John Cena Interview, 12 Rounds

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

From the director of Die Hard 2 and the producer of Speed comes 12 Rounds, starring WWE Champion John Cena! John Cena stars as New Orleans Police Detective Danny Fisher. When Fisher stops a brilliant thief from getting away with a multi-million-dollar heist, the thief's girlfriend is accidentally killed. After escaping from prison, the criminal mastermind enacts his revenge, taunting the cop with a series of near-impossible puzzles and tasks …12 rounds…that Fisher must somehow complete to save the life of his fiancée.

MoviesOnline sat down with WWE superstar John Cena to talk about his new movie, “12 Rounds,” a reality-based, high-octane action film helmed by Renny Harlin that reinvents the genre. “I’d like to think of “12 Rounds” as a movie that started a new style of action movie,” says the director, “the sort of ‘Docu-Realism’ commando style shooting of action movies, instead of super-polished, glossy, Hollywood-fantasy fare. We gave the film a real down and dirty feel, which better reflects the tenor of pop culture.” For “12 Rounds” thrilling action sequences, Harlin uses a guerilla-style filmmaking mixing different media and camera to tell the story visually in an exciting new way that complemented Cena’s athleticism.

Cena is one of the brightest young stars in World Wrestling Entertainment, and a star of its hit cable program, “Monday Night RAW,” on the USA Network. In 2006, he starred in his first theatrical film, “The Marine,” in which he portrayed a Marine who after being discharged from service is forced to use his military training to rescue his wife from kidnappers.

For Cena, “12 Rounds” is more than another role; it’s his initiation into the rarified air of action movie star. The film’s Danny Fisher is the type of action hero that Cena enjoyed watching as a fan of the genre. “The ‘80s was the era of the ‘everyman’ hero,” Cena explains. “And there hasn’t been that style of hero since then. Guys like Bruce Willis in ‘Die Hard’ proved that an everyday person can be an action hero. If I’m even considered in that club, I’m definitely off to a great start.”

John Cena is a fabulous guy and we really appreciated his time. Here’s what he had to tell us about “12 Rounds”:

Q: How do you feel this movie career is going for you coming off the WWE?

JOHN CENA: Fantastic. “The Marine” a few years ago was a great introduction I would say for me into acting. I learned a lot from doing that movie and certainly corrected a lot of what I thought the flaws were of that movie into “12 Rounds.” This one is a product that I’m very, very proud of. I can’t believe only for my second feature that it’s something that came out this excellent and that’s only thanks to Mark Gordon, to Fox, and to Renny Harlin.

Q: How are you adjusting to performing for cameras as opposed to a live audience?

JOHN CENA: It’s very similar. The live audience – I make the comparison of doing movies to Broadway theater. We are episodic television, man. We tell stories. It’s the same thing as a movie. We make mini-movies every week. You have to realize there’s no live audience there and be a little bit more reserved in your actions. I relied heavily on Renny and on my cast. I told them the first day that I’m a bit ignorant to this stuff. If you see anything that looks way out of the realm or if anything looks stupid, just cut, tell me how to fix it and we’ll get it fixed.

Q: Are these projects that come to you first or do they go through Vince McMahon and then to you?

JOHN CENA: This one actually came to me from a man named Josh McLaughlin who works for the Mark Gordon Company. He’s a good friend of mine and literally over a cup of coffee pitched me this movie. I fell in love with it only because at 6 feet, 250 pounds, it’s tough to find a super villain physically capable of matching up on screen with me. So, the fact that I was essentially competing against myself for these 12 rounds or 12 challenges really appealed to me. The fact that I was a normal guy rather than some super cop that was indestructible, that caught my eye too, so I said, “Listen, you’ve got to get me a script. I’ll get it to the boss. I think we can make this movie.” He got me the script. I handed it to my boss, Vince McMahon. I said “We’re making this movie.” And he just read it through once and he shared the same enthusiasm I did. Before I knew it, we were in New Orleans making a movie.

Q: So he encourages it…

JOHN CENA: Absolutely.

Q: …your going the way of Dwayne Johnson?

JOHN CENA: It’s tough for me to say this and then have people believe it just because of the people who’ve come before me, but I’m not going to leave the ring anytime soon. I’ve done two features now. I haven’t sacrificed one bit of commitment to the WWE. I can do two things at once and it’s two jobs that I enjoy. I love making movies and I love my time in the ring. I wouldn’t want to give either one of them up.

Q: Can you talk about your experience working with Renny Harlin and what that was like?

JOHN CENA: It was fantastic. They couldn’t have picked anyone better. He is so hungry to make great projects and really was a team captain from the word go. The first time I ever met him, I knew he wasn’t expecting much from my performance because he didn’t know very much about me or who I was as a person and whenever you Google search John Cena, all you see is wrestling footage, so I’m pretty sure Renny had preconceived notions about what to expect – very little. As I walked through the pre-production offices, it was literally not even set up. Three days into the movie people are still unpacking boxes. Renny’s office is all the way down the hall. It’s about three quarters of the size of this room with one window and the door. I walk in and literally every piece of sheetrock is covered by 5 by 7 photos from movies. And he turned around in his chair and said, “I’m Renny Harlin. How do you like your movie?” And if you started at one side of the door and looked to the other side of the door, the movie was already shot, like he had taken it frame by frame. And the whole walls were covered ceiling to floor. I just couldn’t believe somebody was that prepared on the third day of shooting. This guy had obviously done his homework. He knew how he wanted the movie to look even before he met the cast. And he was covering his own bases not knowing what to expect with me. If he got the ‘old stereotypical big dumb wrestler,’ he knew he would still have a great movie.

