)
Andre The Giant as Fezzik in The Princess Bride. (Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Inexplicably, The Princess Bride was nominated for only one Academy Award – Best Original Song – and it didn’t even win that.

In a perfect world, this would have swept the Academy Awards with Oscar nominations for Best Actor, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and more, and Andre the Giant would have deservedly won for Best Supporting Actor.

But this isn’t a perfect world.  Those only exist in fairy tales – like The Princess Bride.

Harold Sakata (Tosh Togo): Goldfinger (1964)

Like Luca Brasi, everyone remembers Oddjob, but very few realize that the actor who played him, Harold Sakata, was a pro wrestler by the name of Tosh Togo.

Goldfinger only won the Oscar for Best Sound Effects, but this James Bond film – and Oddjob – never needed any awards to make a major impact around the world that continues to this day.

Dwayne Johnson (The Rock): Moana (2016)

Moana fell short in its two Oscar nominations – for Best Animated Film and Best Original Song – but it’s a beloved classic that transcends awards and a joyful tribute to Samoan culture.

From IDMb: Chief Tui – the character voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – has the same tattoos as the “High Chief” Peter Maivia, who was The Rock’s grandfather and also a pro wrestler.

There are plans for a live-action remake of Moana and an animated sequel.

Jesse Ventura: Predator (1987)

“I ain’t got time to bleed!”

Predator wasn’t nominated for any screenwriting awards – a loss in the best Visual Effects category is its sole Oscar accolade – but who can forget that iconic line by Jesse”The Body”Ventura?

Ernest”The Cat”Miller and Multiple Wrestlers: The Wrestler (2016)

Mickey Rourke, Romeo Roselli, and Ron"R-Truth"Killings in "The Wrestler." (Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Mickey Rourke, Romeo Roselli, and Ron”R-Truth”Killings in The Wrestler. (Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei both came up short in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories, respectively.  I’m still not over Sean Penn winning for Milk – a tremendous performance, certainly, but also a role a dozen other actors could have played.  The statuette clearly belonged to Rourke.  The Nicolas Cage casting rumors were fun, but no one could have pulled off the role of Randy”The Ram”Robinson the way Rourke did.

Wrestler and martial artist Ernest”The Cat”Miller has a sizable supporting role as The Ayatollah.  In typical wrestling fashion, he’s playing a nationality far from his own.

But “The Cat” is only one of the many pro wrestlers in the film.  Wikipedia lists Robbie E., Necro Butcher, Nick Berk, The Blue Meanie, Sabian, Nate Hatred, Ron”R-Truth”Killings, L.A. Smooth, Jay Lethal, Johnny Valiant, Jim Powers, Austin Aries, Claudio Castagnoli, Larry Sweeney, Paul E. Normous, Romeo Roselli, John Zendig, Chuck Taylor, Nigel McGuinness, D.J. Hyde, Kit Cope, Drew Gulak, Bobby Dempsey, Judas Young, Pappadon, and Jay Santana in the cast.  Together, they give The Wrestler a level of credibility that mere actors alone could never provide.

George”The Animal”Steele: Ed Wood (1994)

Martin Landau won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and would play a wrestler himself a few years later in Ready to Rumble – a movie and role shockingly unrecognized by the Academy.  (The other Oscar here went to Rick Baker for Best Makeup.)

Ed Wood is a biopic about the director of the so-called “worst movie ever made” – Plan Nine from Outer Space – with the title role played by Johnny Depp.  In a film with many memorable characters (including the cross-dressing Wood), George”The Animal”Steele more than holds his own playing another wrestler who became an actor, the “Super Swedish Angel” Tor Johnson.

Pat Roach: Barry Lyndon (1975), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Willow (1988), and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Who the hell is Pat Roach?  If the amount of Oscar-nominated movies he’s been in is any indication, he might be the most successful pro wrestler-turned-actor ever. provides a superb history of Roach’s career.  He grew up in Birmingham, England, became a National Judo Champion, and wrestled first in his home country and eventually all over the world.

Then Hollywood came calling.

The rest is cinematic history.

Mike Lane (Tarzan Mike): The Harder They Fall (1956)

The stunning black & white cinematography of The Harder They Fall is immediately striking.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that it won the Academy Award in that category.

While Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger gleefully compete with each other over who can chew more scenery, the heart of this noir classic comes from the simple South American boxer named Tor, played by wrestler “Tarzan” Mike Lane.

The Harder They Fall was “Bogie’s” final film and a fitting curtain call to a legendary career.

Who will be the first wrestler to win an Oscar? (Photo Credit: Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences)
Who will be the first wrestler to win an Oscar? (Photo Credit: Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences)

And the Oscar Goes To…

Hollywood and professional wrestling have a long history together, so it seems like only a matter of time before wrestling championship gold leads to Oscar gold.

NOTE: Watch the Oscars LIVE on Sunday, March 10, 2024 at a new time of 7:00 P.M. Eastern/4:00 P.M. Pacific on ABC. The Oscars will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

Chris Sabga has written for WOW Magazine, CBS Sportsline’s WrestleLine,, They Live By Film, and

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