John Cena voices the title character Ferdinand, a bull with pacifist tendencies in this new animated adaptation of the enduring children's picture book The Story of Ferdinand. TimeOut caught up with Cena while he was in Sydney.
How are you feeling?
Oh, fantastic. We've got a great movie and it's just a matter of getting everywhere to tell everybody to go see it. I believe young and old are going to enjoy it. It's very exciting.
It's an appealing film. A fresh take on a classic story with lots of action and humour. What attracted you to make the film?
Certainly, its long standing tradition. The book's been in publication for more than 80 years. It resonates with audiences and it's a way to take something that's established and create an extended universe to make those moments of action, of comedy and still tell a wonderful story.
What's your personal history with Ferdinand?
The great thing is that so many people will be able to take moments from it and compare it to their upbringing or their life or even lessons that they want to pass on to a family member or just begin conversations . . . We've all had times in our life where we've had to make decisions about who we are. I think it's really a fun journey, Ferdinand's quest to not be misunderstood.
There's many themes in the film - accepting others, anti-bullying to name a couple - are these things you have personal experience of?
Yeah, but not in a bad way and I think Ferdinand's journey is the same. He really genuinely appreciates and wants his surrounding partners to be able to live their life as they choose, he just wants to be able to do the same. And I think, looking at who I am and looking at my career path, a lot of people think that no matter where I am I'm gonna kick the door down and challenge them to a steel-cage match. And that's just not all I am.
How did you approach finding the character of Ferdinand?
It was actually quite easy. I would love to give you some crazy intricate answer but they sought me out for who I am. I'm a person who literally goes out to perform live every night to half the people enjoying it and half the people hating it. And the half that hate it constantly ask me to change who I am. And I won't. [He laughs]. If there was ever a real life parallel to Ferdinand, it's me. It's a wonderful aligning of two stories.
You've done voice work in animation before but never on this scale. Was there any apprehension in having a whole film resting on your shoulders?
No, no. This is a chance that you want and with everything there's always a success or failure and that's gonna be what it's gonna be. I learnt early in the live entertainment industry that you need to work as hard as you possibly can and you need to promote as much as you possibly can and then the rest is kind of not up to you. I put my heart and soul into this movie and I'm gonna tell everybody know to go see this movie!
Did you learn anything acting in this film?
I try to choose movie projects that are unique - I say unique for me because it's
something that doesn't mimic my career path in the WWE - and the reoccurring theme is always the same: never be afraid to take chances just because someone may not think it's cool or it may not correlate with what you do in your other profession. I'm thoroughly willing to take the chance and succeed or fail and be happy with my effort.
Have you had many failures?
Oh, more than you could imagine, my friend. It's one of those stories, like the old saying goes, "one of these days you'll be an overnight sensation". Here we are, 15 years after my television debut on WWE, talking about an animated movie that's finally coming to fruition. It's been a long, long road but one that I wouldn't trade for anything. Mistakes are a part of life; it's just a matter of if we learn from them.
Have you had a chance to see the finished film?
I've seen it, it's amazing.
What's your star rating?
It's the best movie ever made. A lot of people use the term "kids movie" but I like to use the term "family movie" because I think it resonates with all ages. I think everyone will be able to sit down and have a good time.