Q: It seemed like his visual style matched your physicality?

JOHN CENA: Yeah, it really did. And that was something. He kind of changed his style. He didn’t shoot like that in “Die Hard” and he didn’t shoot like that in “Cliffhanger.” He really wanted to go another way. He wanted the movie to look very edgy, very gritty, very quick cuts, a lot of angles. That was something he kind of had to readapt and he got an excellent DP in David Boyd to help him make a multi-camera set-up work.

Q: Some of the scenes look very hard. Did you do most of your stunts?

JOHN CENA: I did. I did most everything. This was actually the first time I learned that there’s no badge of honor in doing all your own stuff. You need to do a majority of this stuff because it certainly helps, especially a movie like this which is based on the realism of the action. We didn’t lean heavy on CG. We didn’t lean heavy on backlot stuff. We filmed all this stuff out there so it helps a lot when you’re in a real scenario to see the face of your guy doing all this stuff. I learned that, but I also learned that if the lead guy goes down, it’s a financial disaster. So I was really gung ho about, listen, I want to do this, I want to do that, but there were only a very few things where it was literally a matter of shutting the picture down. They said we can’t have you do this. But, I was hanging from an elevator shaft, I drove a fire truck, surfed on the streetcar, wrecked all those cop cars, drove the Camaro, jumped out of the helicopter, all that other stuff, jumped out of a 10-story building. So there were just a few moments that I couldn’t do.

Q: What didn’t you do?

JOHN CENA: Certain stuff on the helicopter skid, certain moments in the driving stuff when literally if something went wrong and the car was torn in half by a bus or something like that, so just certain spots in the driving. For the most part, I was in the game for a lot of it.

Q: Did you do all of the rappelling down the side of the building?

JOHN CENA: I did and, for me, that sucked because I’m afraid of heights and ledges. I’m okay with flying and stuff like that, but it’s just like I have a feeling, I just have a fear of when I get close, I think somebody’s just going to tip me over. So they actually did tip me over and made me hang 10 stories. There was a scene in the movie where I have to jump out of the tenth story of a bank and use rope to rappel down to safety. This was like 75 percent through the movie and I knew it was going to be a problem because they had me do it in pre-production. They had me train with the fire department to learn how to rappel and it was awful. But I did it and that was my bad because they knew that I could do it. So when we finally get to the scene, I’m like, “Renny, I don’t know if I can do this. I just don’t think I can do it.” He said “Okay, I’ll use a double and if I do use a double, we get nothing out of this. If I use you, this is what I’ll cut, this is what will make the movie, and this is what will help me out in the scene. Can you do it?” I’d developed a very good friendship with Renny and I saw him every day work his ass off so he set the demeanor of you didn’t want to let the guy down. Had he been a jerk, I would have been like forget it. But he was such a good guy and so motivated, I got up there and I didn’t conquer my fear. I still get the crap scared out of me every time I get on a ledge. So I sucked it up and we did the scene. He was a man of his word. All that stuff made it into the movie.

Q: You said earlier that you’re good at doing two things at once -- shooting a movie and wrestling at the same time. What about three things? When do you find time to work out with that busy schedule?

JOHN CENA:  Working out is easy. When you set up camp on a movie, step one is to find a good gym and I found a great gym really, really close to the city. It’s actually owned by an Olympic lifting coach so not only was it a great gym but it’s stuff that I train. I train a lot of multi-joint power movements similar to an NFL football player. Whenever we’re traveling across the country or wherever we’re at – I’ve been with the WWE 8 years now, I’ve been around the world 5 times, and I can tell you where the gym in every city is.

Q: With a wrestling match, it’s really like a play. You do it from beginning to end and it’s all fluid. How hard has it been for you doing a film where it’s all out of sequence?

JOHN CENA: The thing that’s helped me from wrestling is sometimes when you do live television, things change immediately, so you can be immersed in one story and then the story shifts. Ultimately, if you just get the point of what you’re trying to accomplish, if you know the story, then you can put forth a good product. I know sometimes we shoot the beginning of the movie, sometimes you shoot the end, then the middle, then vice versa. But as long as you’ve read the script, as long as you know the story and like the story, you can remember, “Okay, this is the part in the story when I was like this.” Or “This is the part in the story where the character does this. Okay. Now I know where I’m at.” That’s easy for me. I’ve always been really good at storytelling. That’s the easy part for me. I didn’t mind jumbling up the shooting at all. I just had to at the beginning of the day maybe even look back at the script, look at the dailies and just be able to find out where I was in the timeline.

Q: What was an average day on the set like?

JOHN CENA: Renny was on time to a T. We didn’t go overtime at all and he got probably 18 hours worth of work each day done in a standard 12. We would show up at 6 which means I would be up and driving to the set at 5:30. He would have us ready to go at 7 and we would be shooting literally until 7 that night. At 7 I would get done and go across the bridge to work out from about 9 to 11, then get a couple hours sleep and wake up and do it again. And then Saturday and Sunday. Monday was the toughest day for me because I would wake up early at 5, shoot until about 4, then go to a charter airport and fly to wherever Monday Night RAW was that night. I would get there about 9 pm as the show goes on air, do whatever my obligation was for Monday Night RAW and Monday Night RAW would get over about 11, 11:30, get back to a charter airport before midnight, fly back to New Orleans usually around 3:30 or 4:00 o’clock, get up again at 5:30 and go on to Tuesday.

