EXCLUSIVE: Superior Co-Creator Mark Millar Explains Why John Cena is Perfect for Film
Mark Millar loves twitter. The writer-cum-producer uses the social media site much the way many others in the public eye do, to communicate with fans and occasionally share personal thoughts and ideas (often over a drink). But Millar has also used twitter as a wish-generating machine, throwing out actors he'd love to work with for his various comic book adaptations in film, and often successfully courting them after that initial shot across the bow.
Millar's latest target? John Cena, WWE Superstar, host, internet meme sensation, and record-setting good guy (literally: he has the most Make-a-Wish grants of any individual in history). Millar tweeted over the weekend that he watched Cena in the comedy Trainwreck and would love him for Superior, a movie in development about a young boy with MS who gets granted his wish to become his favorite superhero, and it caught a lot of attention, even landing on WWE.com (as well as here on ComicBook.com, naturally).
"Superior's a project we've been developing for a little while and different actors have been on everyone's radar. It's a fun story, the conceit being Big meets Superman, so it needs to be someone who can pull off the comedy," Millar explained to ComicBook.com via email. "Just as Kingsman: The Secret Service was for people who missed fun spy movies, Superior is for people who miss Christopher Reeve making little jokes and rescuing cats from trees. I even dedicated the book to Dick Donner and Christopher Reeve because Superman The Movie was the most formative experience of my life in terms of what I wanted to do when I grew up.
"So it needed to be an actor who didn't take himself too seriously and could do the funny moments as well as the poignant ones. It also needed to be someone a 12 year old boy would make a magic wish to be. Bryan Cranston and Robert DeNiro are amazing actors, for example, but they're not going to be who a kid closes his eyes and wishes they were. A wrestler kind of is and some pals had suggested John Cena in the past, but I'd only seen him play a very, very small role in a comedy last year."
That changed last weekend, when Millar and his wife sat down to watch Trainwreck, Amy Schumer's comedy with a unique look at romance - and some unique looks at John Cena.
"I was texting people before the movie had even finished!" Millar said. "He was in that picture with four top-of-their-game comedians and he stole the entire movie. He was so, so funny. His comic-timing is just impeccable and he looks very thoughtful too. He immediately went to the top of my own personal list in terms of who I'd be suggesting once the script comes in this week and the studio formally starts going out to actors at some point."
Millar acknowledged to ComicBook that his position as Co-Creator of projects like Superior, Kingsman, and Kickass (the writer always shares co-creator credits with his artists) has allowed him "a certain amount of say in adaptations." However, he shares casting decisions with other producers, studios, and the director of a given project.
"If a studio is spending $100 million dollars on your ideas big casting decisions are usually made by a number of you," the writer said. He also revealed to us that a director is now on Superior, and that means full steam ahead on the film. "A director has been brought in now and if the final draft of the script is as good as we think it's going to be this week we can kick this up to the next stage. Ultimately, the director who has been hired will decide on the actor in 99% of these kind of situations as he or she has to work with them every day, but the development process generally involves everybody texting and emailing thoughts along the way and sometimes lightning just gets caught in a bottle."
That brings us back to John Cena; and Millar's public endorsement of him was designed to drum up interest - and also just because he's genuinely a fan.
"John physically looks perfect for the part, but that's only 10% of why I think he works. It's the heart of the character he seems to embody very well and I love the fact that he's done more Make A Wish hospital visits than any other actor or athlete in America. I think he's done around 500 of them now and that just seems incredibly in keeping with the character. This was one single tweet at the weekend, a thought out loud when I was watching a movie and it went everywhere, which is usually a sign that you're onto something interesting."
Indeed, Cena hit 500 Wishes granted in August 2015, and didn't slow down. So just how "onto something" are they?
"He and I are in touch and I've told the rest of the team he'd be my absolute favourite choice," Millar revealed. "So we'll see where it goes from here. I've been very lucky so far. The director who's being brought on in is very much in that 'Amblin' tone this kind of movie needs to work. He's great at comedy and he's great at poignant drama. I really have a good feeling about this as it comes together. The script has been really, really funny, which I think people want right now. The big box office belongs to movies that look like they're promising a good time for the past year or two. This is very much in that mould."
With the director found, a script in final stages, and a wishlist of one for the star, it sounds like Superior is suddenly several steps closet to being a reality. If Millar's track record is any indication, it also sounds like it could be another big hit.