Since 1936, Munro Leaf’s book, ‘The Story of Ferdinand’ has captured the hearts of millions with the story of a young bull who prefers flowers to fighting, and refuses to be judged by his appearance. Now a major motion picture, ‘Ferdinand’ is inviting in a new audience reminding us we can’t judge a book by its cover.
And wrestling superstar and actor John Cena (Daddy’s Home, Sisters), who is voicing the animated Ferdinand character, is proud to be part of it. In a chat prior to the film’s release, Cena chatted to me about the themes of the movie, and how much they resonate with him personally.
“Often people are misunderstood, and Ferdinand’s a great example of just standing up for who you are,” he said. “A lot of times it’s because of what people see. They take a look at us and assume we are something, and if they spend some time to get to know us they realise that maybe we’re more than what they see.”
Being misunderstood is something the superstar wrestler-turned-actor has grown used to, causing Ferdinand’s journey to strike a chord with the actor:
“I tend to be very upfront with the things that I’m passionate about, and the range is enormous… I like Ferdinand’s obsession with flowers because it shows that just because you like something that essentially makes you seem vulnerable, doesn’t mean you’re not strong. It actually makes you stronger for being able to admit the things you’re passionate about.”
“I know there’s a giant contingent that don’t enjoy the things that I do, but I’ve never wavered from who I am… I’ve been through the stresses of people constantly asking you to change, and I just refuse.”
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Director Wanted a ‘Gentle Giant’ for the Ferdinand Role
When casting for the role of Ferdinand, Director Carlos Saldanha said they were looking for someone with both strength and softness; Cena was the perfect mixs. “We wanted the voice to reflect someone who was strong and gentle at the same time,” he said. “[Cena] looks tough on the outside, but has a big heart inside – a true gentle giant.”
“I’m not afraid to showcase vulnerability or emotion; often being the ‘tough guy’, is being proud of who you are.”
Watching Cena in the wrestling ring, you may doubt the ‘gentle giant’ moniker, but his softer side often seen in his charity work (John is Make-A-Wish’s most requested wish granter of all time and the only celebrity to grant 500 wishes), and in his relationship to fans.
“I’m so thankful for the people that have supported me because I wouldn’t be where I am without them,“ says Cena. “I’m not afraid to showcase vulnerability or emotion; often being the ‘tough guy’, is being able to be proud of who you are.”
Ferdinand is in cinemas December 14. Watch the trailer below.