Q: So you were just doing RAW at this point? You weren’t doing House Shows?

JOHN CENA: I had only a few live event commitments, but they were very minimal just due to insurance purposes for the movie.

Q: You talked about your least favorite stunt. On the flipside, what was your most favorite stunt?

JOHN CENA: Driving the fire truck. That thing cannot be stopped and I was very nervous about driving it at first. I got to take a training course. I got out there on an open police concrete testing ground and I started whipping it around. The air brakes were set to all four wheels and those things stop on a dime and props said, “Well, if we cut the front brakes out, we’ll probably be able to get you to fishtale it.” And immediately I’m like “Okay, no problem.” So they literally cut the front brakes and put all the power in the back. That’s in the movie when you see the fire truck fishtailing around corners and at some points on two wheels. That was so fun for me once I learned how to do 180’s in the fire truck and then when you start running into cars and nothing happens to the fire truck and you’re like running through buildings and nothing happens to the fire truck, it’s like you become the law. You can run into anything so I had a lot of fun just destroying everything with that fire truck.

Q: You also did some training with the police department? Can you talk about that and how you qualified for SWAT?

JOHN CENA: Yeah. Basic tactical training. I did some evasive maneuvers driving-wise with N.O.P.D., did some basic tactic training like how to clear a room, how to hold your weapon correctly, just so I don’t look like a dumb cop. I actually had the luxury of training at a range with the New Orleans Police Department and I went through their sidearm accuracy firing test. It’s just a simple test of different ranges. The officer is responsible for loading and unloading the weapon. You have to shoot with both hands. You have to shoot from a kneeling position, standing position, moving position at certain ranges of the target and you have to do this in a certain amount of time. The scoring system is like if you qualify at 105 points, you’re a police officer. SWAT team qualifying is 114. After three or four days of training, I was putting up standards like 118s, 119s so I was pretty good with a side arm.

Q: How was the experience working in New Orleans?

JOHN CENA: Awesome. It was awesome. The city is certainly on the rebound but doing very well. The most pleasing thing to me to see was the fact that the people are so very proud that they’re there and that they’ve made it through and they know they’re on the up and up. The atmosphere of the city is so awesome. There are so many great places. The crew was proud that we were making a movie there and they were really busting their humps for us. It was an awesome place to film.

Q: You shot in a lot of different locations?

JOHN CENA: We did. We shot everywhere from the Ninth Ward to Bourbon Street to the Garden District to right across the river [in Algiers]. That’s the thing. That’s why New Orleans was chosen. One, I mean, for us to put revenue back in their economy, they offered a great tax break for us to film, but in such a short span, you can go five city blocks and have a whole new landscape. So, within a very short span, we didn’t have to get to the site at 6 and then truck 2-1/2 hours away to another location. Literally everything was 15 minutes away.

Q: I’m really interested to know what you thought of The Wrestler?

JOHN CENA: Loved it. Loved it.

Q: Was it an accurate depiction of that world?

JOHN CENA: Well see, obviously when people see it, I think it really follows an individual’s path so whether or not that’s correct, I’m not there yet. But I know that as I started out, I worked in VFW Halls, I worked in flea markets. That genre which they chose to showcase is certainly not life in the WWE. We’re a much grander stage. You know, we’re going to have 80,000 people for a Wrestlemania show on April 5th. Actually Mickey Rourke is going to be at that show which is very cool because he kind of showcased how sports entertainers begin and end their career. And it’s going to be great to have him at the Super Bowl. I thought he did a great job. I thought his character, he deserved every accolade he got for his performance.

Q: You don’t think any of them might get stapled in the WWE?

JOHN CENA: (Laughs) No. Believe it or not, there is a niche market for all that. We kind of pride ourselves especially now on being family entertainment. We realize that a lot of young kids come to our show and it certainly does a parent no good if they’re watching another dude getting stapled in the ring. We can tell our stories and we can entertain everybody without any of that.

Q: What’s next for you and how are you planning on spending your summer?

JOHN CENA: Hopefully shooting another movie. This spring is going to be very busy. “12 Rounds” on March 27th. The 25th anniversary of Wrestlemania is April 5th for us in Houston. Like I said, there’ll be literally 80,000 people there in Reliance Stadium. I’ll do a two-week tour overseas with the WW after that followed by a full time schedule and right now working on a third possible Fox WWE picture that’s in development, and if everything goes correctly and it’s looking very, very good, we should be shooting in July.

Q: Do you work exclusively on Fox films?

JOHN CENA: No, I can work anywhere. It’s just a matter of I am still very green in this business. I’ve only done two films. I’ve been lucky enough to get the lead in both films. I know we’ve got a great project in “12 Rounds.” With the success of that comes more opportunity. WW Studios has given me my start as an actor so I feel loyal enough to them where if they present a good project, then I’m certainly willing to talk things out with them and make sure it works for us.

Q: Who are you fighting at Wreslemania?

JOHN CENA: I’m in a triple threat match with the World Heavyweight Champion Edge and a 7 foot, 500 pound giant named The Big Show.

Q: How do you anticipate that going?

JOHN CENA: I’d like to think that on that day I do pretty well but I’m sure if you ask those two guys, they’ll tell you the same.

