Gina Carano on the prospect of The Fast and Furious 6, recollecting Haywire, karoake & more…(*updated 04/30)
When MMA fighter-turned-action star Gina Carano first met with her A-list “Haywire” co-stars — Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor and Antonio Banderas — she did so knowing that at some point in the near future, she’d likely have to beat them up.
But according to Carano, that fact never got in the way of their working relationships. “It wasn’t about beating each other up,” she said. “It was about creating something great, and that’s what they do every day on film, so it was nice to be able to share what I do.”
Carano spoke with MTV News in the lead up to the release of “Haywire” on Blu-ray this week, and she explained that her approach to fighting on film was not that different from her cage fighting. “I’ve learned through fighting that you never judge anybody off of what you think you know about them,” she said.
Even months after the initial release of “Haywire,” the hard blows of Carano’s fight with Fassbender stand out as some of the best of the year. For Carano, it was a very intimate experience between her and her co-star. “It was just very intense. The adrenaline’s up,” she said. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world.”
Fassbender brought as much to the fight as Carano did, according to the actress. “He’s a great guy and a great actor. He’s got a really special energy about him and he brings that to whatever he does,” she said. “It was the first fight scene that we got to film, so it was that much more special. It just kind of moves through the room in a very sexy way. It’s got a really beautiful story to it.”
With the health and safety of some of Hollywood’s top talent in her hands, Carano was acutely aware of her responsibilities on set. “I was made aware that I was the lead actress, but I would also be the lead stunt woman. Some people have a very big weight on their shoulders to carry because they have to take care of the people who are going to be on film,” she said. “You can replace a stunt person, but you can’t replace these actors.”
It was Carano’s experience in the octagon that allowed her to keep everyone safe from her own special talents. “I knew that these actors signed on knowing that Steven Soderbergh is the director and he’s going to take care of them. It was easy for me because I’m used to controlling my body in those circumstances,” she said. “They were such cool guys, and it was OK if we got bumps and bruises along the way because we were working for something.”
What it really came down to when making a fight scene work was respect between Carano and her on-screen opponent. “There were no egos involved. I think on these other action films sometimes, you put a guy against a guy, and it becomes this ego struggle,” she said. “With me, it’s like, ‘I’m going to take care of you, but I’m going to make it look good.’ They trusted me. I really feel like they trusted their bodies in my hands. It was a mutual kind of respect.”
For those like me who don’t know about your fight background, what is the short story of how you became an MMA fighter?
The short version –I was dating someone and he went into a gym and decided to clean up his life. He walked into a Muay Thai gym and I would go in and watch him and then I started fighting four months later after I started training. I became addicted to it. I started fighting over three months and traveling and I went to Thailand four times and just got crazy great opportunities and it’s gotten me here.
When did you get the call about “Haywire” and did you think it was for real?
I got a call that said you need to meet with this director – he’s been wanting to meet with you. At the time I had just gotten off a loss from Cyborg Santos and I didn’t really want to meet with anybody. But they were like, ‘It’s Steven Soderbergh.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t really know who that is.
Yeah, I was completely removed from the whole movie and Hollywood scene – I didn’t know anything about it. But they were like, ‘No, just meet up with him.’ I still had a black eye from my previous fight, but I met up with him and I had a four hour lunch with him and at the end of it he just said, “Look, I want to do an action film, I want to make you the lead. I don’t have a script, I don’t have anything else, I just wanted to meet you and see if you’d be interested.’ And I said yes – it moved pretty quickly after that.
So what kind of a director is Steven Soderbergh – what is his process?
Well, he’s the only director I know, so I don’t really (laughs) know who to compare him too! People say that he shoots really fast and he does the cinematography – at least he did for “Haywire” – so he was behind the camera. He wasn’t one of those directors that are screaming out ‘do this, do that’, he was behind the camera and doesn’t use a lot of words. I could look at him and know if he was happy or unhappy with a take – it was very natural. And then he would go back to the hotel after about four days work and start cutting it together because I think that he knew what takes he liked. He’s just a man with a vision that knows what he wants.
How did being an MMA fighter help in doing “Haywire” and were you able to incorporate your own ideas into the action sequences?
Yeah, absolutely. I worked with a stunt group called 8711 and they were very open to hearing what I had to say. They’ve watched my sport and they’ve watched all sorts of Mixed Martial Arts all their lives, so they were very excited to work with me because I shared their passion for Mixed Martial Arts. I would say, ‘Hey, I think I can do this!’ And they’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s great – let’s do that!’ And then I’d be like, ‘I think I can REALLY do this!’ And they said, ‘Well, we have to make it believable!’ (Laughs) That’s what Steven wanted – very believable scenes and very believable fights. Sometimes I’d get these ideas in my head like I’d never get to do these in a fight, but I want to do them on a film. But they were like, ‘We’ll save that for another film!’ (Laughs)
Some of the fight sequences in the film were so bold and brutal, especially the one in the diner with Channing Tatum. Any interesting mishaps?
Channing is a big guy – he’s a very strong guy. I remember we were practicing for our fight scene and I get him an arm bar and when you get somebody in an arm bar they stack you up on your head a little bit and swear I felt my whole spine just crunch. And I was like, ‘Oh my God, that can’t happen again!’ (Laughs) He’s wonderful. He’s also a dancer, so he really gets his body very well and we both have good body control because we’re athletes. I was actually amazed at how strong that kid is – I was thinking I hope he doesn’t slam to too hard right now!
You have an impressive cast of amazing talents alongside you – did you ever feel intimidated?
