Wrestling into movies

Rotorua Daily Post - - Entertainment -

John Cena doesn’t be­lieve in ego. How could he when he’s used to tens of thou­sands of WWE fans chant­ing “John Cena sucks” ev­ery time he walks out to the ring?

It’s a phi­los­o­phy that’s helped him sur­vive both the de­mands of pro­fes­sional wrestling, where he was never sup­posed to be a suc­cess, and now Hol­ly­wood, where he’s made a mirac­u­lous come­back from some ter­ri­ble films in the ear­lier 2000s. In the past three years, Cena has be­come a re­li­able high­light of what­ever project he’s in, whether as a boyfriend who bares it all in Train­wreck, as an over­pro­tec­tive fa­ther to a teenager in this year’s Block­ers, or even as a mil­i­tary man with some great one-lin­ers in a big bud­get Trans­form­ers movie like Bum­ble­bee, which is in cin­e­mas now.

“I’m not afraid to fall on my face. I’m not afraid to look ridicu­lous,” Cena said on a re­cent af­ter­noon in Los An­ge­les. “My ego lies with the movie­goer . . . I want to en­ter­tain folks. I want to make peo­ple happy.”

And Cena is fi­nally achiev­ing that goal in films after a rocky start. Up un­til a few years ago, Cena’s Rot­ten Toma­toes scores for for­get­table and gener­i­cally-ti­tled ac­tion pics like 12 Rounds, The Ma­rine and Leg­endary barely broke 30 per cent. But ever the ath­lete, he didn’t crum­ble un­der the weight of neg­a­tive re­views, he learned from it.

“My heart wasn’t in them. I wanted to be some­where else. I did those movies be­cause it was good for a busi­ness model,” Cena said. “What I learned from that is do what you love.”

And he got his chance with the 2015 Amy Schumer re­la­tion­ship com­edy Train­wreck, which, fol­low­ing a divorce, he found he “to­tally re­lated to”. That break­out role as the sort-of boyfriend of Schumer’s char­ac­ter put him on the map as not only nov­elty cast­ing, but a ver­i­ta­ble tal­ent as well, lead­ing to roles in Sis­ters, Daddy’s Home 2 and Block­ers. And now there’s Bum­ble­bee, his big­gest and high­es­trated movie yet.

Cena wasn’t look­ing for a fran­chise, or an ac­tion film when the script for Bum­ble­bee came across his desk. He didn’t even care much about Trans­form­ers. But then he found a sweet story about a mis­fit teenage girl (played by Hailee Ste­in­feld) and a ro­bot that was more E.T. than Michael Bay, and de­cided it was some­thing he wanted to do.

“I was like ‘I’ll be Bum­ble­bee’s spare tyre. I don’t even care,”’ Cena said. “I wanted to do some­thing in the movie.” He and di­rec­tor Travis Knight set­tled on Agent Burns, who might have the dress­ings of a car­toon vil­lain, but also has some sur­prises, and hu­mour up his sleeve. Ste­in­feld mar­velled at how pre­pared Cena was ev­ery day and his “in­fec­tious en­ergy”.

Cena con­sid­ers him­self at the ser­vice of the story and the di­rec­tor.

“I be­came suc­cess­ful in WWE by al­ways learn­ing and evolv­ing. I be­lieve that the peo­ple around me are smarter than me,” he said. “Same thing in movies. I never watch play­back. I never give feed­back. I take feed­back.”

It’s some­thing of a di­rec­tor’s dream to have some­one so open to con­struc­tive crit­i­cism.

“I love him. He is so coach­able. He would do any­thing I asked him. And I’m say­ing any­thing,” said Block­ers di­rec­tor Kay Can­non. “If there was a time where he felt like he didn’t give what I wanted, he would text or call or check-in and apol­o­gise, like, ‘I’m so sorry, I’ll do bet­ter next time.’ He’s very much an ath­lete.”

His big­gest learn­ing curve in films thus far has been adapt­ing to per­form­ing with­out an im­me­di­ate au­di­ence of thou­sands in front of him.

“I just started telling di­rec­tors, ‘Hey

I’m not afraid to fall on my face. I’m not afraid to look ridicu­lous.

don’t be afraid to tell me to turn it down. You’re go­ing to have to do that be­cause of the world I come from,”’ he said. “Tell me I suck and tell me what you need.”

It’s not un­com­mon for a di­rec­tor to come from be­hind the mon­i­tor and say, “You’re at a 10, I need you to be at a 1. I’m hum­ble and vul­ner­a­ble enough to say I’m still learn­ing,” Cena said.

One per­son he’s learned a lot from is Jackie Chan, who he is co-star­ring with in a 2019 ac­tion film from Scott Waugh.

“I firmly be­lieve he’s a ro­bot be­cause he does not know the word stop,” Cena said.

For now, he’s still happy jug­gling both the WWE and his ris­ing film ca­reer, and ev­ery time he has a spare minute, he’s ei­ther look­ing for an­other act­ing project or look­ing for a WWE en­gage­ment. He was sup­posed to have a month off after Bum­ble­bee came out be­fore his next film starts shoot­ing, but he de­cided find out what WWE events are hap­pen­ing in­stead. Now, he’ll be do­ing that right up un­til he has to leave for the film.

“None of those are tele­vised,” he said. “I just want to go back be­cause I love it. When that process be­comes too much, I’ll be at the precipice of a choice. But it’s not right now and I’m en­joy­ing it.” —AP

Photo / AP

WWE star­turnedac­tor John Cena.

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