Q: It’ll go better than the ending of RAW on Monday nights?

JOHN CENA: Yes, indeed.

Q: Is there anything special you can do to prepare for a match like that?

JOHN CENA: No. That’s one event that we prepare all year for. We start preparing for Wrestlemania 26 the day that Wreslemania 25 is over. So, as a performer, it truly is the grandest stage. It’s like being in the Super Bowl although you prepare for every game, but when you’re in the Super Bowl, there’s just something special about it. It is another game and the coach will try and tell you hey, let’s just run the plays like we usually do, but if you’re in the Final Four or if you’re in the Super Bowl, there’s a certain amount of magic to that.

Q: There’s been a rumor online that maybe Marvel is thinking about you for Captain America.

JOHN CENA: I love America and I was a team captain at Springfield College so if the Marvel folks are listening, it’s a perfect fit. I think it’d work great. (Laughs) No, that is strictly just a rumor. No talks on that. I’ll give you the scoop on that first hand.

Q: Has the acting bug hit a lot of other wrestlers? Do they come to you and talk about roles to play? Kennedy just did “Behind Enemy Lines.”

JOHN CENA: Yeah. Ted DiBiase Jr. just wrapped “Marine 2” for us. That’s another WW Studios release. WWE is in a weird place. We’re like the red-headed step child of sports and entertainment. We very rarely get entertainment press or sports press because nobody knows how to treat us. That’s why we’ve gone so far into trying to tell people we’re truly entertainment. You basically have a bunch of guys who film episodic TV every week. Monday Night RAW just went off on its 825th consecutive episode. We’re the longest running TV show in the history of television. But it’s tough to tell somebody that because they think we just get in there and fight. It is at times a very overly dramatic soap opera but these guys film live television every week, they know how to hit time cues, they know their characters, they know their storylines, they know everything that you need to do to make a successful TV show. We do it well. So a lot of the guys can help out on screen. It’s just a matter of getting them out there.

Q: What’s the Five Knuckle Shuffle?

JOHN CENA: (Laughs) That is a joking term for one of the maneuvers that I do that one of our commentators came up with and it just stuck. It’s basically I drop a fist on a guy’s head right before I finish him off. It’s a maneuver that kind of gets the crowd warmed up for the end of a match.

Q: “12 Rounds” comes out just before the big summer movie season starts. What are the big summer blockbusters that you’re looking forward to seeing?

JOHN CENA: I’m really looking forward to seeing “G.I. Joe.” Believe it or not, I’m not much of a Trekkie, but the “Star Trek” trailer looks awesome. I think that movie will get me interested in the Star Trek phenomenon. I don’t know about “Transformers.” It’ll be tough to see what they can do to top destroying Phoenix. I thought the first one was so, so good. I don’t know what they can do so I don’t know if that’ll be me seeing the same old robots changing into stuff but I’m pretty heavy on “G.I. Joe” and “Star Trek.”

Q: Why “G.I. Joe”?

JOHN CENA: I’m a G.I. Joe fan, man. I could secretly kind of wish I was in that movie but that’s alright. I just think that’s such an untapped franchise that has unbelievable potential. It’s going to be a great movie.

Q: Dwayne Johnson started out in action but he’s gone on to do comedies and family films like “The Game Plan” and “Race to Witch Mountain.” Are there other genres you’d like to do work in besides action in the future?

JOHN CENA: I don’t think for a while. The reason being, a lot of these interviews that I do, everybody always asks me man, this film looks good, you may be slated to be the next action guy and everybody always brings up the void that there is between the marquee guys in the 80s – the Stallones, the Schwarzeneggers – and today. There are great action stars today, but I think the reasons there isn’t the great action star today is because if someone has success with an action film, they immediately go to another genre. Arnold -- and I would just like to model myself after his successful career – he did action films to the point where you were almost bored with it and then he did “Twins” and “Kindergarten Cop” and all the other stuff. So I think that’s why he got such a reputation. You could just put his name on the bill and people would go because they knew he was a big guy, he was going to kick ass, like you knew what you were getting out of a Schwarzenegger film. I think the confusion nowadays is Matt Damon will do “Goodwill Hunting” and then he’ll do the Bourne series, and then he’ll go back to doing something else and it’s just a little bit of a disconnect for the audience to be like hey, I just saw this guy in a serious movie. How’s he going to go back to whipping ass again? Or I just saw this guy make fun of himself. How’s he going to go back to kicking ass again? For me, at least for now, I’d like to stick with the action movies.

Q: What about this project you’re starting in July?

JOHN CENA: It’ll be an action movie.

Q: Can you tell us anything about the plot? Will you be playing another cop?

JOHN CENA: That’s about all I can tell you.

Q: That’s it?

JOHN CENA: Yeah.

Q: You can’t say who you’re going to collaborate with?

JOHN CENA: Can’t do it.

Q: Is it in outer space?

JOHN CENA: (Laughs) I’ve got to plead the fifth.

Q: If you could complete this sentence for me, in ten years I see myself…

JOHN CENA: …sitting with you guys right here promoting another movie and Wrestlemania. That would be Wrestlemania 35 in case you’re marking your calendars.

Q: And Captain America 3?

JOHN CENA: Yes, indeed.

Q: Does the WWE have a plan for making films that are about wrestling but maybe throwing in another genre’s elements like a mystery set in the world of wrestling?

