Prior to taking on the role of Peacemaker, former wrestler-turned-actor John Cena was rejected from Shazam, Deadpool 2, and other roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
When you watch Cena and his performance as Peacemaker in his HBO Max spin-off series, it’s almost hard to believe he was passed up so many times. His debut in comic book territory occurred extremely recently, starting with James Gunn’s 2021 film Suicide Squad (the good one).
What John Cena recalls
“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,” Cena told The Happy Sad Confused podcast. Cena went on to say that the Deadpool character he auditioned for was Deadpool 2‘s Cable, which ended up being offered to Avengers: Endgame villain, Josh Brolin.
When asked if there were any roles that he really wanted to land, Cena admitted that he had his hopes for Shazam. He also went into talking about his acting process and how he approaches these types of roles. “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.”
James Gunn is the exception to the rule
When it comes to his involvement in the Peacemaker series, Cena speaks to joining the project because of James Gunn’s “reputation as a storyteller.” He revealed the story of how Gunn got him involved with the role in the first place, even though he “wasn’t first on the list” for the role in its early stages.
“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.”
Cena continued by opening up about his journey to becoming Peacemaker by saying, “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 poster board 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.”
Peacemaker is now streaming on HBO Max (and we recommend watching it). Here’s how to get all the streaming services out there without breaking the bank.
Photos via Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic