Like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Hulk “Thunderlips” Hogan before him, John Cena‘s path from the professional wrestling ring into movie stardom is heating up. After turns in films like Bumblebee and Blockers, Cena next eyes the Robert Downey Jr. vehicle Dolittle followed closely by The Suicide Squad and the granddaddy of Big Beefy Boy franchises, The Fast and the Furious. But even as a 42-year-old with plenty of back-body-drops into plywood in his past and blockbusters in his future, he still often hears that question: When is he returning to the ring?
When Collider’s Steve Weintraub sat down with Cena to discuss Dolittle, the performer opened up about being at a crossroads in his wrestling career, citing the brilliant and extremely depressing Darren Aronofsky film The Wrestler.
“Dude, all this stuff is great, but if it all stops tomorrow, I’m still okay with me. I know the good things that define me and I know the qualities I have as a human being. I’m going to move on and go forward. I know that all this is borrowed. I’m just grateful to have it and grateful to be able to contribute. I don’t want to be greedy as a performer and I see that a lot in sports entertainment.
The movie The Wrestler was centered around a guy who can’t let go. I’m being a shitty human being because I can’t let go of this thing. I invested my life in that company and then there’s no one, whether they like my performance or not, that will argue that. I think after the extended period of time that I put in, it’s okay for me to take a step back and reflect and be like, “Okay, I need to have more than that in my life because if that’s all that defines me, that’s a depreciating asset.” Every sunset that happens, I get a little slower and a little older and a little slower and a little older and it’s eventually going to end.”
Cena noted that he’s been having this conversation with himself for at least three years now, and hasn’t ruled out a future of mentoring and coaching a younger generation.
“That’s been three years of hard conversations with that dude looking back in the mirror and I’m at peace with where it’s at. I want to contribute where I can. I’ve even talked about coaching or mentoring. Like I said, it’s the environment I feel the most fluid, so I can sit down and talk to you about WWE as long as you want to talk, but what I don’t want to do is take somebody who has spent 50 bucks on a ticket for themselves, their partner, their families, they bought souvenirs, they bought popcorn and paid for parking and have look at me like, ‘He used to be something.’ You know?”
For now, though, Cena tells us he’s focused on acting, following a brief stint in the early-aughts when he tried—and mostly failed—to split time between wrestling and films.
“[T]he pay-per-views are so often and the engine never stops. It’s a demanding profession. It really is a demanding profession. I think once you’re there, you know the investment it takes to be there. Plus, I’m also really super passionate about this and it takes all of your heart and soul to be successful in that arena. It takes all of your heart and soul to be successful in this room. I tried to split them before in 2004, ‘05, ‘06 when I did all those movies for WWE. The movie thing failed because my heart wasn’t in that. Now my heart is in this. I have to enjoy this and not long to be someplace else, not have that fear of missing out. As much as most of the people who tell me that I suck at the top of their lungs are like, “Man, you got to come back.” I’m invested in this and I really am enjoying the ride.”
Be on the lookout for our full interview with Cena up on Collider soon. For more on Dolittle, check out the official trailer. You can also read what Cena said about The Suicide Squad, Fast and Furious 9, and working with Jackie Chan by clicking the links.
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