JOHN CENA: I don’t think so just because it would be obvious and it would also be weird. We could do a film about our industry that would get critical acclaim but it would be a bunch of wrestlers doing it. It’s better for our brand as a studio to make movies outside of our own element just because we do what we do so well. If people want to see what we do, we’re on Monday nights, we’re on Tuesday nights, we’re on Friday nights, and we’re about to be on Thursday nights. There’s plenty of programming on. So I think that’s why we choose to go outside the ring.

Q: Any interest to get back into music?

JOHN CENA: Yeah, but just not solo project stuff. I’ve been doing tracks here and there that I’ve been sneaking on the internet with other artists, Snoop Dogg, Freddie Foxxx, Trademark who did half my album. I did some stuff for an independent label called Back40 Records with the artist Omega. I just got in touch with Rick Ross from Miami. He’s got an album, Deeper than Rap, coming out. He wants me to do just an internet track for him. There’s nothing all me, but a verse at a time I’ll certainly help another artist out.

Q: Can you tell me about working with Vince? I find him very scary.

JOHN CENA: I just think because his persona on television is so very serious, and he certainly has a reputation for being quite an intimidating person, and even just the way he carries himself is very forceful.

Q: Are you intimidated by him?

JOHN CENA: Not at all. Originally I was, just because of how he carries himself, and the fact that this guy took literally a carnival-esque business and made it into a media juggernaut. He’s done pretty well. I wish people could get to know the boss he is, the family man he is. He’s one of the most driven, hard working individuals I’ve ever seen, so dedicated. I was kind of brought up on the same ideals as he was:  work hard, be loyal, always appreciate your family. He’s a good guy to work for. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Q: You’ve reiterated your commitment to the ring for the foreseeable future. As you go forward with your film projects, are they going to be able to co-exist in harmony schedule-wise or will you be jumping back and forth like you were on “12 Rounds”?

JOHN CENA: Absolutely, that basically just revolves around me. It revolves around my commitment. I know what it takes to do both, and I know that if I’m going to be filming for three months, or five months, or six months that it’s going to be six long months, so I don’t see me taking any projects just for the work, and I think that’s the glory of it. I’m not acting just to get paid. I have a fulltime job that I enjoy, and that’s where I make my living. So, as an actor, I have the luxury of selecting good projects, projects that I really enjoy. That way, when I’m only showing up on two hours of sleep on Tuesday morning, I’m still doing a project that I love, so I’m motivated to do the best I can, whereas if I just had to show up and clock in to get a pay check, it wouldn’t be my best effort. So that all rests on my shoulders, and I know exactly. I’ve been through it twice and I’ll be able to do it as long as I need to.

Q: What was your audition for “The Marine” like?

JOHN CENA: My audition for “The Marine” was very interesting. That movie was in pre-production, they already had everything set up in Australia, and it was originally written for Steve Austin, and at the time he had a falling out with the WWE, and literally two weeks before the cameras rolled I was pulled into Vince McMahon’s office. I didn’t have the rapport with him that I do now, and he said, “We’re doing this movie in Australia,” “Okay,” “We need you do to it,” “Okay, when?,” “It’s in two weeks, we’re going to get your passport, we’ll get your visa set up, you’ll be gone in seven days,” “Okay,” and I was an actor.

Q: How about your audition for wrestling?

JOHN CENA: For wrestling, it was a little bit more long term. I started out here in California working literally every outdoor barbecue, flea market, and VFW from the Mexican border up to San Francisco. I was seen by the WWE. I was given a very, very small contract and moved to Louisville, Kentucky where we worked Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky, everywhere anyone would show up, five people or more. Then finally, a couple years later, I debuted on TV.

Q: Didn’t you wrestle Kurt Angle? That had to have been nervewracking.

JOHN CENA: Yes, that was my first match. To be your first time out there on television in Chicago, Illinois which is one of the most fickle audiences we have against an Olympic gold medalist is certainly getting thrown into the deep end.

Q: It was a great match though. I remember seeing that.

JOHN CENA: Thank you.

Q: How much rehearsing goes into a wrestling match? I don’t want to give anything away.

JOHN CENA: No, no that’s okay, like I said, our audience knows that we’re a television program.

Q: Is it like you’re playing a very long running character?

JOHN CENA: I actually have the luxury of over the years I’ve kind of molded my persona into myself, and that’s why I love my job so much. I have not a care in the world, I go through the curtain, I’m myself, and sometimes audiences like me, sometimes audiences don’t like me. So, as far as choreographing stuff, or preplanning stuff, I don’t do any of that, because it would be like a stand up comic telling a joke and hearing silence, and then keeping the routine going. I go out there, I work off the energy of the audience, and just give them a great show.

Q: Does that spontaneity inform your work in films as well?

JOHN CENA: Well, kind of, but at the same time I’m under a little bit more of a different umbrella, like you have to go by the script. I certainly want to make the best movie I can for the director, I know I’m playing a part, whereas in the WWE when I’m in a match, that’s my time, that’s my time to perform and I can showcase my talents the best that I see fit. When I’m on a movie set, I play a part to make the director’s vision come to life, so I can’t stray from that. I take the words and I try to make them my own the best that I can, but I ask the director, “Okay, is this what you want? What are we looking for? What would you try to accomplish?” And then from there I try to make his words and that script come alive.

