Peacemaker creator James Gunn believes series lead John Cena has a certain je ne sais quoi that sets him apart from other actors — a quality Cena shares with his former WWE colleague and Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista.
During a recent interview with Vulture, Gunn discussed filming a tense scene from The Suicide Squad, in which Christopher Smith/Peacemaker (Cena) is about to kill Cleo Cazo/Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), only to be stopped at the last second. “So I’m talking to John on the God Mic about what he’s feeling, and I see his eyes switch,” Gunn said. “I see him go to this incredibly sad, vulnerable place. We realize this character is a guy who’s doing something he doesn’t want to do at all, but that he’s going to do anyway, which is shoot a young girl.”
Gunn continued, “When I saw that moment in him, I knew John was not just a performer who was funny, which is why I hired him, but a guy who had this other layer. At that moment, I knew John had that thing. It’s a thing a lot of big actors don’t have, and that most wrestlers turned actors don’t have. Dave Bautista also has it. That’s the reason I hired him for Guardians in the first place.” Based on Gunn’s comments, it seems as though Cena and Bautista are simply destined to mirror one another.
After all, Cena and Bautista got into the world of professional wrestling at around the same time. Both signed contracts with WWE (formerly WWF) in the early 2000s and performed for the company’s Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) developmental territory. Both men graduated to WWE’s main roster in 2002, making them part of OVW’s legendary class of 2002, which also included the likes of Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and Shelton Benjamin.
Cena and Bautista (under the ring name “Batista”) became two of the biggest stars of WWE’s Ruthless Aggression era. In fact, it was at WrestleMania 21 in 2005 that they both had career-defining coronations, with Cena winning his first WWE Championship and Bautista winning his first World Heavyweight Championship. Eventually, both superstars set their sights on Hollywood and went on to join major superhero franchises — with Bautista joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Drax the Destroyer and Cena joining the DC Extended Universe as Peacemaker.
Bautista made his MCU debut as Drax in Gunn’s 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy, subsequently reprising the role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. He is expected to return for Thor: Love and Thunder, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special and, finally, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 — which is slated for release on May 23, 2023.
Meanwhile, Cena joined the DCEU as Peacemaker in Gunn’s 2021 film The Suicide Squad before reprising his role in Peacemaker, an HBO Max spinoff series focusing on Chris Smith. Peacemaker Season 1 premiered earlier this year, running for eight episodes from Jan. 13 to Feb. 17. The series has been renewed for Season 2.
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