Thanks to 20th Century Fox for hosting my visit to Cinemacon.
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John Cena is a man of many talents and just because he has a personality that is as big as his muscles doesn’t mean he’s not a big softy. The WWE wrestler will voice the title character in Blue Sky Studios’ adaptation of the acclaimed children’s novel, Ferdinand. The film centers on a soft-hearted and kind bull named Ferdinand, who after being mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure. Set in Spain, Ferdinand proves you can’t judge a bull by its cover.
Though the message is simple enough, but often times it’s that message that needs to be repeated. While this is the first time that Cena has acted or done a voiceover, there was no way he was going to pass this up. “I was like, Man, you are stupid if you pass on this,’ not only because it’s such a great opportunity but it’s just a powerful story,” said Cena. “And in every aspect of it, I am Ferdinand.” Because Cena is such a popular figure in wrestling, he says he cannot go out on the street without having someone challenge him to a match.
He admits that this has lead to some typecasting but he wants to show people that he is so much more outside of the ring. “What you see certainly is me, but I just couldn’t think of a better way to kind of tell my story through their story, and at least at the best I could do it.” While some of his previous voiceover roles had Cena personify the character that he is in the ring, the actor said Ferdinand would be the first time that he could be the voice of the character.
Of course, that took some time to adjust to. Cena says they sought him out because of his powerful voice, someone who is larger than life but someone you can also have a conversation with. So it was all very endearing for him when the studio asked him to play a character “who’ll break through the wall and be like, all right, let’s save the day.”
Cena says, Carlos Saldanha, the film’s director, helped guide him through the process. “He knows what he wants,” says Cena. Animated films have the luxury of multiple takes, so a director could ask the actor to do a certain piece of dialogue in a very different tone. “When you get it, he goes, Could you do, you know, maybe something a little more animated, a little more of this and a little more of that?’ So, like, it’s just a matter of him seeing the movie and knowing what he wants and me being the voice of this enormously impactful character and his kind of guiding me through that,” said Cena.
Being a performer in the WWE, Cena knows what it is like to be a piece of the story, however, that doesn’t necessarily absolve him from understanding what is taking place within the narrative. So he gets very involved with the storytelling process proving a different perspective that may enhance the storytelling. “You have the conversation with the people who make the movie instead of the people who are playing the characters,” said Cena. “A lot of times you’ll be able to hear their voice, which is great. But you have a conversation with the person who’s making the movie. So, essentially, they are the heartbeat of the movie.”
While the film does have an important story to tell, Cena wants to make sure audiences walk out very entertained but also thinking about what they just watched. “The thing that I find the most powerful, and I hate to shove moral fiber down people’s throats, but when you can tell a story and take people on a fun ride and also leave them walking away with something, give them a little bit to think about,” said Cena. “It’s a great, famous tale about, there’s more than meets the eye. You don’t judge a book by its cover.”
That’s what probably attracted him to the role so much. Cena says he is “the guy who goes against the grain,” and that idea has been kept him working for so long. Even in other marking campaigns, he finds himself working with other companies that empower people. “I did a wonderful campaign with Crocs that’s just about to go everywhere called Come As You Are,” said Cena. “And it just empowers people.”
While his persona in the ring often dictates what is expected of him in film, shows, or marketing campaigns, Cena says he plays by his own set of rules. It is something he does proudly and something he knows that resonates with people. “Nowadays, we just empower individuals to just be who you are,” said Cena. “You don’t have to be this way or this way or this way, or just because people see you a certain way doesn’t mean you have to be a certain way.”
That line of thinking has to lead him to lead a very humble life, one that is rarely seen nowadays, especially in his line of business. “I reached a point in my career where I was fortunate to accomplish a lot and just was like, man, nobody here ever lets their guard down,” says Cena. It’s never their own fault. They never take accountability. They never show humility. They never show vulnerability. And I just did.” This is one of the reasons why he believes he is not. I’m not trendy. I’m just myself, and I don’t care if myself is not cool or not trendy, said Cena.
FERDINAND is in Theaters This Christmas!
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