It’s time to get Booned!
John Hennigan is a familiar face to fans of professional wrestling, but with an acting career that continues to rise higher than the top turnbuckle of a squared circle, the California native is on his way to giving Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson a run for his Hollywood-making money. Hennigan’s most recent film, “Boone: The Bounty Hunter,” is a hidden gem… a fun, fast-paced film that pits two genres against each other in an epic battle that ends with “comedy” placing “action” in a figure four leg lock. It’s just that good!
We recently sat down with Hennigan to discuss how working on a character in wrestling differs from working on one in film, running the cost of a day’s shoot in your head, and how Hollywood rumors are like… well… you’ll see.
TrunkSpace: So much of professional wrestling is playing a character and you’re doing it over a prolonged period of time where no one is calling “CUT” on you. Did the transition to film take some getting used to because the process itself is different in that you’re not necessarily allowed to just keep going?
Hennigan: No, but that’s an interesting thing that you brought up. One of the things that I first used to come up with the idea for the character Boone was that same concept… that you play the same character for so long in pro wrestling that sometimes you become that character more than yourself. With Boone playing the character Boone on the reality show, which is like this flashy, narcissistic douche baggy guy… he gets into trouble when he starts being that guy more than his real human self. Over the arc of the movie he has to basically get real… be his real self… to become a real hero.
But I guess back to your question as to whether it was a problem for me getting into acting… I think that it helped because ultimately entertainment boils down to the same thing, whether you’re talking about pro wrestling, theater, film, or TV. There’s a lot of carryover and crossover and playing a character is one thing that I think helped.
TrunkSpace: On the wrestling side though, you must sort of feed off of the crowd and in turn, that bleeds into your performance. Whereas in film, even though you’re working with other people in a scene, the energy is different.
Hennigan: Definitely. That’s one of the things that I think is so cool about pro wrestling and why people love it so much. Either watching it or doing it, you have that instant feedback and the adrenaline of doing stuff in front of the crowd. For sure, when you’re doing crazy things in wrestling, you’re amped up because you’ve got an arena full of people watching and your adrenaline is through the roof and the guy that you’re wrestling, his adrenaline is through the roof. You’re in the moment 100 percent of the time. When you’re doing stunts in a movie, and especially on some of the stuff that we did with the skeleton crew… if I’m doing a twisting senton off of a roof and I’ve got to do it 10 times because we’re trying to get a perfect shot, which is not easy to capture sometimes, and there’s nobody there… it is harder. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: And that must be a difficult thing to achieve… getting those aerial maneuvers fully in frame?
Hennigan: For sure. In wrestling, you do these crazy stunts and, like on “Lucha Underground,” you’re working in front of eight cameras. With WWE, you’re working in front of 15 cameras. They’re going to capture it. If you’re doing a movie, especially low budget, a lot of times a lot of the sequences we did were single camera. So, that requires doing it over and over again.
TrunkSpace: And a lot of your stunts in the film were outside, so you’re also working with elements that you can’t control as well.
Hennigan: Right. I was so motivated to do this movie though that getting motivated to do that stuff wasn’t that hard. I was visualizing the end product the whole time. It wasn’t like I was afraid of doing stuff in the moment. It was more like, I felt like this insane need to do it over and over again until we got it perfect for the camera so that, at the end of the day, we’d watch it back and everyone would be stoked.
TrunkSpace: What was great about the film is that it surprises people. You expect one thing, and you get something else.
Hennigan: I got a lot of people who saw the movie who said that the movie was way better than they expected. (Laughter) Which is kind of cool, but also it’s kind of like, “Wait a minute, did you think it would suck or something?” (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: A big part of that is probably that general feeling of, if a film isn’t in the theaters, it isn’t going to be good. Which, was probably the case years ago, but the way that content is distributed nowadays… that notion is completely squashed.
Hennigan: The one big plus about doing stuff like Boone is that if you want to, and not everybody does, you can tell a story that’s different. It’s not like you have a whole corporation of people that have invested 100 or 200 million dollars into the movie. Obviously it’s not like that. (Laughter) But, when you have that, that’s why you’re seeing all of these reboots. All of these franchises that are constantly rebooted… it’s because they feel like that’s a safer bet. Sometimes those are fun to watch, but when you’re working on something that is completely your own and you don’t have that burden of working for an army of people who are micromanaging your project, you can do something original. You can take some chances and create something like Boone.
