I nervously anticipated my interview with Gina Carano. I love action films and getting the chance to talk to a rising star from this genre would have been exciting enough, but I’ve been a fan of Carano as an MMA fighter for years now.
My nerves, then, were primarily due to excitement, but there were a couple of other things that were putting me on edge.
Someone whose day job is to punch people in the face might not make the friendliest interview subject, I considered. Not to mention that I’m an idiot who likes to ask silly questions, questions which someone who is well versed in throat-choking might not appreciate being asked. I felt physically safe, at least, as we’d be separated by a quite sizable ocean when the interview took place, but still.
My other concern was with myself. Den of Geek is a film and TV site and so would be not, I suspect, be pleased if I came back to them with an enthusiastic and whimsical chat about violent sports. I would have to stick to the subject of film, no matter how much I wanted to talk to her about her fight career.
Fortunately for the site, I just about managed to stay on subject, and fortunately for me, Gina Carano is lovely. This is the conversation we had.
My understanding of Haywire is that Steven Soderbergh saw you fighting on television and then approached you.Yeah, he saw me fighting on CBS. After I lost my fight to Cyborg he came out on a train from LA to San Diego and had a little lunch with me. We had talked and then at the end of the lunch he was like “look, I wanna do a film with you. There’s no actors and there’s no script, there’s no studio attached to it, I just wanted to meet with you and see if you’d be interested in anything like that” and I was just like…I said ‘yes’!
You couldn’t ask for a better director to come to you that would want to build a film around you than Soderbergh. Were you familiar with his films?
Yeah, I was with his films, I just didn’t know who he was. Really I didn’t know what it was that was involved with making films. I didn’t know that the director is the guy with the vision. I just never thought about it, I guess. But it was definitely a Film 101 school for me, all of Haywire.
So you didn’t pick up any of that stuff on Blood And Bone, then?
No. Blood And Bone was a day that I got offered a couple of hundred or something like that to go in for six hours and do a fight scene. I think I had one line.
Yeah, I saw it.
Oh, you saw it?
I have to watch a lot of the MMA straight-to-video films*.
That’s not something that would have ever, ever prepared me for an experience like Haywire. So I really consider Haywire my genuine first acting experience.
What did you have to do to prepare for the role? Usually I would expect an actor in a film like this to have to do a lot of combat training, but I’m guessing you didn’t have to.
Training as far as the acting goes?
Well, acting training or whatever preparation you felt you had to do.
Steven didn’t want to me to go with an acting coach because he didn’t want someone to kind of get in my mind and confuse me. I think what he likes about working with non-actors is the authenticity that they bring to the screen and so, what he did, though, is me put me with an ex-Mossad, who pretty much brainwashed me.
So I spent three hours a day in stunts and three hours a day with this ex-Mossad agent and he put me through boot camp. He taught me entry and exiting a building, clearing a room, he put a GPS on my car, he like, followed me around. He had me stalking people, he had people stalking me. They just put me with a soldier who had never done a film before either. We were just soldier and a fighter thrown together in these unique circumstances and got to know each other’s backgrounds. I think that was the biggest part of my preparation.
That sounds dangerous! That could have backfired horribly.
I know, right? Playing war games in LA doesn’t sound like a very smart idea.
So, the fight scenes in Haywire are the best fight scenes I’ve seen in a long time**. Did you have any involvement in choreographing them?
Oh yeah. Well, because when I went into the stunt gym me and all the stunt guys in there share the same passion for mixed martial arts, we’ve just always had a different goal at the end. Their goal is to make these fake fight scenes, to bring in every martial art they can that would work, to make most beautiful fight scenes that we can. My goal has always been to learn the techniques of these martial arts to be really effective.
So it was really cool because they respected me as an athlete and they were completely open to sharing what I wanted to do with it. So there’s certain parts of the film where I’m like “Hey, I put that in there! That was my move, that was my idea.”
When you’re doing fight scenes with Ewan McGregor, did you ever start to think about a Star Wars prequel you’d seen recently? Or about Channing Tatum in his film Fighting? You know, ‘I could punch him in the face now and it would be called an accident’.
(Laughter, potentially masking utter horror at the suggestion)
No! Like, on purpose?
Well, you wouldn’t have to tell anyone.
No! I am actually quite the opposite. I don’t really like to hurt people. The only time I really get turned on to hurt someone is when they’re coming at me and something kicks in and I have to do that.
Actually in my fights my Mom was always saying “Why do you have to let them get shots in before you turn it on?” It’s kind of funny. I don’t hit that point until someone’s coming at me and it’s a genuine threat.
I wanted to take care of these actors. If anything, that was my job.
I keep reading, mostly on MMA sites rather than film sites, but I’ve read a rumour that your voice was dubbed in Haywire. Is there anything to this or is it just internet nonsense?No, actually Steven definitely did. He went into ADR and did some movie magic and completely altered my voice in some way. Him and his editor. So there’s truth to that, and I’m okay with it. I think he would always do things to help the film and he was really looking for Mallory and myself to be two completely different characters. He would obviously only do something like that to help it, which hopefully it did.
Are you going to be going back to MMA?
Umm, you know, I’m starting at the beginning with films, there’s a lot I can learn and there’s a longer career that can be had there. There’s a physicality that’s unique and new that I can bring to films, so I hope I can get the opportunity to do that again. But I haven’t necessarily retired from fighting either. I’m gonna do whatever I have to do to support myself and to keep going. My future’s a little fuzzy. I don’t know what’s supposed to happen next.
What about a Haywire 2? Would you be interested in that? ***
Yeah, this was such a beautiful experience I would definitely love to get more involved in Mallory and do some fun stuff. But that would obviously be up to the studio and Steven. You know, sometimes a film’s just better left where it was. I don’t know. It will be interesting to see. I don’t know what’s supposed to happen after this, I’m just gonna stay positive and keep going forward and hope for the best, you know?
Before they kick me off the line, I’m trying to instigate some kind of movement or campaign to get you and Hulk Hogan in The Expendables 3. Is that something that you’d want to do?
Is there going to be an Expendables 3?
I can’t imagine there not being one. Could Randy Couture get you in?
Yeah, I think Sylvester Stallone was really considering me for one of the roles in Expendables 2, but they needed a girl from China because that’s where they were going to be. They needed a Chinese girl, so I didn’t fit the bill for that one. I’m sure I’m on some people’s radars, especially on the Mixed Martial Arts websites, so just stay positive and put out some good energy for me.
Gina Carano, thank you very much!
Haywire is out in cinemas now.
*I lied here, I’m ashamed to admit. I really wanted to seem cool in front of Gina. Actually, I get to watch a lot of MMA straight-to-video films. I love them.
** I didn’t lie here. The fight scenes in Haywire are insane.
*** Another voice appears on the phone. It’s Gina’s PR, who connected me at the beginning of the call. “We’re gonna have to wrap up” she says, and I’m gripped by panic. I had run out of time and I hadn’t even asked about her work with Hulk Hogan on American Gladiators yet. I scan my remaining questions and pick the most important one, which I hope I might be able to sneak in after this one.