It’s been a long time coming but I finally managed to pin down MMA superstar Gina Carano for 10 minutes to talk about her major screen debut Haywire, Steven Soderbergh’s new ensemble cast action movie which sees her go toe to toe with some of Hollywood’s brighest stars.
We had a chat about making the move from MMA to the big screen, kissing Michael Fassbender and arranged a fight should she ever come to London…
Hi Gina, how’s it going? Where are you?
I’m good thanks. I’m actually sitting at home eating breakfast at my mom’s house in Las Vegas – turkey and cranberry sauce.
Hang on a minute…breakfast? Isn’t it 1pm where you are now?
<laughs> Well it’s my first meal of the day, put it that way. I’ve just been working so hard on the movie that I’m completely wiped out at the moment.
What was it like to make the transition from MMA to the big screen? You were in Blood & Bone with Michael J White. How does this compare?
Well with Blood & Bone it was just a very quick, it was just in and out. We didn’t really do much choreography in advance; we mainly just made it up on the set, so Haywire was really different. I’m used to having the camera on me in tough situations in the ring but with Haywire it was good to know that you could do things two or three times. What was more of challenge was the acting side of things.
What was it like for the other actors? Was it difficult for them to move into your world?
I think they really enjoyed working with someone that has a certain amount more physicality than they’re used to. I’m not like a normal girl that you can’t throw around; you can definitely be physical with me! I think they really enjoyed that.
Also, I think when it’s another stunt guy there’s a certain amount of ego that comes into it but when they’re working with me there’s no ego at all. I think that when they’re two guys, there’s more a tendency to compete with each but when it’s with me, it’s easier for them to relax and have a good time.
Well you definitely hear some stories about stunt men and leading men clashing on set.
Oh yeah, the stunt guys told me all kinds of stories about that, some really funny stories. Actually, I’d just got back from training in Thailand and obviously I’m used to making contact and one of the stunt guys, Eddie, I made a little bit more…contact with than I meant to. I felt so bad and I was like, “Please don’t give me a bad rep!” but he was just laughing with his lip split open. “I didn’t mean to do that, I swear!” <laughs>
How did you get involved with Haywire in the first place? Did Steven Soderbergh just call you up out the blue?
He watched my first fight with Cyborg (Cristiane Santos), which did not go as planned… and I was in San Diego trying to work out what I was going to do and I got a call from my agent asking if I wanted to meet him. And I don’t really pay attention to the credits of movies, so I’d never heard of him, so I was like, “I don’t know who that is” but then she told me that he’d done Traffic and Erin Brockovich and I loved Traffic, so we sat down and ended up having a four-hour conversation and at the end of it he said, “Do you want to do a movie with me?!” <Laughs>
So how did he know who you were? It’s not the kind of thing I would imagine Steven Soderbergh watching…
<laughs> I know right?! He saw me fighting in the cage on CBS. I don’t think he usually watches that kind of stuff but I think he was just watching TV late at night, flipping through channels, and saw me coming out of my corner with my corn-rows and thought “this is interesting” and decided to watch it.
What’s the big difference between fighting in the ring and fighting on screen? I know you mentioned “the ability to bruise stunt guys”. Was it difficult to sell each shot?
Well I spent some time with the stunt guys and they taught me how they do things but I didn’t want to completely let go of what I was bringing to the table, my techniques. It wasn’t that difficult at all actually, it was actually a lot of fun. On a set, the whole thing is about taking care of each other. I mean, I had a blast not actually having to make contact with somebody’s head but protecting them instead. It was so much fun!
I was so impressed, I mean here are a bunch of stunt guys working together and they have a specific approach – I mean my whole thing is to do as much damage as possible but theirs is to take care of each other and not get beat up because you’re not supposed to hurt people.
Well, part of what’s really impressive about the film is that the fight scenes look very real.
Well it was really great that Michael, Channing and Ewan all did everything as well as me. I thought it was really cool because if I’d done the same scenes with those stunt guys, it would have looked too perfect.
So who’s the toughest of the three? I’m putting my money on Channing…
They all have their own qualities. I’d like to put them all together to create the ultimate fighter. Channing – I’d take the passion and the aggressiveness; Fassbender – I would take the Irishman and toughness <laughs> and Ewan I’d take the intelligence and the technique.
It’s also your first on-screen kiss. What was it like working with Michael Fassbender; he’s a big star now and he’s getting a bit of a reputation…
It was crazy! We were in Dublin and I was sitting there and it was my first time being on the set of a movie like that, so I was really nervous anyway. And Soderbergh comes up and says, “Well you’re going to be playing husband and wife, so you’re going to have to kiss him” and I swear my heart was beating in my mouth. I was more nervous about that than anything else.
Is it true he knocked you unconscious?
Oh no, he just pushed my head back into the wall a little bit hard and I definitely saw white for a second or two but I wasn’t out.
What’s next for you? Are you going to stay in the action scene or are you planning on going back to the ring?
Well, there’s definitely a longer lifespan in acting. And I’d definitely say that this has been the best experience of my life, so I’d definitely like to do more.
Maybe Haywire 2? Your character’s not dead, so that’s a possibility…
<laughs> Well, that’s up to Steven, I don’t know if he’d want to do another Haywire.
One more thing I have to ask because I’m a martial artist myself. I’ve challenged two Hollywood stars to fights so far – Sean Faris when he did Never Back Down and Tom Hardy when he did Warrior. Both of them said yes and Tom Hardy even took my details but hasn’t called. So I’m asking you, if you’re ever in London, do you fancy a scrap?
<laughs> I would love to! I never ever been to London, so I would absolutely love that. My mom’s been on at me now – let’s go to London!
Well, let’s make it happen. If you’re ever in town, we can make it your welcome to town present.
I would love to, that would be so much fun!