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For John Cena, 12 ROUNDS is more than another role; it's his initiation into the rarified air of action movie star. Moreover, the film's Danny Fisher is the type of action hero that Cena enjoyed watching, as a fan of the genre. "The ‘80s was the era of the ‘everyman' hero,” Cena explains. "And there hasn't been that style of hero since then. Guys like Bruce Willis in ‘Die Hard' proved that an everyday person can be an action hero. If I'm even considered in that club, I'm definitely off to a great start.”

For his legions of fans, bigger-than-life wrestling superstar Cena might be an unusual choice to play a "regular” guy, in this case a New Orleans cop struggling to save his kidnapped girlfriend from a revenge-seeking criminal. But 12 ROUNDS' Danny Fisher's relatability was a key attraction to Cena. "The whole everyman thing is easy, I'm just trying to be me,” he says. "I like the fact that Danny struggles. He doesn't come out of a phone booth and stop bullets. When audiences see 12 ROUNDS and see Danny in action, I think every man, woman and child in the theater can go, ‘You know what, that's possible, and under the right circumstances, I can pull that off.'”

"Danny likes being a cop, but he's not a super-cop,” says producer Josh McLaughlin of The Mark Gordon Company. "When he's confronted by someone who threatens someone Danny loves, he will not stop until he solves the problem.”

WWE Films president, Michael Lake notes that 12 ROUNDS "plays to Cena's physical gifts, as well as, his natural acting ability. He's a throwback to a different era of action films, when guys like McQueen and Stallone muscled their way through scenes. It made movies more believable, and more thrilling for the audience.” Echoes director Renny Harlin: "The best action heroes are the ones the audience can relate to and cheer for, but still feel like these guys experience pain, have a sense of humor, and are real. There's a hunger now for this kind reality-based, high-octane action movie.”

Cena's involvement with 12 ROUNDS began when the script was still very much a work in progress. McLaughlin got a call from Cena's agent for a meet-and-greet. After a few minutes, they were chatting like old friends. "I thought, ‘Boy, this guy's got something,'” McLaughlin recalls. "On top of being really charismatic, he was Danny.”

Producer Mark Gordon was similarly impressed. "We saw in John the potential to become the next big action star. 12 ROUNDS can really change his career and take him to the next level of international movie stardom.”

Earlier, McLaughlin and first-time screenwriter Daniel Kunka began the task of trying to reinvent the action film genre for today's audiences. "We wondered how to make a movie that is that sort of contained, high-concept, idea,” says McLaughlin. "The answer, we thought, was to make it as plausible as possible. Then, Daniel came up with the idea about a guy who has to keep doing these tasks that were both Herculean and real.”

"That was a hook that we thought audiences hadn't seen before,” adds Kunka. During this fateful meeting with McLaughlin, Kunka remembers "scribbling the words 12 ROUNDS on a piece of paper,” and the script took on a life of its own. "The script was so tight – it was all action,” says Harlin. "Even the dialogue is spoken on the run. There's never a moment's rest.”

Working with talented new screenwriters was nothing new for producer Mark Gordon, who memorably collaborated with then unknown scripter Graham Yost on "Speed,” which became a touchstone for contemporary action films. "I'm very comfortable with that process to get the best possible work from talented writers,” says Gordon, whose many other credits include "The Day After Tomorrow” and "Saving Private Ryan.”

In true Hollywood storybook fashion, K

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