Marvel Rejected John Cena Multiple Times, Including on Deadpool

By Richard Nebens Updated:
John Cena, Marvel Studios

John Cena is currently enjoying an impressive run in the world of superhero movies thanks to his role in DC's Peacemaker, which has manifested in his own solo series on HBO Max after his introduction in The Suicide Squad. The wrestling-icon-turned-action star fully embraced the wild persona and character of Christopher Smith as he does whatever it takes to achieve peace, regardless of how many people he murders to do it.

Over the past couple of years, Cena has become nearly inseparable from Peacemaker, taking every opportunity possible to wear the costume in public and promote his upcoming projects within the DCEU. This all comes as Marvel Studios expands its own cinematic universe.

For how popular Cena has become over the past decade, it seemingly took a long time for him to get involved with superhero movies. Interestingly enough, Cena revealed in a recent interview that he took a shot with Marvel that didn't end up so well.

John Cena Rejected from Marvel Movies

John Cena, Peacemaker

Speaking with Josh Horowitz on The Happy Sad Confused podcast, Peacemaker star John Cena revealed that he was rejected for previous roles in Marvel movies before joining the DC Extended Universe.

When asked if there were any roles he came close to, Cena hinted that Shazam was in the discussion for him while also revealing that he was in the running for Deadpool 2 as well. Horowitz confirmed with Cena that it was for Cable, as Cena used basketball hall of farmer Dikembe Mutumbo as a way to say he was "rejected" for that role and Shazam:

Cena: “I can’t tell you how many superhero roles I’ve been rejected for. Shazam is certainly one. There was a brief try at the Deadpool universe, rejection.”

Horowitz: "For Cable I assume?“

Cena: "Yeah. Shazam was Dikembe Mutumbo. There was a few in the Marvel universe, rejected. But you know, I kept trying."

When asked if there were any that he really wanted, Cena admitted that he loved the childish nature of Shazam and that the role was interesting to him. He also went into his process of how he looks at roles like this, saying that he has to read the script to make sure it's right for him:

"I think because of the fact that, here I am saying this in a waistcoat and a half-windsor, I think like a child, so Shazam was super interesting to me. And when I read the script, a lot of times, like… this is the thing, I don’t just chase ‘I want to do this,’ I always have to read it."

However, the exception in this regard is with Peacemaker director James Gunn due to "his reputation as a storyteller." He shared some of the story about how Gunn got him involved with the role in the first place, even though he "wasn't first on the list" for the role in the early stages:

"James Gunn is the only person who gets a free pass. If he says ‘I’m doing this thing, do you want it?’ And the only reason he gets a free pass is his reputation as a storyteller. He just does not let up, he claws at every piece, and I know it’s gonna be good, because he starts from a blank page and that’s it. But I always read it, I always read the story to make sure one, I like it, and two, it falls within my skillset. I do want to challenge myself, but I don’t want the first time I do something to be on screen for a paying customer. I want to get practice and perform at a level that’s consumer quality. So I read all those scripts, and I read all those parts, and I was like, ‘Man, I really think I could add to this,’ and just rejection after rejection after rejection after rejection. But I guess that’s what… the lows make the highs high. And the crazy thing was, I wasn’t first on the list for Peacemaker. James had a long list, and it happened by accident, too. He’s like, ‘Hey, I’m in Atlanta, I’d just love to come and talk to you for a second.’ We sat down in his pre-production office, which was literally like a war headquarters where you could see the whole movie in posterboard taped around his office, and he started talking about Peacemaker, and he’s like, ‘I think you should do it.’ So I’m not rejected? They usually say, like, ‘Hey, love you man, but we’re just going in another direction.’”

Cena Looks Back at Rejected Marvel Roles

Looking at Cena's success in the film industry, it's no surprise that he put his foot forward in an attempt at a role in Marvel movies, regardless of whether they were in the MCU or not. Specifically, with Cable in the Deadpool universe, that role could have vaulted him into superhero superstardom about three years before he made his DC debut in The Suicide Squad.

At the end of 2016's Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds' anti-hero blatantly told the world that Cable would be in the sequel and they just needed "a big guy with a flat top," leading to conversations about who would actually take the role. While it appears that Cena made a solid impression on the team at 20th Century Fox before Josh Brolin won the role, it only kickstarted his eventual journey to the DCEU.

Now that Cena is invested with Warner Bros and the DCEU, it seems unlikely right now that he will have the opportunity anytime soon to take a role in the MCU. However, with the future unknown for both Peacemaker's status within the DCEU and Cena's contract status with Warner Bros, there may be an avenue for Marvel and Cena to join together someday.

The first three episodes of Peacemaker are now available to stream on HBO Max.

- About The Author: Richard Nebens
Richard Nebens joined The Direct in March 2020, now serving as the site's Senior Writer and also working as an assistant editor and content creator. He started his journalism career as a hobby in 2019 and is passionate about sharing news and stories from the entertainment industry, especially comic book movies, comedy, and sci-fi. Richard looks to expand his knowledge about movies and TV every day, and he is eager to stay locked into the latest releases and breaking news at every opportunity.