In a Screen Rant exclusive interview, Bumblebee star John Cena reveals that his character’s personality changed significantly from the original script. The live-action Transformers film was directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) and written by Christina Hodson (DC’s upcoming Harley Quinn movie Birds of Prey). Bumblebee was released nationwide on December 21 by Paramount Pictures.
Knight's take on the Transformers story marks the sixth cinematic installment of the franchise. In the film, Cena has a supporting role as Colonel Jack Burns, a former U.S. Army Ranger who attacks B-127 upon its crash landing on earth, and attempts to secure the robot throughout the film. Cena stars opposite Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie Watson, the teenage protagonist who befriends B-127 upon his transformation into Bumblebee. In the central narrative, Optimus Prime's Autobot resistance moves from Cybertron to planet Earth, with Charlie and Bumblebee working together while trying to avoid Cena’s Jack Burns. As of this weekend, Bumblebee has earned almost $200 million at the box office - nearly doubling its budget - however the film is currently the lowest-grossing production in the Transformers franchise. During a recent Screen Rant interview, both Steinfeld and Cena said they aren’t worried about huge box office numbers, but rather more concerned about how the story connects with fans.
In the same Screen Rant exclusive, Cena noted that Jack Burns’ personality in the final Bumblebee cut doesn’t match the original character sketch. Cena, who became famous for his WWE bravado and success, said Burns was originally “like the Dragnet guys, that's how it was written.” But when Knight offered an improvised take after shooting two standard takes, Cena received a chance to make the character his own, albeit with a few tweaks: “I usually try to take those moments to make the crew laugh or have fun for myself, because I'm given that one take. But a lot of that, he really observed that, ‘Hey, I can't use what you just said in the movie, but I can use your sentiment in the movie. So give me the same tone, just don't curse as much.’”
Cena rose to fame in the WWE during the early 2000s, initially portraying a loudmouth rapper, and winning 16 world championships during his career thus far. So, his take on Jack Burns matches the charisma that loyal fans have come to love over the years. Cena believes the character adjustment made him more appealing to Bumblebee viewers: “[it was a] weird combination where you have this mysterious character - but in the script, it makes perfect sense. Then you decide to give him a bit of a dynamic personality profile and now it's more intriguing.” In recent years, Cena has elevated his public profile by appearing in mainstream comedies such as Trainwreck (2015), Sisters (2015), Daddy’s Home 2 (2017), and the 2018 hit Blockers. This past week, Cena made his long-awaited return to WWE.
The shift in tone for Cena’s Bumblebee character underlines the true collaborative nature of the project, and speaks to the spirit of the final product. Given that the film's screenwriter and director have already been on record about ideas for a possible sequel, Transformers fans can expect more of the same heart and soul that infuses this latest film.