World Wrestling Entertainment star John Cena stars in his second movie, the action-adventure 12 Rounds, which opens Friday. We caught up with the professional wrestler recently to discuss his acting career.
Was acting in a movie easier for you the second time around, after having done The Marine?
It was certainly easier, but I don't think it had everything to do with the experience from The Marine. We really just had a very, very good crew. Mark Gordon's production company - he produced Speed, Saving Private Ryan - really stepped in there with Fox to make sure this thing kind of knocked itself out of the park. And Renny Harlin was such a great asset as a director. He's the guy, whether it had been my first movie or my hundredth movie, that made it very, very easy. He's a great guy to be around that certainly has an agenda. I'm a beast who runs on schedule because we travel so many days a year, and he was just spot-on, man. He was overly ambitious, and he really delivered.
For those who may not have seen the clips on TV, what is the basic plot?
I start off as a beat cop and I make the bust of my life by accident. I take down pretty much the world's greatest bad guy. In the process, the girl that he loves gets run over by a truck, so he vows to get revenge on me. He ... challenges me to 12 rounds of survival, the reason being that he is like a game-theory addict. ... So he wants in his mind to know if I'm lucky or actually good.
I know that you had an acting coach on the set with you when you did The Marine. Do you have one for this movie as well?
Absolutely. I tell people this is like having my second match, and by the time I had my second match I needed a lot of coaching. I had a coach in pre-production, and I had a bunch of great coaches on set. Brian White is a fantastic actor. He plays my partner and my best friend in the movie, and I learned so very much from him. Steve Harris is another guy that I learned so much from, another fantastic actor.
Do you do many of your own stunts?
Yeah. Man, I just got to learn to put the stunt guys in every once in a while. Getting beat up on the movie set is wearing on me. What we do [in WWE] is live as it happens. There's no cut, take three or take four. I couldn't imagine having to do a match over like eight times. It takes its toll on you when you know you have a stunt day and the whole day is going to be you getting beat up.
What you do in WWE is scripted, but you also do live TV, which means you have to think on your feet and ad-lib. Did you have the freedom to do any ad-libbing in the movie?
You can't really ad-lib a lot in a movie, because there is a story. It's such a huge production involved. It's not just one guy and another guy, or a tag-team match with four guys. You have everybody, from people in production and lighting. If you move in the wrong direction, you're in the wrong light, which messes up the shot. That's a different challenge that separates movies from sports entertainment.
12 Rounds, an action film starring John Cena, was not screened for critics.