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John Cena’s Peacemaker Tried To Use A Real Eagle In Certain Scenes, And James Gunn Tell Us What Went Wrong

One of the things that James Gunn does really well, and probably doesn’t get enough credit for, is making us care deeply for CGI-created characters. With the help of Bradley Cooper’s line readings and some cutting edge visual effects, Gunn helped turn the weapon-wielding Rocket Raccoon into an endearing mess of a Trash Panda who earns sympathies as much as he earns laughs. And though Groot is limited to three simple words, this fan-favorite character steals MCU scenes left and right, especially when he makes major sacrifices to protect his “family” (in Guardians of the Galaxy) or provide Thor with the last piece he needs to complete his axe (in Avengers: Infinity War).    

Well, James Gunn is at it again, creating an all-CGI character named Eagley who serves as John Cena’s best friend in the HBO Max series Peacemaker. When you step back and think about Peacemaker, it makes total sense that he’d befriend a bald eagle, but what I didn’t expect is that Gunn tried to use a real eagle to play Eagley on the set of the show, and it did not go as planned. Gunn told CinemaBlend:

We actually brought an eagle onto the set at the very beginning of production, and the eagle was absolutely having none of it. And I’m like, ‘I can’t. This guy is so sad right now! I can’t do it with this guy. This poor eagle is being terrorized.’ And I’m like, ‘He doesn’t want to be here.’ So we made him CGI. Weta did it, who has done a lot of visual effects for my movies. Guy Williams is a great team member and I love working with him.

John Cena in Peacemaker

(Image credit: HBO Max)

You will be surprised, as you work your way through the Peacemaker episodes, at the amount of things that Eagley does. The biggest shock though has to be the moment that Eagley reunites with Peacemaker (John Cena) for the first time since the latter was imprisoned in Belle Revue, and embraces him in a hug. We see that moment at the end of the red-band trailer, so I asked Cena during our interview what he had to think about in order to channel the raw joy that one must feel when being hugged by a bald eagle. And he told us:

Genuinely being hugged by an eagle. … Eagley is much more than a sidekick. Eagley is Peacemaker’s best friend. It’s the unconditional love that a pet would give the pet’s owner, or the pet’s caregiver. That’s Eagley. And Eagley more like a cat than a dog. He’s certainly got his own personality, and he’s independent. But Eagley is Peacemaker’s best friend. So I have to have an embrace with a Memory Foam-shaped grey bowling pin that should be an eagle! But at the same time, I’m using my imagination of, I get the chance to see my best friend for the first time in a long time. My best friend’s excited to see me. We pick up right where we left off. And it happens to be a bald eagle.

Trust me, it makes sense in context. Especially in the vein of Peacemaker (John Cena), and the belief system that powers him through James Gunn’s twisted comic-book series, which is arriving on HBO Max on January 13. It’s a spinoff of The Suicide Squad, and a fascinating continuation of an unexpectedly interesting character, and I sincerely hope it’s just the start of wild new storytelling like this in DC’s future.

Sean O'Connell

Managing Director at CinemaBlend. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.