Do you like John Cena? Ya duh. Do you like Jackie Chan? Ya double duh. Would it please you to know they recently filmed a movie together that’s coming out in 2020? Ya triple duh with cherries on top! Cena’s already having quite the busy 2020, with the forthcoming Dolittle, Fast and Furious 9, and The Suicide Squad on his docket. All films that I am varying levels of excited about, particularly given Cena’s general charisma. But the upcoming Project X-Traction, in addition to having the coolest name for a film ever, also excited me because Cena filmed it in China with Chan. Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently got to chat with Cena about the joys of working on such an international blockbuster with such an international superstar.
“It was enlightening and it was one of the best experiences in my life,” said Cena about working with Chan. “It’s fucking awesome… He has taught me and helped me more ways than he will ever know in one experience… Usually I say I have to read a project to be riveted by it. That is one name where if it’s like, ‘Hey, Jackie wants to do this,’ I’m sold. It’s that effective. He’s this barrel of fucking wisdom and he is trying to give it away and it’s awesome. He’s just awesome to be around.” Wow! When it comes to praising Chan, Cena does not mince words. What about the experience touched him so? He explained:
In the WWE, it’s a trash talking business but our stories are told physically; that’s why it’s so global. You could turn the volume off and be like, “Good guy, bad guy. I get it.” Jackie is once-in-a-generation, maybe, possibly the last, just because of the way things are done and the way entertainment is skewing. He certainly our generation’s great physical storyteller. You talk Keaton and Chaplin and Chan is in that conversation and his process is just… dude, I have goosebumps. It’s awesome and at his age; he defies age. He defies time. He is always creative. No job is too small. He will sweep the floor. He treats his crew like family. I could waste every minute you have saying the praises of Jackie Chan and I believe he’s underappreciated in America.
Cena has earned a reputation for being a paramount of good grace and professionalism, and it’s really lovely to see him recognize such qualities in a fellow performer. It’s also phenomenal, especially during the middle of an awards season which typically ignores action and stunt performers, to see Cena put Chan in the same ranks as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Frankly, he’s right! And also frankly, he doesn’t really have any peers, or to use Cena’s words, a “quantifiable equal. He can’t go anywhere ever, but he always goes everywhere. He’s always amongst everybody. Man, he’s so kind and giving and so damn professional too.” And working with Chan, his professionalism, and his skill level made Cena feel “like the mathematician in Good Will Hunting, watching Matt Damon solve the problem and then realizing your life’s work is down the shitter because this dude is just that much better than you.”
Cena shouldn’t sell himself short, though: He’s been immersing himself in Chinese culture since a 2012 WWE trip to Shanghai, spending time researching, visiting areas in Shanghai and inner Mongolia, and even learning Mandarin. It was a press conference he gave in, in his words, “remedial Mandarin because that’s all I speak” that brought him to Chan’s radar. And when Chan actually offered him the part — shooting in China — Cena was pleased and humbled. “For a lot of entertainers, especially domestically, going to China is a tough jump for them because it’s a world away and it’s a different culture. I was like, ‘Man, let’s go, let’s do it.’ It was a long shoot, but it was awesome. Like I said, there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t have some “Epic Jackie” moment where it was like, ‘That’s my takeaway for the day. This has been more than worth it.’”
Will Project X-Traction be more than worth watching? Boy howdy, I can’t wait to find out. The Cena/Chan mash-up drops in theatres some time in 2020. Until then, check out Cena’s comments on the upcoming The Suicide Squad. And check out our interview with Chan for The Foreigner.