Well, Ewan McGregor was one of the most lovely, down to earth cool people that I’ve ever met. So when he comes into my trailer and he’s like, ‘You wanna run lines?’, I was taken aback at how natural he was. And with Michael Fassbender he’s a big, bright shiny light to me. He bounces around and you can hardly take your eyes off him. But there was one moment where I got really nervous. I went to set just to watch Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas and Ewan McGregor all act together and everybody was a little bit more at play. I asked what was going on and they said, ‘Michael Douglas is here.’ And I though ‘Oh okay, I have to act with him tomorrow!’ Each actor brings their own vibe to set and Michael Douglas brings a royalty vibe. So I thought I have to step it up tomorrow and I got super nervous. But then I worked with Michael the next day and he was completely cool. Just a regular human being that’s running lines and makes his own mistakes, so that was nice.
Your interplay with Michael Fassbender, both the action and flirting scenes, are amongst the films best – was there an instant chemistry between you two?
I think so. I’d like to say that of course there was (laughs), but he’s definitely fascinating. He was also the first actor that I worked with, so I felt more vulnerable than I had in the rest of the film. I worked with him for a full three weeks and it was like ‘You’re gonna teach me everything because I’ve never done this before at all!’ He really took care of that vulnerability and I think that came across good on film together.
So what’s the future for Gina Carano? MMA – or acting?
Well, I’ve done the fighting and honestly that’s got a real special place in my heart. There’s nothing like training for a fight and being in that moment and being in that fight and having the accomplishment of doing something like that. But now I’m at the bottom of the barrel again, now I’m having to wake up every day humbled and work my ass off and try to get better at something and it’s really refreshing for me. I’m learning a completely different craft right now and I think that’s really important to me at this time in my life. So I haven’t been able to say ‘yes, I’ve retired’ because there’s a little part of me that’s still holding on to it, but my focus right now is to make some movies and really be good at it. I want to be good at what I do and I know I can do better. I can do better than “Haywire” and I know I have a lot to give as far as action and acting. I’m really excited about it.
And finally there’s been much talk about you joining the cast for Fast And Furious 6 - are you excited about the possibility of teaming up with such a huge franchise?
Absolutely. We’re still in negotiations for it, but that was a really good phone call to get. I’m really excited to work and be a part of something so big. My role would be kind of a small role, I don’t think it would be too big or anything, but it would still be a great experience to be a part of something like that. And myself and my management and my agents we have these other projects that are our babies that we’re working on. The one I was working on before I got the call for Fast 6 is called “In The Blood” and it’s a really kind of cool “Taken” movie but with a female lead – but doing Fast 6 can only help that.
(Starpulse.com – Jason Coleman) (credit: swinjen)
Gina on: musicals, karaoke, feminine strength, & more
Nothing like making your big screen debut as the star of an action movie where you beat up Hollywood’s hottest men for 2 hours. Did you feel like, Go Big or Go Home?
Yeah, I kind of did. I’d never done much acting before, never read lines with other actors before or anything like that. I mean, Michael Fassbender was the first person I’d ever gone over dialogue with. I had to ask, “How do we do this?” [laughs] Being someone who has never been in a play or this world at all, you kind of feel a little silly at first, but then you realize this is what this job requires and you have to roll with it.
As a trained fighter, what were you more nervous about: the performance or not accidentally punching these actors?
Definitely the performance. Yes, this cast was filled with the most beautiful people I’ve ever worked with, but I feel really comfortable throwing punches and using my body. I feel like what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years is an expression like acting is, but I’ve just never needed to use my words. And now these words are a character’s words. I was the most nervous about that, but Steven Soderberg really held my hand throughout the process – and he knew I was new to all of this.
I loved that while strong, Mallory was also very feminine. Looking at your next projects, it it important to keep walking that line and showing all the colors of what a woman can be?
Absolutely. I want to educate the world a little bit on what this type of woman can be. I have a lot to give in terms of being physical, but I also have a lot of expectations for myself in terms of what I want to see on a big screen. Eventually I’d like to move into more comedy or drama, but that’s later – right now, I want to open eyes to the fact there are a lot of women out there like me, which I think is refreshing for a lot of people.
Is that what attracted you to the sixth Fast & Furious film?
Absolutely. That was kind of a surprise because it’s such a huge film. For someone like me, that will be an awesome learning experience and was such a cool phonecall to get. I’m really excited about it.
Any truth to reports you’re also going to star in a female version of Taken?
Yes [it's called In The Blood]. That’s the film I was working on before getting the call for Fast. It’s a project I’m so excited to get into soon. I love the character because she has to figure out how to defend her husband after he gets hurt. I hope it makes women think about how far they’ll go to defend and find their loved one. I think that hits home.
A lot of stars have older actors to use as reference points for career paths. You really don’t.
I know, man [laughs]. It’s been the story of my life. It hasn’t been easy getting here, but that makes me more thankful to actually be here. I haven’t seen anybody do it the way I want to do it – but I want to get better at acting. I know what it takes to train in something and see yourself get better – there’s a never-ending knowledge absorption. I can see acting being that for me. I really want to get good at this.
Is there any kind of movie you would or could never do? Say, a musical?
You know what’s so funny? When I was little I would watch ‘Annie and A White Christmas’ and I would dream of dancing down some stairs like they do in every movie-musical. If those old school musicals ever came back, I would be the first in the audition room [laughs].
Can you sing?
I can hold a tune. It’s something else I would have to work on [laughs]. But I think I’m a good singer in my car. With the music blaring.
Are you into karaoke?
I’m a huge fan of karaoke. The thing is, when I get up there, I take it so seriously, so it kind of intimidates me and dissuades me from getting up there. It’s like I have stage fright or something [laughs].
What’s your go-to-karaoke song?
Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. Always a good one. But I really want people to open up some karaoke places where you can do some modern songs. Those are the songs I’m singing. Those are the songs I know – I have the musical tastes of a 12 year old boy [laughs].
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