From director Kay Cannon, the outrageously funny comedy Blockers shows the hilarity that can ensue when three parents (played by Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz) discover their daughters’ (played by Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon) pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Determined to do whatever it takes to keep that from happening, the well-meaning trio will stop at nothing, even if that includes car chases, butt-chugging contests and party crashing, to ensure that these three smart, determined and empowered young women don’t make a decision that they’ll regret.
At the film’s Los Angeles press junket, WWE superstar and comedic scene stealer John Cena spoke to Collider for this 1-on-1 interview about why he wanted to be a part of Blockers, not being afraid to look like an idiot for the humor of it, butt-chugging, and the film’s unexpectedly beautiful family dynamic. He also talked about joining the Transformers franchise with Bumblebee, having been a fan, what makes this movie cool and working with director Travis Knight, along with what attracts him to a project and why he’s learning to play piano.
Collider: This was such a fun and funny movie! Did you know that it would be this much fun, when you signed on?
JOHN CENA: Well, I loved the story. You never know, if the humor on the page is gonna be as funny. The story was more interesting, being able to showcase the father-daughter relationship. I think all of us gravitated towards the story. Because everyone making the movie is really funny, they were able to understand the moments and the awkwardness of the moments, and a lot of times, you get humor out of the awkward moments. My hat’s off to (director) Kay [Cannon]. I remember sitting with her, originally, and she was so focused on story. She was like, “But these characters have to be right and you have to care about them.” She kept that philosophy through the whole filmmaking process, and I think it shows in the movie. You feel for these people.
Since you’re not trained in comedic acting, at what point did you start to feel comfortable with it?
CENA: I think a lot of that is being comfortable with the people around you and being comfortable with the material. Even if it’s not your sense of humor, you have to understand the humor. I also know that a lot of the humor rests on me looking like an idiot, so I’m okay with that. I’m okay with looking like an idiot. Some people don’t go there, but I don’t care. You have to get the perspective of funny people and not have any reservations on looking like a dumb-ass. I just trusted Kay and trusted my co-workers, and hoped that she then put it together well.
You do some wild things in this movie. Is there anything you won’t do, when it comes to comedy and getting a laugh, if it makes sense with the story?
CENA: I don’t want to become a stunt daredevil, as far as how far I’ll push, but I get the humor. To me, one of the famous scenes in this movie, or one of the most talked about scenes in this movie, is where I drink a beer from my butt.
At any point, could you ever have imagined that you’d be butt-chugging?
CENA: No, but I couldn’t have imagined any of this. I couldn’t have imagined that I’d have a WWE match and they’d give me money for it. This is not supposed to happen. For me to digest that moment, the moment is essentially that this dude will do anything for his daughter, and then he gets called out on it. He’s a guy who’s a man of his word. He will do anything for his daughter. Not only does that statement mean something, but he genuinely means it. It’s funny as hell. You’ll laugh out loud. But if you wanna talk about a vulnerable moment for a dude who’s built like a brick shithouse, to be humbled and humiliated in front of a part full of people because he’s worried about a bad decision his daughter may or may not make, that’s where I get the depth of shoving a beer up my butt. Everybody has their own process, but that’s why it’s funny and that’s why I’ll do it. It fits in the movie. It’s not just, “Hey, so we have this gag and we wanna do the gag.” There’s meaning behind it.
I love the family moments you have in this!
CENA: Me, too!
There’s such a great dynamic in that family relationship. What was it like to work with Sarayu Blue and Geraldine Viswanathan, as your wife and daughter?
CENA: Sarayu was great. You’re not hit over the head with it in the movie, and nobody ever says it, but I’m a stay-at-home dad and Sarayu is the true breadwinner. I’m just trying to do my best at keeping the family together. That’s become more of the norm. Like a lot of the things in this film, it’s never put on Front Street. It just lives and it is and it’s digested. I think that’s special. And the relationship between Sarayu and Geraldine, and me and Geraldine, was all how it was supposed to be.
The trio of Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and you is so great.
CENA: We just immediately embraced our differences. My character is pretty much like me, turned up to five, and the other folks are turned way, way up. We all found roots in who we were supposed to play.
Do you enjoy getting to see a film like this with an audience, to hear their response?
CENA: My goodness, of course! We saw it at SXSW, which is an amazing place to premiere a movie, and people were laughing so hard that they missed a lot of the punchlines. They were laughing over five jokes. You wanna stand there and be like, “Guys, be quiet!,” but at the same time, you don’t because they’re laughing at moments. Moments outlive punchlines. The punchlines will lose their luster, after awhile, but people were laughing at the outrageous moments of the movie, and that sets something up for long-term success. They’ll just have to go back and see it again.
What was it like to be a part of the Transformers universe with Bumblebee?
CENA: Awesome! That’s what’s great about the movie business.
That’s one of those movie magic movies.
CENA: Yeah, where you’re acting with a stick. You have to be dramatic with a stick. In the WWE, we call it working with a broomstick. You can get in there and have a match with a broomstick. I think it’s just a different method to tell stories. That’s what I enjoy most. Do I love to laugh? Yes! But what I enjoy most is to be able to use your imagine to tell a story. So, it was a different challenge, but I loved it. I hope everybody sees that and they dig it.
What was the appeal of that, for you? Were you a Transformers fan?
CENA: I was actually alive when they first came out and was at the age to enjoy them. I was a superfan of Transformers and the rival Gobots. I know Transformers is gonna kill me for saying that. To be able to see where the franchise went and where they are taking it now, I thought it was extremely interesting. I can’t talk too much about it, but I really think everyone who enjoys what they were, initially, and what they became, and wants to further the stories, it’s so very story based. It’s so awesome! It’s not too busy. It’s really a fun movie, and I think people are gonna like it.