WWE superstar Dean Ambrose makes the leap from the pro wrestling ring to the movie screen in “12 Rounds 3: Lockdown.”
The popular fan favorite transitions from the “Lunatic Fringe” he is known for to John Shaw, a detective who returns to active duty after the death of his partner.
When he uncovers evidence linking his fellow officers to a murder, they frame him for a homicide he didn’t commit. That’s when the fun begins with Shaw trapped in his own precinct, on a mission to expose the dirty cops and clear his name.
The WWE Studios/Lionsgate action thriller is latest installment in the 12 Rounds series. Ambrose, real name Jonathan Good, joins past leading men John Cena and Randy Orton. This isn’t just his first film, but the budding actor was the featured star.
“How often do you get a chance to star in a movie?” Ambrose asked himself when approached about the project.
“It wasn’t something that was on my immediate radar or agenda. I jumped at the opportunity. How can you say no when someone wants you to be in a movie. It’s an experience. It took me about two seconds to say yes. I didn’t find out until later that I was the lead role in this. I said sign me up from the get-go. I thought I was going to be a background player like when a WWE Studios movie will have a WWE superstar in the background for like five seconds.
“Upon learning I was earmarked to be this guy in the lead role. I was thinking, ‘What? You know I’m completely unqualified for this. I have no idea what I’m doing.’ They were like, ‘You’ll be fine. Trust me.’”
“I thought that if it does well I could have a second career as an action star,” he said.
“If it sucks, then stop asking me to be in movies. You know what I mean. I had a feeling that this is something I would be good at. Sometimes things happen for a reason and things work out the way they are supposed to. I feel this was brought to me at the right time. I had a feeling in my gut that I could do this. I took it very seriously.
“I didn’t want it to be Dean Ambrose, who plays the cop. I wanted to fully become this character. It’s a much different personality and character than myself. It’s not the guy you see on WWE TV, which is essentially me. That’s the funny part. In WWE, I’m not acting. I just kind of go out there and am myself. Sometimes with sports entertainment you are somewhat over-the-top. In this, I’m a bit serious as a detective. There is a lot of acting involved. There was a challenge to learn how to do it.”
Ambrose went to Los Angeles for acting lessons. With such an important part in the movie, he was the first there on the Vancouver set every morning and the last to leave.
“I went in with no ego,” he said.
“I think I went into it with a pretty good attitude. I had never been on a movie set. I had no idea what I was doing. I went in there asking questions. You find that a lot with WWE people. We are uniquely prepared and over-prepared than we think we are for anything in front of the screen whether it’s a TV show or movie. WWE is show business camp. You learn everything that goes on behind the scenes, in front of the camera, and we do all our own stunts. We are doing all our own lines in one take.
“We also have such a work ethic here because it’s such a demanding job. You find we are the hardest working people on set. I wanted to be the best possible performance in an action movie you can ask for. I wanted it to be better than a John Cena movie. I wanted it to be better than a Randy Orton movie. I wanted this to be better than a Miz movie. I wanted this to be the best WWE film there has ever been. I think with director Stephen Reynolds, who created a cool atmosphere in turning this building predominantly used in the movie into a character all itself.”
“In the ring, I just let all the chains off,” he said.
“If I have a microphone in my face, I’m just going to let my mouth run with whatever I feel or comes out. Like walking to the ring and having a bad day, I’m going to be out there scowling in a bad mood. Whatever legitimate emotions, I’m going to portray it. Whatever comes to mind or whatever ridiculous thing pops in my head, I will do. Shaw is a lot more calculating. He has much more of a poker face than Dean Ambrose.
“The bad guys don’t quite know him because he has this poker face about him. He has to be in dangerous situations and has this evidence that if other people know he has, they will kill him. He is a detective, so he has this edge to him. A lot of his character is internalized, which was a challenge because in pro wrestling it’s very expressive. There are a lot of pieces to this guy that I really wanted to become him.”
Paul “Triple H” Levesque, who is no stranger to film, told Ambrose to get ready for how long the days on set were.
“You are doing takes over and over again,” he said.
“You are doing this same scene a million times because they shoot for all these different angles. Everything was new to me, so it was fun. Every day was a new experience. Everyone said I would be fine, so I went in with a good amount of confidence. When I went in there I thought I was going to get this, ‘Oh, the wrestler is here.’ I was afraid my WWE experience would get backlash from the acting people.
“I didn’t get any of that. Most people didn’t even know who I was. They would say, ‘So did you used to wrestle?’ Everyone was doing their thing, but it was just a positive crew. The co-stars, stunt coordinators and the director clicked and were on the same page. It was a positive experience. I was getting to be G.I. Joe to learn all these fight techniques, how to run, jump and shoot guns. You get to be G.I. Joe. Everyone was real encouraging and as helpful as possible. It was a big team effort. I think the hard work paid off.”
The grappler wouldn’t say he caught the acting bug just yet, but was happy with the way the finished product turned out. Could we be seeing the beginnings of the next Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?
“I definitely have eliminated any notion that I can’t do this,” Ambrose said.
“Right now, I’m in the thick of it with WWE. I’m not going out auditioning for roles. At the same time, if there is another 12 Rounds, and I get to reprise my role, I would jump on it. Once I got my legs under me for a few weeks, now I feel much more prepared. I got one under my belt.
“I also do think it would be fun to play a different role as a bad guy or evil guy or one with a different personality. I also think comedy wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to me. I spend most of my life goofing off and having fun, so I can definitely see comedy. I would jump at any opportunity I can because I like to live life to the fullest. You only get to live once.”
- See Dean Ambrose first movie “12 Rounds 3: Lockdown” in theaters and On Demand on Sept. 11. The film also features Roger Cross (Burke), Daniel Cudmore (Gideon), Lochlyn Munro (Darrow), Ty Olsson (Harris) and Sarah Smyth (Officer Taylor).
- Watch Dean Ambrose on Raw 8/7CT Mondays on USA Network and SmackDOwn 8/7CT Thursdays on SyFy.
- Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.
Movie Photos Courtesy: Lionsgate
WWE Photos Courtesy: WWE