TrunkSpace: Usually professional wrestlers are acting in projects that are owned by the companies that they wrestler for, but with Boone, it’s a project that you yourself created and spearheaded. That seems really rare.
Hennigan: Definitely. And I’ve done my fair share of that too. I’ve done 15 or 16 movies that are low budget movies where I was just an actor. Part of my motivation for doing Boone was to want to do exactly that… to be the captain of the ship, so to speak. To be able to say, “No, I want this specific kind of action and if we’re not going to be able to get it on set, I want to have the option of coming back to shoot it later to get it right.” Within reason. Ultimately, that old cliché that time is money is 100 percent right for movies.
TrunkSpace: And you probably notice it a lot more when it’s your money. (Laughter)
Hennigan: Yeah. Exactly! Every day you walk on the set and in the back of your head you’re thinking two things. “Holy shit! Look at this. There’s trailers. There’s extras. There’s all of these people. There’s like 65 people on set.” And then the other part of your brain is thinking, “Goddamn it! This is a $35,000 day!” (Laughter) You’re doing math in your head and you’re like, “All of these people have to eat food. The trailers. The fire marshal. THE INSURANCE!” (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: So was the idea when you first put the film together that it would become your franchise or was it more of putting together one film and then being done with it?
Hennigan: Really, the main idea with Boone was that I wanted to do something good that I was proud of that could illustrate what I feel like is my best skills across the board. With acting, this kind of self-deprecating, goofy but narcissistic and over-confident reluctant hero with action design, parkour, MMA, brawler-style, stunt choreo mixed with pro wrestling… and in a movie that was uplifting and fun to watch. I’ve done the horror movies and other action movies with darker heroes and I felt like I hadn’t done anything that was the kind of movie that I would have watched over and over again when I was a kid. I really wanted this to be that. That was my primary goal. Obviously, if it turns into a franchise or I do a sequel or trilogy… if I can sell it as a spin-off TV series… that would be amazing.
TrunkSpace: You mentioned it being a film that you would have loved to watch as a kid. With that being said, to us it felt like Boone was a badass Harry Crumb from the film “Who’s Harry Crumb,” a film we watched quite a bit growing up.
Hennigan: (Laughter) Totally! That’s a good one. That’s the first time that I’ve heard that comparison. I love that movie too. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: So if somebody came along and said, “We want to make Boone into a TV show, but we want… Tom Cruise to star. Here’s 10 million dollars.” Would that be something that you’d be okay with?
Hennigan: I wouldn’t necessarily be cool with it, but ultimately I’m wanting to create content and if I got 10 million dollars, I would probably go crazy and would want to spend that 10 million on another movie probably right away. (Laughter) I would probably be stoked about the opportunity to do another movie for a lot more money.
TrunkSpace: Another film that you’re starring in that just seems really cool and really unique is “Dave Made a Maze.”
Hennigan: I’m really excite for “Dave Made a Maze.” It’s touring right now, doing festivals. The original screenplay I read, man, a really long time ago. One of the guys on my improv team, Steven Sears, wrote the script and I read it and I was like, “Dude, this thing is so weird, but also cool!” I was really excited then about the movie and he went through a similar process and ended up working with Bill Watterson and those guys got funding and got the project on its feet. I ended up staying attached and there’s only a few people who stayed attached from that original group that Steven showed the script to.
It’s just a really weird fucking movie. (Laughter) But weird and silly and it celebrates its absurdity and when you watch it you can take it in a million different ways. You can derive meaning from it however you see fit depending on the mood you’re in. That’s one of the cool things about a movie like that.
TrunkSpace: We also counted 14 other projects that you’re listed as starring in, attached to, or rumored to be a part of. By comparison, Tom Cruise… whom we already mentioned… has seven. That’s a pretty impressive workload.
Hennigan: (Laughter) Well, rumors in Hollywood are like assholes… everybody has one!
“Boone: The Bounty Hunter” is available now on VOD.