Q: It seems Renny gives you a lot of latitude

JOHN CENA: He does, but at the same time he certainly has a vision of – “Okay, this is how I see everything going, this is how I want to shoot it,” and it only benefits me to make the director’s vision come true, because I know it’s going to put me in the best light possible as well.

Q: Have you taken any acting classes?

JOHN CENA: Yes

Q: Are you continuing down that path?

JOHN CENA: Continuing but not at as rapid a rate as I’d like to, just because I have 250 Live Event commitments to the WWE every year, so in the very little off-time that I have, I’m trying to take classes to become a better actor, but I do have a lot of on the job training I would say. We have improv classes 250 times a year.

Q: Have you ever been hurt during a wrestling match or during this movie?

JOHN CENA: During the movie just bumps and bruises. Very lucky, and I think that’s only because of how the action was set up. Like I said, it’s kind of a scenario where legitimately if you had to do that stuff, people would be like, you know what, I can give it a try. I probably wouldn’t make it but I could give it a try. I could see that happening, so it was nothing that really would put me severely in harm’s way. Wrestling is a different story. I tore my right pectoral in a match and worked about another half hour with no right pectoral muscle. I just recently recovered from spinal fusion surgery in my neck. I ruptured a disc in my C5, C6 region. That was just a simple surgery. They took the ruptured disc out and put a bone plate in and put a metal X plate over my neck.

Q: How could you get hurt like that? Don’t you rehearse with the other wrestlers?

JOHN CENA: It’s very similar to sitting down with a pro-football player and saying “How did you blow your knee out when you run sprints every day?” It’s a physical business and regardless of how many times you run the plays in the playbook, guys still get hurt on game day. “Man, we’ve been over that play a thousand times. How did you get a concussion?” “Because I got hit really hard.” And as far as I go, I played football for 8 years. I played at a collegiate level. I was a College All American. I’ve been in the WWE for 8 years and I’ve been wrestling for 10 years. That’s 18 years straight of impact physical behavior. That’s just the nature of the beast.

Q: You said you plan Wrestlemania all year round, when do you start thinking about Summer Slammers and Survivor Series?

JOHN CENA: Those are just kind of cogs in the big wheel. Summer Slam, Survivor Series and The Rumble, those are considered three of the big four, but it all comes down to me.

Q: Do you have thoughts on the other upcoming events?

JOHN CENA: I know that Summer Slam is going to be here on August 23rd and it’s already sold out so that is very, very good news for us. But right now, even with that stuff in the very near future, it’s all systems go for Wrestlemania.

Q: Where’s home for you?

JOHN CENA: Home for me is a small town outside of Tampa, Florida. I commute from there to go all over the world.

Q: What do you like doing in your off-time? I read that you have a big car collection.

JOHN CENA: I’m a little bit of a car guy. I love the ‘60s and ‘70s muscle cars. So I guess you know you’re a red neck car guy when your garage is three times as big as the place where you live. (Laughs) That’s pretty much what I do with all my time.

Q: What’s your favorite car?

JOHN CENA: 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge. I have a Cardinal Red on Red with a factory 8-track player and a Ram Air IV engine and it’s one of twelve built.

Q: Those are really rare. Do you get to drive them a lot when you go back home or do you just work on them?

JOHN CENA: I do. I actually do enough basic maintenance. I think when everything kind of slows down for me years from now, I’ll just get a pair of coveralls and actually work on them like I want to work on them. I just do the basic maintenance and they’re all number one cars. I don’t buy anything that needs to be restored because I don’t have the time to do it. They all run great. They’re old American cars so you tinker with them here and there but it’s never a major rebuild or a repair. I can fix it with a 9/16th wrench.

Q: Is there any actor or director you’d like to work with?

JOHN CENA: You know what? I’ve had my favorites before, like I’m a huge Will Ferrell fan. I love Jim Carrey. Robert Duvall is like a random name that I throw in there. I love his stuff. But, after seeing how hard acting is, I really respect and would be honored to work with anyone who makes their living doing this, because it’s a tough gig, and I look forward to working with a lot more people and hopefully making some good movies.

Q: There has been a trend in the last few years of making action heroes more vulnerable, human, and relatable. You mentioned the ‘80s guys like Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Do you see yourself being more in the mold of the strong silent type classic hero or the more modern, touchy feely type of actor?

JOHN CENA: I think it totally depends on the project. If you go back and watch “The Marine,” [he was] impervious to bullets, like that is the old Schwarzenegger in “Commando,” like nothing will stop this dude ever. But in “12 Rounds,” it’s more of wow, this guy is just an every day guy who’s having troubles with his girl at home. He’s trying to just feed his dog. He sends this guy to jail by accident. There’s a lot of doubt, there’s a lot of failure in the movie, there’s a lot of anxiety. There are so many points in the movie where I think I won’t make it, or I can’t make it, so like I said, it depends on the project. I think as long as you have a solid project backed with really good action, and of course a good finish, you’re not really cheating the audience at all. I can still go back to being the kick ass action guy, because when all else fails, just take the shirt off and the audience will get the fact that, okay, this guy can kick some ass. But as long as you do solid projects with a good story, and some great action to back it up, I think you can play both sides of the fence.

Q: With those action scenes, there were so many different cameras and camera styles – a lot of hand held – was that hard to work around or did Renny just tell you to go for it?

