Celebs Prep for Olympics Smackdown

A cadre of thesps are ready to fight the IOC decision to drop wrestling starting in 2020

Billy Baldwin

Whether it’s George Clooney’s involvement with the Sudan or Matt Damon’s work for clean water, when it comes to causes, Hollywood is engaged. But look for celebs to grapple with an unexpected issue next: wrestling.

(From the pages of the April 2 issue of Variety.)

In February, the Intl. Olympic Committee decided to drop the sport beginning in 2020. Now a group that includes Billy Baldwin, Ashton Kutcher, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Mario Lopez and Matthew Modine are going to the mat to help it get reinstated.

Baldwin, who was a collegiate wrestler at Binghamton U., is spearheading the effort, personally reaching out to actors on behalf of the cause. While the team has yet to fully spring into action, expect it to make some noise on wrestling’s behalf.

“When the time comes, and that time will be soon, there will be a menu of different things that we’ll be asking those involved to do,” Baldwin says. “It’ll include a social media component and maybe adding their name to a letter. We’re also hoping to do an event. That might mean getting on a plane to attend (a planned wrestling match in New York) or doing something in Los Angeles.”

The stars have varying reasons for tackling this issue. Like Baldwin, Lopez competed in the sport; Kutcher grew up with iconic Iowa wrestling brothers Tom and Terry Brands; Tatum and Ruffalo star in the upcoming movie “Foxcatcher” as another famous set of wrestling siblings Mark and Dave Schultz; and Modine headlined the 1985 wrestling film “Vision Quest.”

No doubt, a few tweets from Kutcher, who has some 14 million followers, would grab plenty of attention, but will it persuade the IOC to bring back the sport?

“The push would have to include internationally known celebrities,” says Eric Smallwood, senior VP of Front Row Marketing Services, which specializes in sports and entertainment advertising sponsorship and analytics. “More regionalized or U.S.-based popularity wouldn’t have as much impact.”

Baldwin recognizes his Hollywood effort is a long shot, but the actor is undeterred.

“(IOC president) Jacques Rogge hasn’t heard of half these guys, but just to know there is another layer of support can’t hurt,” he says. “To see there are former wrestlers who have made it big in showbusiness and are doing everything in their power to raise awareness — you never know how that will influence process.”