THE 16 TIME WWE CHAMPION AND CONSUMMATE NICE GUY IS BEST KNOWN ON THE BIG SCREEN FOR HIS COMEDIC ROLES, BUT THIS SUMMER, HE’S FLEXING HIS ANTAGONISTIC MUSCLES AS THE VILLAIN ASSASSIN IN THE NINTH EDITION OF THE FAST AND FURIOUS FRANCHISE, F9

BY AMANDA MCCOY

The villain might seem like a fitting role for this WWE heavy hitter, as the 44 year old former bodybuilder stands at six foot one and 251 pounds, and is famed for inflicting his “Five Moves of Doom” in the Thunder Dome. John Cena began his film career in 2006 as the title character in The Marine, an action drama following a discharged marine as he hunts down a group of thieves that kidnapped his wife, but it wasn’t until Cena began tackling lighter roles that he made substantial impact at the box office. In fact, eight of his nine highest grossing films are comedies; he portrayed Amy Schumer’s shredded but sensitive boyfriend in Train wreck (2015) and voiced the perpetually cold polar bear, Yoshi, in Robert Downey Jr.’s 2020 reboot of Dr. Dolittle. But this summer, Cena is amping up the metal and mayhem in the ninth installment of the wildly successful Fast and Furious franchise, portraying Jakob, the forsaken brother of Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto.

For Cena, this was not a role he took lightly. “I certainly didn’t overlook the responsibility of the opportunity,” he told Movie web of his undertaking of Dom’s most menacing foe yet. “I get to reap the rewards of this family who has poured the foundation and built the structure of a global delivering blockbuster. I get invited into the ninth installment to share the last name Toretto and to be Dom’s greatest adversary of all time. That is not lost. I think it has to start there. It has to start with respect.”

Since the debut of its inaugural chapter in 2001, Fast and Furious has become one of the highest grossing franchises in cinematic history, amassing nearly $6 billion worldwide. The series has produced a host of shorts and spin offs the most notable, Hobbs and Shaw (2019), starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham, grossed $760 million alone at the box office and has already announced its tenth chapter, currently slated for an April 2022 release. Justin Lin, who helmed the third through sixth installments, returns to the director’s chair for the ninth.

For Diesel, casting the role of his brother was particularly riddling, noting he tapped into the energy of franchise star and good friend Paul Walker, who was tragically killed in a car crash in 2013.

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“I remember once we started getting closer to production, Justin [Lin] and I would talk about how harrowing it would be to actually cast a new Toretto, the brother of Toretto,” Diesel said during an F9 press conference. “There are so many different directions you could go. And I remember John Cena coming into this Dom Shrine that I had where I would kind of go to meditate and train and start getting into that Dom state of mind. And I remember John coming in and… call this crazy, but I remember feeling as though Pablo, Paul Walker, had sent him in.”

Cena portrays a skilled assassin and high performance driver that teams up with cyber terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), the primary villain of 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, in a world shattering plot that Dom and gang must stop. The high intensity action boomerangs around the globe, from London to Tokyo to Tbilisi, Georgia. The trailers make it clear the younger Toretto is hoisting a heavy family vendetta, and Cena teased his character might muddy the waters between good and evil.

“We’ll leave it for the audience, we’ll leave it for the Fast family around the world to decide who’s bad and who’s good,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “Keep in mind, the trailer shows just enough for you to have a ton of questions and me not to be able to answer any of them!”

FAF is not the only major franchise successfully courting the wrestling superstar. Cena also recently joined the DCEU as Peacemaker in R rated The Suicide Squad, slated to hit theaters on August 6. He told Den of Geek earlier this year that he “had tried my hand at trying to crack the DC code for a long time with multiple failures.” Cena is clearly stoked finally to be entering the DC verse, donning his Peacemaker costume for film press conferences.

“I’m not kidding, @JohnCena just took a uniform home from set because he said he wanted to see what it was like taking a nap in it,” tweeted The Suicide Squad’s director and screenwriter James Gunn.

Cena’s portrayal of the flawed anti-hero has already cemented a TV spin off, Peacemaker, set to stream on HBO Max.