JOHN CENA: No, that was great, that’s how we shoot RAW, we shoot RAW with 11 cameras, and they catch everything, so literally that made it a lot easier on me, and I’m so glad that Renny chose that style. He’s like, “Alright, some of the stuff we’re not even going to worry about anything, just go and if we get it, we get it, if not, it’s my fault.” So it was great, man, it was really, really easy, so he chose the right style for me.

Q: What were the things about “The Marine” you thought needed fixing?

JOHN CENA: I really wished there was just a little bit more character development. I knew the movie was very up in your face, and it certainly was modeled after old ‘80s style action. I loved the winking at the camera, I loved the huge explosions and stuff like that. I just think the movie was built by design. I’d never been on screen before. Literally I got thrown in the mix with seven days to go, so I thought basically they were probably like, “Okay, take care of the kid. Don’t overexpose him.” I would have liked more of a chance to act a little bit. I think that was the only – there was a lot of me running through the jungle. But I think the supporting cast carried the movie, and Robert Patrick did so great, all the bad guys did awesome, Kelly did great. That’s what carried the movie. Personally, I would have liked to have given a bigger contribution to the film. I love watching it because I grew up with that type of movie but, from a personal standpoint, I just wish I could have given more.

Q: You got to do that this time.

JOHN CENA: Yeah, yeah, and that’s why I’m very much more motivated this time around. A lot of people are taking the film much more seriously this time around so it’s good to be able to go into interviews and have people excited about the movie.

Q: So much of your life is now spent in the public eye and so much is known about you, can you tell us something about you that fans would be surprised to learn?

JOHN CENA: I’m a cigar aficionado, big time. I’m not smoking 25 cigars a day, but in the one day off a month that I get -- it’s usually one or two days off a month -- I will enjoy one fine cigar.

Q: Is that kind of a nod to Arnold and his love for cigars?

JOHN CENA: Maybe, I don’t know. (Laughs)

Q: When you’re wrestling, do you play more to the cameras whereas in a movie you don’t?

JOHN CENA: No, I’m very aware where all those eleven cameras are. You can’t film a TV show shooting the back of somebody’s head.

Q: But do you play to them more, like they’re part of the audience, where if you’re doing a movie you’re not doing that – they’re there capturing the scene?

JOHN CENA: No, it’s pretty much the same set up. The way they did the multi-camera shoot is they would set up the cameras and let you know where they were but also let you know that’s where they are. “Please don’t play to them, just go ahead and do your stuff.” And it’s the same with RAW, I know where all the cameras are and I know they are going to catch the action, so we just go out and do the stuff.

Q: What were your thoughts on the recent passing of Andrew Martin?

JOHN CENA: Unfortunate. We kind of passed in the night. His major run with the WWE was kind of over by ‘03. I know he was kind of in and out. He had a little bit of a run in ‘07 with us. It’s just unfortunate anytime you hear stuff like that. Recently, a good friend of mine, Mike Bell, just passed. It’s certainly an unfortunate set of circumstances.

Q: Is the Mickey Rourke-Chris Jericho thing for real or is that just part of the show?

JOHN CENA: He’s coming to Wrestlemania. I have no idea. I know as far as our programming content, he’s kind of been beating the tar out of all the old guys. I don’t know what the deal is with Mickey. I just saw snippets of that Larry King thing. I know that Mickey ran his mouth on one of the award shows and then Chris confronted him on Larry King for real and he totally backed down. That I know was legitimate. I’ve known Chris for a long time and he’s very passionate about the business and has a lot of respect for the business and he got called out and then he went on Larry King and said hey, what do you want to do? Do you want to come to Wrestlemania? Mickey said “I don’t think I should do it, maybe if it was a boxing match,” and right away Chris was like “I’ll box you, I don’t care.” And he still kind of backed down so I don’t know. I just know Chris is a very passionate individual and I didn’t know what Mickey’s commitment to Wrestlemania was so in all these interviews I’ve been offering him a paid, ring-side seat. I said, “I just want you to see the grandest stage of them all.” Just so he can have a comparison to his movie, because I was very pleased when Mickey went out and said the one thing I admire most about these guys is their camaraderie. That exists. That is definitely there. So I wanted him to see it on the mainstage, but he didn’t need to take my invite. He’s going to be there and it will be what it will to be, I guess. (Laughs) We’ll see.

Q: If all of this went away, wrestling and acting, what else would you be doing?

JOHN CENA: I think for a good nine months I would fish, just get out there on the lakes and fish, and after that was over, I would probably be involved in some sort of youth or high school strength and conditioning program while coaching football, because that’s really kind of what molded -- not necessarily the movements or just strengthening and conditioning -- but that’s kind of what molded me into who I am today, just the disciplines you learn, and the lifestyle changes you have to make to remain a healthy athlete. That kind of molding made me who I am today.

Q: Do you hope that people will take that away from watching the matches?

JOHN CENA: I certainly do, which is why I’m the one person who wears the words “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” on my T-shirts, on my merchandise. I realize what my audience is. My audience is children, and it’s very flattering to see a kid wear your T-shirt. It’s even more flattering to have a dad come up to you and say, “You know what, I watch you with my kid. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re a role model for my son.” I get where I’m at, and I don’t try to be the cool guy. I don’t try to be the edgy guy. I’d rather be a role model.

Q: Do you have a charity that you work with?

JOHN CENA: Make a Wish Foundation, I’ve been doing some great things with them for a long time, and hopefully this year if everything goes well, some really big things are in the works with them.

