John Cena & Renny Harlin 12 Rounds Interview

John Cena & Renny Harlin 12 Rounds Interview
He's made some of the highest grossing action films of all time; Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, The Deep Blue Sea to name a few. But Finnish director Renny Harlin has also experienced the other side of the fickle Hollywood coin with box-office failures like The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Cutthroat Island. Despite the odd misadventure in the screen trade, Renny Harlin is still ranked one of the top grossing directors of all time. But by his own admission he was tired of the way he was making films. So with his latest film, 12 Rounds, the 50-year-old director has gone back to basics; ditch the special effects and whiz-bang gadgets and tell a simple story in a compelling way, and cast it with strong, complex characters. Gaynor Flynn spoke to Renny Harlin and the star of the film John Cena, who is perhaps better known to many as one of the super stars of the wrestling world.

Gaynor Flynn: John, how did you come to be cast?

John Cena: A good friend of mine pitched me the script and then I took the script to the head of WWE Vincent Man and told him it would be a really good idea if we made this movie. He agreed and we were pretty much off at the races. So I pitched the script over cup of coffee and then we had a pretty good movie.

Gaynor Flynn: What attracted you to the role in particular?

John Cena: This story is fantastic. Not only the action of the movie, which is great and it speaks for itself but I really like the story. Its an action story that gives the audience a chance to really be involved with the characters and thats the most important thing in any movie.

Gaynor Flynn: You shot The Marine back in 2006, so this is your second role, did you find it a stretch at all, because youve never had any formal acting lessons right?

John Cena: Right but no I didnt find it a stretch at all. It was a bit of a challenge but a motivating one.

Gaynor Flynn: Did your wrestling background help prepare you for acting at all?

John Cena: Wrestling is a performance. Its entertainment, we tell stories. We make our fans happy by telling stories but the long and short of it its pretty much the same thing as acting. I didnt feel out of place or embarrassed in front of the camera. I just learned as much as I could while I was there. I still now I have a lot to learn about making films.

Gaynor Flynn: What was it about this story that intrigued you?

Renny Harlin: Well I thought it was a great return to almost old fashion action movies instead of a typical glossy over the top Hollywood superhero story of todays world. To me it was kind of closer to the movies I made in the early 90s which were more traditional action movies. In this one particularly the whole idea of 12 rounds, 12 tests the villain is putting our main character through offers a great way to do an movie, with 12 action sequences which are all different in nature. So its not a car chase movie, its not a shoot em up, it has a bit of everything in it.

Gaynor Flynn: You must have had your choice of lead actor, what made you choose John?

Renny Harlin: Well I wanted to make the movie fresh and I feel like John has all the characteristics of a big Hollywood movie star, but without the body of work yet. I liked that the audience dont really know him that means they wont know what to expect and I think that makes for a a very enjoyable cinematic experience. I also thought he was perfect for the movie because he has a certain physicality and of course Id seen him wrestling but Id also seen lots of talk shows and interviews with him and thought he seemed like a great guy and we met and we talked about the part and it was clear that he really understood this character and he could relate to this character.

Gaynor Flynn: What made you agree to do your own stunts seeing youve never had any training?

John Cena: This is a movie that just called for that. One because the budget didnt allow us to lean heavily on computer graphics or CGI and in a story where the guy is really an everyday guy who gets really put through a heck of a day you want to make sure your hero is doing all your stunts thats all.

Renny Harlin: John took it even further than I asked him to. He raced cars, and ran the equivalent of several 10k races, he even went and trained with the New Orleans Police Department.

Gaynor Flynn: I understand you have a fear of heights and of course you had to hang off ledges and even climb down the side of a building with little more than a harness and a thin wire. How was that?

John Cena: I do have a fear of heights and I can honestly say I will never ever do some of the things I did for Renny ever again. [laughs]

Gaynor Flynn: Renny, you said you wanted to go back to a simpler style of filmmaking, so what did that include?

Renny Harlin: I kind of called it commando filmmaking where instead of having huge trucks full of movie equipment and having this very slowly moving cumbersome thing, we moved around in small vans and used mini-DV cameras and even camera-phones at times. I incorporated different technology like aerial footage to allow us to get in and get out quickly. That style established a certain pace on the film which also helped John and all the actors with their performance.

Gaynor Flynn: What did you tell your actors then?

Renny Harlin: I told the actors, starting with John Cena, that this is not like the usual Hollywood way of making films, where you rehearse a scene, and then you mark with tape everybodys steps on the ground, and where they deliver their lines, and how they turn this way and that way. I said, We might rehearse it, but were going to basically just shoot it, and you guys have freedom to do whatever you want to do. Just go, just live it, just make it real. And dont worry about the camera, dont worry about the light hitting you, or the microphone being in the right place. Were going to get the shots as if we were in a combat zone.

Gaynor Flynn: John, after having a taste of acting what gives you the most satisfaction, wrestling or acting?

John Cena: I think theyre equally satisfying its just a different reward process. You make a movie and it takes you eight months up to a year to see the finished product. You have a wrestling match and youre instantly gratified the moment you walk through the curtain. So theyre equally as rewarding just the reward scale is different, it takes you longer to see the rewards from a movie.

Gaynor Flynn: Film wise whats next?

John Cena: Well if everything goes correctly I have a project in development right now. Hopefully if all timetables go according to plan, it will start shooting in June or July and be ready next year.

Gaynor Flynn: What can you tell me about it?

John Cena: I have to keep the plot really classified just because its in the infant stages of development. But Ill be the lead role.

Gaynor Flynn: Renny whats next for you?

Renny Harlin: A movie called Mannerheim, about a Finnish man who in the late 19th Century left Finland and went to Russia to study to be an Officer there and for 30 years he was one of the most successful Generals in the Russian army and fought in the WW1 as a Russian Officer. Then during the Russian revolution came back to Finland and ended up leading Finland to its independence in 1917 and then led the Finnish army in WWII against Russia which is ironic after spending 30 years in the Russian army as one of their most high ranking officers. He then saves Finlands independence in the Second World War and then became the president of Finland at the age of 78. So its a story that spans 80 years of Finnish history and European history and world history. Its a really good story.

12 Rounds is out 19th March.


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