John Cena, one of the most influential professional wrestlers of all time, retired his kneepads and sweatbands to pursue an acting career. WWE still calls on Cena’s expertise occasionally, but since joining the DCEU and signing on as Peacemaker with DC Comics, the glory days of wrestling have become something of an afterthought.
Back in 2006, Cena had his debut acting role in The Marine (2006), the story of a discharged soldier (Cena) who returns home from Iraq to find that a murderous gang of thieves has kidnaped his wife (Kelly Clarkson). Ever since, Cena has gained praise for his standout performances in Trainwreck (2015) and Ferdinand (2017). In 2021, after joining the Fast & Furious franchise as Jakob Toretto in Fast & Furious 9 (2021), the wrestler-turned-actor was cast as Peacemaker in The Suicide Squad (2021) alongside big names like Margot Robbie and Idris Elba.
Since Cena joined the DCEU as Peacemaker, the anti-hero has spawned his own solo series on HBO Max. Cena returned as Christopher Smith on Jan. 13 — when the first episode debuted — and embodied the persona of a man who fights for peace — and will do whatever it takes to achieve it.
Just as Cena parades around in his Peacemaker outfit and promotes his DCEU projects, Marvel Studios’ ever-growing multiverses have expanded ten-fold. When speaking with Josh Horowitz on The Happy Sad Confused podcast, John Cena discusses facing rejection for a Marvel role in Deadpool 2 as Cable — a role which was ultimately offered to Josh Brolin. But before that, Cena tried out for Shazam! and failed to hit the mark.
Cena: “I can’t tell you how many superhero roles I’ve been rejected for. Shazam is certainly one. There was a brief try at the Deadpool universe, rejection.”
Horowitz: “For Cable I assume?“
Cena: “Yeah. Shazam was Dikembe Mutumbo. There was a few in the Marvel universe, rejected. But you know, I kept trying.”Josh Horowitz and John Cena via Happy Sad Confused
When mentioning the rejections, Cena was asked if any particular role stood out to him — if he really wanted one role above the others. He said that the childish nature of Shazam! appealed to him most, but explained that before he accepts any role, he thoroughly reads the script to understand the requirements — and whether or not the role fits his agenda.
I think because of the fact that, here I am saying this in a waistcoat and a half-windsor, I think like a child, so Shazam was super interesting to me. And when I read the script, a lot of times, like… this is the thing, I don’t just chase ‘I want to do this,’ I always have to read it.John Cena via Happy Sad Confused
However, James Gunn offered Cena the opportunity to be involved in the unthinkably influential DC Comics franchise. He shared details on how Gunn approached him about the role of Peacemaker and how the process felt so far removed from the mass rejections he had faced in the past.
James Gunn is the only person who gets a free pass. If he says ‘I’m doing this thing, do you want it?’ And the only reason he gets a free pass is his reputation as a storyteller. He just does not let up, he claws at every piece, and I know it’s gonna be good, because he starts from a blank page and that’s it. But I always read it, I always read the story to make sure one, I like it, and two, it falls within my skillset. I do want to challenge myself, but I don’t want the first time I do something to be on screen for a paying customer. I want to get practice and perform at a level that’s consumer quality. So I read all those scripts, and I read all those parts, and I was like, ‘Man, I really think I could add to this,’ and just rejection after rejection after rejection after rejection. But I guess that’s what… the lows make the highs high.
And the crazy thing was, I wasn’t first on the list for Peacemaker. James had a long list, and it happened by accident, too. He’s like, ‘Hey, I’m in Atlanta, I’d just love to come and talk to you for a second.’ We sat down in his pre-production office, which was literally like a war headquarters where you could see the whole movie in posterboard taped around his office, and he started talking about Peacemaker, and he’s like, ‘I think you should do it.’ So I’m not rejected? They usually say, like, ‘Hey, love you man, but we’re just going in another direction.’John Cena via Happy Sad Confused
At the end of Tim Miller’s Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds’ ‘Merc with a Mouth’ blatantly reveals that Cable would be in the sequel and remarked that they “just needed a big guy with a flat top,” which led to speculation as to who would meet such specific requirements. John Cena’s rejection from Deadpool 2 ultimately kickstarted his career within the DCEU.
While it seems unlikely that Cena will be offered a role in the MCU, as Venom (2018) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) actor Tom Hardy has proven, there is every possibility of the same actor appearing in both Marvel and DC films.
See Marvel Movies on Apple TV+, Prime Video, Hulu
The first three episodes of Peacemaker are available to stream on HBO Max.
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