Q: How was it working with your co-stars Ashley Scott, Aidan Gillen, and Brian White?

JOHN CENA: Aidan, by design we stayed away from each other, and he really got into it and it shows on screen. He ended up being a very intelligent, sadistic type of an evil doer, and literally we stayed away from each other, and this was the whole cast in a city like New Orleans where you can have a great time, and most of us all had a great time, and everybody became friends. Ashley was such the right person for the role. I mean, here you have a couple, she’s independent yet mouthy at the same time, yet fun to be around. That’s her. She was great. Brian White, I can’t say enough good things about him. We became such good friends and he gave me such great advice on how to be an actor, and was a great guy to hang out with. He was a great best friend to have. It was an easy one.

Q: He was a former athlete too.

JOHN CENA: Yeah, yeah, so we shared a lot of common bonds, and that showed up on screen, but every time we went out on the town, every time we had a party, Aidan was nowhere to be found. And literally, I’m glad it was like that, because there were so few times that we were together, and the times that we were together on screen were awkward. It was awkward as hell and it showed and it really played out. And, of course, after the movie was wrapped, all’s good, but just while it went on, we kind of kept the divide that needed to be there between us.

Q: Was that Renny’s decision?

JOHN CENA: That was his, and of course, me, I was all for it. I wasn’t humiliated or embarrassed or offended by it. I get it. If that’s what it’s going to take to keep a good story, that’s fine, I get it.

Q: Are you your toughest critic when you see yourself on screen?

JOHN CENA: Absolutely, absolutely, and I just want to make good projects, so I am my toughest critic but I also want to learn from my mistakes. So I try not to make the same mistake twice.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from this acting process that’s different from your storylines on WWE?

JOHN CENA: Like I said, you’re very large on screen, so the smallest movement can mean the absolute most, whereas in a 20 by 20 box, which is our showplace every night, there’s people up in section 313 that have to know what’s going on, so just basically learning how and when to turn down the volume and how much to turn it up.

Q: You said that Brian gave you some advice…?

JOHN CENA: He would tell me everything. He would let me know, like “Okay, when they shoot here…” because, like you said, some of the action was set up just multi-camera stuff, go and find it. The stuff that I needed to work with was “Okay now, we are going to do the scene where these are where the cameras are. You need to play to them.” He would just [give me] subtle reminders of, “Okay, man, maybe you want to do this, because you know they’re shooting this side. When you deliver your line, I’ll make sure I’m here. That way they can get you.” He was all about everybody being showcased the way they needed to be. Little things like that that not only I wouldn’t have remembered but I never would have thought of because I just don’t have enough experience. He was just a really good shoulder to lean on as far as that goes.

Q: You mentioned Aidan staying out of your way, is that done in wrestling too?

JOHN CENA: Absolutely, and that’s why I wasn’t offended by it, because sometimes that needs to be done. And it was only for the good of the movie. When that happens with us, it’s only for the good of the product.

Q: Is there ever real animosity?

JOHN CENA: Absolutely, and the good thing about our business is it can be taken care of.

Q: Is there anyone you haven’t fought yet that you’d like to?

JOHN CENA: Not for disciplinary reasons, but for reasons of attraction, I certainly would like to get Dwayne Johnson back for one more match, especially the way things are going now, I think it would be something that people would want to see.

Q: I wondered if you had ever fought him

JOHN CENA: No, never, we literally passed in the night. He left for good in ’02, and I was starting in ’02, ’03.

Q: You have a birthday coming up. Do you have anything special planned?

JOHN CENA: I’ll be on a 19-country tour overseas with WWE. Every year my birthday falls on the 19-day tour that we make in April and then again in November so I haven’t had a domestic birthday in 8 years now.
 
Q: Where do you find the craziest crowds?

JOHN CENA: Anywhere overseas because like here, we’ll do Los Angeles three times a year. We’ll even do Billings, Montana twice a year so they have an opportunity to come back if they miss it the first time. We’ll do London once a year. We’ll do Perth once a year. We’ll do Johannesburg once a year. We’ll do everywhere in Italy or everywhere in Germany once a year. So it’s the one chance you get to see it. And not only do they come out, they come out in force and it’s ridiculous.

Q: Are the crowds as crazy as they are here?

JOHN CENA: They’re crazier. They’re much crazier.

Q: That’s got to be fun though.

JOHN CENA:  It’s awesome.

Q: How long do you get to spend in each city?

JOHN CENA: One night. Usually when we do the U.K. and Europe, it’s usually bus rides everywhere just because Europe is all connected. So, if we’re in the U.K., we bus around the U.K. and then we fly to Europe and just bus around in Europe. So it’s literally wake up, do show, drive on, repeat.

Q: Do you get a lot of recognition? Any crazy stories?

JOHN CENA: Yeah, no, everybody just wants to say hello. Nobody’s been out of the ordinary. They all kind of want maybe a minute and a half out of your day, and if I gave everybody that minute and a half, I would be in a lot of time debt, so it’s kind of tough to say no to people because they all just want to say hi, but I just try to meet as many people as I can, and obviously there comes a time to do business. So when I’ve got to get on a flight or go to a match, that’s when I’ve kind of got to pull the trigger.

Q: Nobody ever comes over to you and says, “I could beat you?”

JOHN CENA: All the time, and 99% of the time they’re joking, so we have a good laugh over it and move on.

“12 Rounds” opens in theaters on March 27th.

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