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SUBJECT: 12 Rounds

John Cena as New Orleans Police Detective Danny Fisher When John Cena was four years old, he held a mock wrestling tournament at his home in Massachusetts, using three sheets of computer paper to make a wrestling belt. On June 2002, his dream came true when he made his debut at the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).

His next dream, to be a movie star, was realized in 2006, when at a momentís notice he took over the lead role in The Marine for another WWE star, Steve Austin. Now the actor is starring in his second feature, 12 Rounds, portraying Police Detective Danny Fisher, who stops a brilliant thief, Miles (Aiden Gillen), from getting away with a multi-million-dollar heist. But during the arrest, Milesí girlfriend is accidentally killed, and when the criminal mastermind escapes from prison, he kidnaps Fisherís fiancť Molly (Ashley Scott), taunting Danny with a series of near-impossible puzzles and tasks Ö 12 rounds Ö that Danny must somehow complete to save Mollyís life. I sat down with Cena to ask him about this new milestone in his career.

What was it about 12 Rounds that appealed to you?
I fell in love with it because at 6 feet, 250 pounds, itís 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.

Some of the action sequences looked very dangerous, what percentage of the stunts did you do?:
Explosive scenesI did most everything. This was actually the first time I learned that thereís 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 didnít lean heavy on CG. We didnít lean heavy on backlot stuff. We filmed all this stuff out [on location] so it helps a lot when youíre in a real scenario to see the face of your guy doing all [the action]. I learned that, but I also learned that if the lead guy goes down, itís a financial disaster. But, I was hanging from an elevator shaft, I drove a fire truck, surfed on the street car, wrecked all those cop cars, drove the Camaro, jumped out of the helicopter, jumped out of a 10-story building. There were just a few moments that I couldnít do.

What didnít you do?
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.

Did you do all of the rappelling down the side of the building?
I did, and for me that sucked because Iím afraid of heights and ledges. Iím okay with flying and stuff like that, but I have a fear when I get close [to the edge] I think somebodyís just going to tip me over. So they actually did tip me over and made me hang 10 stories. I didnít conquer my fear. I still get the crap scared out of me every time I get on a ledge, but all that stuff made it into the movie.

You talked about your least favorite stunt. On the flipside, what was your most favorite stunt?:
Director Renny Harlin and John Cena review a scene on location in New OrleansDriving 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, ďWell, if we cut the front brakes out, weíll probably be able to get you to fishtale it.Ē And immediately Iím like ďOkay, no problem.Ē So they literally cut the front brakes and put all the power in the back. Thatís 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 180ís in the fire truck, and then when you start running into cars and nothing happens to the fire truck and youíre like running through buildings and nothing happens to the fire truck, itís like you become the law. You can run into anything, so I had a lot of fun just destroying everything with that fire truck.

How was the experience working in New Orleans?
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 theyíre there and that theyíve made it through and they know theyíre 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.

Did you shoot in a lot of different locations?
We did. We shot everywhere from the Ninth Ward to Bourbon Street to the Garden District to right across the river. Thatís the thing. Thatís 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 didnít 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.

Iím really interested to know what you thought of The Wrestler
I loved it.

Was it an accurate depiction of that world?
That genre which they chose to showcase is certainly not life in the WWE. Weíre a much grander stage. Weíre 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 itís going to be great to have him at the Super Bowl. I thought he did a great job with his character; he deserved every accolade he got for his performance.

Thereís been a rumor online that maybe Marvel is thinking about you for Captain America.
I love America and I was a team captain at Springfield College so if the Marvel folks are listening, itís a perfect fit. I think itíd work great. [Laughs] No, that is strictly just a rumor. No talks on that. Iíll give you the scoop on that first hand.

At the WWE, does it feel like youíre playing a very long-running character?
Over the years Iíve kind of molded my persona into myself, and thatís why I love my job so much, I donít have a care in the world, I go through the curtain, Iím myself, and sometimes audiences like me, sometimes audiences donít like me. As far as choreographing stuff, or preplanning stuff, I donít 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.

Does that spontaneity inform your work in films as well?
Kind of, but at the same time Iím under a little bit more of a different umbrella. In the WWE when Iím in a match, thatís my time to perform and I can showcase my talents the best that I see fit. When Iím on a movie set, I play a part to make the directorís vision come alive, so I canít 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, ĎOkay, is this what you want? What are we looking for?í And then from there I try to make his words and that script come alive.

How was it working with Aiden Gillen in 12 Rounds?
Aiden ended up being a very intelligent, sadistic type of an evil doer, and literally we stayed away from each other. Every time [the rest of the cast] went out on the town, every time we had a party, Aiden was nowhere to be found. And Iím glad it was like that, because the times that we were together on screen were awkward, they were awkward as hell and it showed. Of course, after the movie was wrapped, allís good, but just while it went on we kind of kept the divide that needed to be there.

Is that done in wrestling too?:
Ready for actionÖAbsolutely, and thatís why I wasnít offended by Aiden doing it, because sometimes that needs to be done. And it was only for the good of the movie. When that happens with us itís only for the good of the product.

Is there ever real animosity in wrestling?
Absolutely, and the good thing about our business is it can be taken care of.

Is there anyone you havenít fought yet youíd like to?
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.

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

Visit the official 12 Rounds site
Images above © Twentieth Century Fox
Feature © 2009 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

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