John Cena Interviewed at Legendary Press Junket

John Cena and Patricia Clarkson. © 2010 Eric Cohen

A few days before the theatrical release of Legendary, I got the opportunity to take part in a round table press junket with the stars of the movie John Cena, Patricia Clarkson, and Devon Graye. Since this is a wrestling site, I'm only posting the comments made by John Cena during the press conference. For those wondering, I asked I asked him about training advice for aspiring pro wrestlers, his rap song in the film, and whether his co-stars were going to host Monday Night RAW.

On the people that inspired them in their lives to follow their dreams.
John Cena: My old man was a pretty good guy. He didn't realize what he was doing at the time but he was self-employed, self-made and raised 5 sons, 5 hellacious, 5 horrible sons. I didn't know what I was going to do, and I'm still exploring options of what I am going to do with my life. But at a young age, and without sitting us down and brow beating us, he showed us that there is no substitute for hard work to succeed and get the things you want in life. He gave us that lesson by example. I love him to death. We've had our differences but when push comes to shove he just taught me that you could do whatever you want. Here is a guy who wasn't much out of high school and created a business for himself and on top of that brought five beautiful kids into this world. He is very proud of his sons. He instilled in me that if you show up and work hard that good things will happen.

John's High School Wrestling Career
Believe it or not, I took a wrestling elective in college. I was an phys ed major and you had to take a bunch of electives just in case you wound up teaching phys ed or coaching. I was a football player by trade. I did a little bit of track in high school. For .5 credits, I learned the basics of amateur wrestling.

In this movie you teach a high school wrestler how to become an amateur wrestler. I get lots of emails from high school students that want to be just like you and become a pro wrestler. What advice would you give to them to follow in your footsteps?
I think that sports entertainment is an element that will always be there. It's been around since the turn of the 1900's. It will be around for ever. So, I stress to get that high school education first. I'm a college graduate. Like I said, I was a prolific football player, a team captain, an All-American. Sports entertainment wasn't really my first choice. I really wanted to play football but I knew that with my size and ability that I was destined to play in college and that was about it. It wasn't until after I received my education that I seriously looked at sports entertainment as a way to make a career for myself. You've got to take it in stride. It's just like acting or professional sports. 1% of 1% of people that try out for it will actually be able to say that they make a living off of doing it. If you're more prepared to tackle life after wrestling then it will actually better your career in wrestling.

Vulnerability and invincibility as themes in the movie
Here you see this mountain of a man on-screen and you wonder why he has fallen on hard times especially because he had such a prolific career as a high school athlete.

What went wrong? I believe it is because he put all his chips in one basket. I think that the story delivers in a great way that a helping hand can come from an unexpected source. It comes from his younger, smaller, non-athletic little brother. I believe in Mike's (his character in the movie) case that he relied so much on his dad that when his dad died he was unable to harness his ability.

John's thoughts on a scene in the movie that Patricia Clarkson called one of the best of her career
I'm a sports guy. I take a lot from sports because it shows pure emotion and raw competition at its bare essential. I compare working with Patty to being put in the New York Yankees lineup. There are a lot of players that come to New York that aren't much before they come to New York. Then when they become Yankees they become All Stars.

I'll use Nick Swisher as an example. He wasn't much with the White Sox but is now in contention for MVP and was an All Star this year. He has had a career year because he is surrounded by greatness. When you are surrounded by people that are that much better than you, you have two choices. You can let your performance go to hell or you can step up and rise to the occasion. Being in scenes with someone so professional and so emotional, you have no other choice but to get involved. When we were shooting that scene, there were so many times that I didn't care about the cameras. It was just very real and very genuine. However you find that, and every actor will give you a different recipe for chicken soup, the matter of fact is that it just shows up. For me it was because I was with someone who brought it out of me. I'm very thankful for that. It did wonders for me and lets everyone know that I'm not just a pro wrestling Superman that I actually will have some more movies to make in this business and it was due to a very wonderful performance. I'm extremely proud to have been a part of that.

