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Playback: John Cena on ‘The Wall,’ Favorite Films and Time Away From WWE

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

World Wrestling Entertainment superstar John Cena is on the show this week discussing his new film “The Wall,” from director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity,” “Edge of Tomorrow”). The 40-year-old sports entertainer is fresh from a very public proposal to his fiancee Stephanie Nicole Garcia-Colace (aka Nikki Bella) at WrestleMania last month, and of late, he’s been stepping up his Hollywood presence in films like “Sisters,” “Trainwreck” and the upcoming animated “Ferdinand.”

But he first waded into the industry a decade ago with films like “The Marine” and “12 Rounds.” He admits, however, that he was going through the motions at the time.

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“Those were projects I was kind of told to do and begrudgingly did them,” Cena says. “I don’t have any regrets about them, but I just learned a lot about what I don’t want to be involved with and getting involved with something you’re passionate about, and that’s been the key to sustainability to me.”

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In “The Wall” he stars opposite Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who owns the bulk of the movie in a bit of a one-man show (though Cena’s presence is uniquely felt throughout). Cena read the script in one sitting and was eager to participate regardless of director or co-star. “I was unbelievably moved by it and said, ‘Yes, I want to do this in any capacity,'” he says.

He rattles off a list of favorite films, from “Blazing Saddles” to “The Big Short,” including a particular affinity for certain ruminative science-fiction. “The ‘Matrix’ films, I loved all of them,” he says. “I think they were not only cutting edge but such a wonderful look at existence. And in the same vein, I’m a huge ‘Prometheus’ fan, but not like an ‘Aliens’ fan. [But I’m] looking very much forward to the next movie.”

Yet he doesn’t necessarily have a wish-list of directors he’s hoping to check off. He’s just looking to find his own place in the industry, as other WWE superstars like Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper and The Rock have done before him.

For more including thoughts on the Oscar-nominated film “The Wrestler” and the evolution of creative opportunities in WWE, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

Subscribe to “Playback” via iTunes.

John Cena photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

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