The Iron Claw: What is the true story behind Zac Efron’s new film?

Zac Efron has bulked up again, this time to play wrestler Kevin Von Erich  (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
Zac Efron has bulked up again, this time to play wrestler Kevin Von Erich (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Zac Efron is not far from his bodybuilding Baywatch days as he tackles new A24-led project The Iron Claw, playing professional wrestler Kevin Von Erich.

Yet another transformation took place, with the actor catching press attention for his new physique on set.

Director and writer Sean Durkin has been filming in Louisiana since October, leading the cast including Efron, The Bear’s Jeremy White Allen as the protagonist’s brother and fellow pro-wrester Kerry, Harris Dickinson as David Von Erich, and Lily James in a yet unknown role.

Speaking to Deadline, Durkin said: “I’m very excited about this one.

“It’s another family portrait, about a wrestling family who revolutionised the sport and then suffered tragedy.”

But the audience does not need to wait for the official 2023 release to know the story of the Von Erich family, who made a name for themselves in the Sixties.

What is the true story behind The Iron Claw?

The official synopsis from A24 looks at the “rise and fall of the Von Erich family, a dynasty of wrestlers who made a huge impact on the sport from the 1960s to the present day”.

Efron plays Kevin, son of Fritz Von Erich, who began wrestling professionally in 1976. In the years since, he has been titled one-time World Heavyweight Champion, five-time American Tag Team Heavyweight Champion with his brothers – and in 2009 he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the Von Erich family.

Several family members also traversed the business but, tragically, Kevin is the only surviving son.

Fritz Von Erich, whose Texan family name was originally Adkisson, passed away in 1997 from brain and lung cancer at 68 years old but had already outlived five of his six children.

The firstborn, Jack Jr, died aged just six outside their Niagara Falls home, in an electrocution accident in which he drowned in a puddle, while David Von Erich died in a Tokyo hotel from enteritis at 25 years old in 1959. David’s funeral was attended by the masses.

Three of four remaining brothers - Mike, Chris, and Kerry - each committed suicide, leading to the rumoured Von Erich curse. However, the painful losses are often spun as a cautionary tale.

Some have attributed the deaths to the overworked nature of industry professionals. Others have constructed stories that the deaths of Fritz’s sons were a form of karmic retribution for using a Nazi character gimmick in the ring.

To escape public scrutiny, Kevin left the combat-sports entertainment world and moved to Hawaii with his family. But Von Erich has given his green light for his portrayal by Efron.

“It’s going to be a hard job, I think, it’s a lot of information and a lot of time and so they’ve got some tough work ahead of them, but I saw of a picture of the guy [Efron] and he looked great. I don’t think I ever looked that good, so I think they’re going to do great. I’ll bet they do,” he said to TMZ.