Do you have the acting bug?
I always have. I do episodic television. Our form of entertainment is very different than making movies but it is entertainment. We entertain millions of people every week. I've always been a class clown. I'm more apt to be making fun of myself on Monday night but to be able to do something like this, taking myself in a completely different direction. Like Patricia said, the whole goal of me in this movie was to make myself seem as vulnerable, small and unassuming as I possibly could.

I was really happy watching the film and seeing that.

Speaking of different forms of entertainment, in the movie you have a new rap song in there. Are you going to be making a new album?
John Cena: I'm toying around with the idea. I wanted to help the movie as much as I could. Like I said, in the WWE we have millions of people following us globally. The movie will be released all over the place. So when they asked me to do a score for the movie I knew that just from a marketing perspective that we could get it out to the WWE people and that it would raise awareness of the movie. I think that the track fit unbelievably well in the movie. It gets me fired every time that I hear it. Who knows man? It was very easy to make. I may be toying around with the idea of coming out with some more stuff.

Patricia and Devon hosting RAW
Devin was at SummerSlam and Danny Glover has attended RAW events as well. We tour constantly and it is so difficult, especially when everybody is working, to find times when the schedules coincide. As far as hosting, I'd leave the beat-downs up to me.

Was being vulnerable the number one reason that you were drawn to the script?
I just loved the story. I read it and I called right away that I wanted to be in it. I'm so glad that I got to play Mike. But when I sat down and read something cover to cover, which I a very rare experience for me because I'm not that much of a reader, I knew I had to be a part of it. I knew I could relate to any piece of the story.

The script had been in circulation for several years, it wasn't like it had been written for me. I just knew that I had wanted to be a part of it.

In your sport you rely on muscle memory so you can do your stuff without thinking. How does that apply to acting?
Like I said, everyone has their own methods.

Because of my experience level, I try not to over think anything. If I try to over analyze stuff I'll be in a place that I'm not familiar with. I go with my instincts a lot because that is what I learned from performing live. I just go with my instincts because 9 out of 10 times it will be right. I'm learning more and more every chance I get to have experience. It hasn't steered me wrong yet. I haven't put myself in an element where I'm truly exposed. I've done projects I'm comfortable with and I'll continue to do projects that I'm comfortable with until I expand my portfolio as an actor. Nine out of ten times I'll just grip it and rip it.

Are you learning any tricks or shortcuts?
No. This is just my third time out. I'm still learning the industry, how movies are made, what I can do to make them better, and how I can play my part the best I can.

Were there any surprises along the way as you became a wrestler and an actor?
That I've come this far and I haven't been fired yet. Actually, every day is a surprise. Whether it's from producing the show in front of an audience because it's live and everything unfolds as it happens so we can't change any mistakes. Even from a corporate perspective, watching our company grow.

We just came back from China. It was the first time that we had ever been in China. We're headed to Russia in January. New global markets keep opening up. We're on television in over 180 countries right now. We travel the world. I've been able to see the world and do wonderful projects. Literally, there is not a day that goes by where I'm not astonished about what is going on. I just try to take it all in and do the best that I can.

Differences in reactions for acting and wrestling
I'm used to instant gratification. I'm used to going out through the tunnel, doing my thing and being told that either it was great or that it sucked by thousands of raving fans. It's so gratifying to be able to do a project and you're not really sure what the end result is going to be. And then a few months later, seeing the finished product and being so emotionally moved.

It is a different sort of pay-off. It's not right there instantly but when you see it, it is equally as rewarding. It really is a cool process.

What fans can expect from the film
I don't expect there to be any deviance from what I expect the WWE audience to feel and what the average movie goer will feel. They're going to sit down, watch a great story unfold, and I think they are going to end up feeling good when they walk out of the theater. That's the most important thing. They paid their money to see a good movie and they got a good movie.

Why didn't Mike (John's character in the movie) become a professional wrestler?
Probably because it is too tough of a career.