The face of women's MMA, Gina Carano, shed her gloves for Academy Award--winning director Steven Soderbergh to star in Haywire alongside Hollywood heavyweights Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Ewan McGregor. In the film, which opened last Friday, Carano, who hasn't fought professionally since she lost to Cristiane (Cyborg) Santos in 2009, plays Mallory Kane, a black-ops contractor who is double-crossed by her employer.
Did you have any acting training before you started shooting?
"No. They put me with [a former Israeli counterterrorism expert], and he was the one who pretty much brainwashed me into the role and put me through a severe boot camp for it... . I also studied weapons and learned a whole new way of fighting with the [Fight Gym] 8711 stunt crew here in Los Angeles. After that, I showed up in Dublin and that was it. It was go time."
How would you describe your life these days?
"I'm ... definitely floating in a world where I don't know where I'm going to land. It was so clear what was going on when I was [fighting], and now I'm kind of between worlds. It's like starting all over again."
After the film wrapped, you flew to Thailand for some muay Thai training. Why?
"I really needed to get away and get back to my roots a bit. I trained in the early morning and at night and basically holed up in this camp. That's where I needed to be, and that's what muay Thai is for me. I was planning to stay longer, but I was called back for reshoots."
So, you went from full contact muay Thai right back to movie fighting?
"Right. I feel bad for Eddie, the stunt guy I worked with, because he probably took the most punishment in the film. I bloodied his lip good with a spinning back elbow."
If Haywire 2 gets greenlit next week, do you do it?
"Absolutely. Ewan's been hilarious about it. He says, 'You know I don't really die in the film.' When we shot it, nobody wanted to die because they all wanted to come back for the sequels."
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BATTLE TESTED Instead of acting lessons, Carano learned new fighting styles before stepping in to share the stage with luminaries like McGregor (far left).
ROBERT LABERGE/GETTY IMAGES
[See caption above]