Actor. Entertainer. High Flyer. John Hennigan is no stranger to sports entertainment fans across the world. Loved for his parkour style and death-defying stunts, he’s reached heights that most dream of achieving. I recently had a conversation with John about life, music, movies and everything in-between. Check it out…
You’ve been at the peak of the wrestling world. The fans of the WWE embraced you. Now you’re transitioning into the acting world. What are some of the common denominators between those two worlds?
The baseline for wrestlers, actors, and musicians is entertainment. So as entertainers we provoke human emotion and make people feel something. That’s the common denominator.
One thing that’s different between wrestling and film is that, in wrestling, you’re preforming for a live crowd. The live crowd has a personality of it’s own. You work off them, your opponent, and the referee. You tell a story at a medium with those elements.
Now with film, you’re not live, it’s designed specifically to be cut up and consumed differently. It’s more in depth. The stories you can tell are more complex. You can get into a broader array of human emotions. You have more resources and you typically spend a lot more time producing your content.
Whereas in wrestling you go out there and have a twenty-minute match… that’s what the people get… a twenty-minute match. Wrestling often reverts to simple morality plays. The good guys give the crowd what they want and the bad guys take it away. The trick is figuring out what the crowd wants… That’s how you get over.
How long have you been interested in acting?
I was a film major in college. I did a few shorts and I wrote, directed, produced, edited and starred in a feature during my senior year. It was terrible. I can’t even show anybody because it’s got so many problems (laughs).
Shortly after that, I started wrestling but in the back of my mind I always imagined myself doing action comedy. Sometimes during the international tours with the WWE, I’d get on the bus, fire up my laptop and start working on screenplays instead of getting loaded with the others. I wrote a few shorts and Boone The Bounty Hunter ended up being one that I really liked.
Boone The Bounty Hunter is a feature that you wrote and are currently filming. What’s the process of taking a script and getting it put into production?
It’s different for everybody. For me, I started with writing the script with a buddy of mine. The first draft probably would have been a 15 – 20 million-dollar script. We wrote that and then I started thinking, “How am I going to raise money for this?” So I made a sizzle trailer and started showing it to production companies that I had worked with on other films.
People were interested in making the movie. I feel like everyone in Hollywood wants to make a movie. The hard part, that holds everybody back, is finding money.
But the offers that I got, had too many strings attached… They wanted creative control and final cut. Final cut was the deal breaker for me. Really at the end of the day, I sold my house and found an outside investor to come in and fund the rest of the movie with me.
I was on the set of Boone one day and you were jumping across rooftops, without a safety net. I think it was a three-story building.
Yeah, that wasn’t even that bad because I knew I could cover almost twice that distance.
You’ve done a lot of scary stuff in wrestling too, what are some of the craziest things you’ve done?
Moonsault off the top rope, with a ladder, to the outside is up there. Some of the Elimination Chamber stuff, like climbing to the top of the cage and dropping down.
The Lucha Underground spot with Puma where he speared me off the band’s platform and we landed through all those tables… That was a good sixteen-foot drop to the floor. That was pretty scary.
It’s tough to narrow it down.
Yeah, there’s just so many.
You’re actively on an improv team at IO West in Hollywood. How long have you been doing that for?
I started training while I was on the road full time with WWE. I would be on the road four or five days a week so I had to pick class on one of the days I’d be home, which was usually Wednesday.
So I started doing that and I would play with a couple groups around town at IO West and Second City. Once I left WWE, I started doing stuff with UCB. I think anyone who wants to be an actor should dabble in improv. It’s a good skill to have… even to hold up a conversation.
Do you find yourself gravitating towards comedies more so?
As far as the content I conceive off and want to write and produce… Action Comedy is what I want to focus my time on. But I’ve had a lot of fun doing action horror, drama, and kid’s movies. It’s been cool to learn and practice the craft of acting through all of these projects. But yeah, I love comedies.
What are your thoughts on Stand Up?
I’ve tried it a couple of times. I really love stand up. The thing about stand up is… it’s not easy to do stand up. You have to prepare a lot for it. To get my set together, and this was just the first draft, it took a long time. To do it well, you have to really work on your routine and practice it daily. I just didn’t have as much time as I would need to really focus on it. I love watching it though.
Who are some of your favorite comics?
I love Adam Sandler. Remember his comedy albums?
Ha, I have all of them!
Yeah, we use to imitate Toll Booth Willie all the time growing up. I love Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Louis CK, Martin Lawrence, Dave Chappelle, and Danny McBride is the man!
If Hollywood was to make a biopic on a wrestler’s life, who do you think would be a good candidate?
They just released a documentary on Jake The Snake. I cried while watching it. It’s really really good. It doesn’t even center on his life. It’s just focused on how DDP saved Jake’s life.
I think Gorgeous George would be a fascinating biopic. A lot of the fascinating times for wrestling, to me, are from the old territory days. These days everything is on social media and out of context. And it makes everyone get back into their shells and start acting like they’re in a corporation as opposed to chaos causing crazy pro-wrestlers; like the way wrestlers were in the 70s and 80s.
This is a good juxtaposition. Someone once asked Ravishing Rick Rude about his work out routine and how he got his abs. And his answer to that question, on camera, was, “cocaine and steroids.” Think about that now, like… that was the 80s (laughs).
But I think Danny Hodge, Killer Kowalski would be good options. Even guys like John Cena and Triple H.
What are your thoughts on other wrestlers who tried their hand at Hollywood or are currently doing the same?
I think it makes a lot of sense to see wrestlers expanding into Hollywood. The biggest example of that is The Rock.
Side note, my Hercules movie came out at the same time as The Rock’s. Mine went straight to DVD (laughs). I sent out a tweet that said, “All you other Hercules’ can suck it!” and I tagged The Rock in it.
And I bumped into him at Gold’s Gym and he was like, “Hey, what’s up John! So… what’s up with all this Hercules business on Twitter?” And I was like, “Oh you know, just trying to ride this wave of Hercules popularity.” Really light hearted though… I had a fun little conversation with him about that. I told him I’m trying to do the same type of stuff that he’s doing. He was like, “Good man, I’m always feeling your work.”
He’s a genuinely a super nice guy, very charismatic. It makes a lot of sense to see why he’s so successful.
But other guys, Dolph is shooting his first movie in Vancouver right now. And John Cena has been getting a lot of acclaim for his work in Trainwreck. And that’s great to see because I think he got to be himself more… The real John Cena is a charismatic and funny dude. And when he gets to do that… it’s really cool.
Boone The Bounty Hunter is scheduled for release later this year! Keep up with John on Twitter @TheRealMorrison.