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Moderated by Lauren M. Murphy | December 6, 2011 | People
Dress, Sachin + Babi ($880). Neiman Marcus, Fashion Show, 702-731-3636
|Gown, J. Mendel ($4,500). Neiman Marcus, Fashion Show, 702-731-3636. Necklace, Badgley Mischka ($495). Neiman Marcus, Fashion Show, 702-731-3636.|
As one of the toughest female professional mixed martial arts combatants in the world, Vegas native Gina Carano’s life revolved around training and full-contact fighting. The former UNLV student had always been sporty: She led her Trinity Christian High School girls basketball team to a state title. But she owes the start of her career path to an ex-boyfriend, who got her interested in Muay Thai fighting, which she came to dominate with a 12-1-1 record.
Next? Her big jump to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA ). As she became “the Face of Women’s MMA ,” the beautiful brunette found herself in a world of TV appearances (American Gladiators and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, to name a few) and sexy magazine shoots for publications such as Maxim. But it wasn’t until the 29-year-old was approached by überdirector Steven Soderbergh to star in his action thriller Haywire that a Hollywood career hit the horizon. Jumping at the opportunity, Carano soon found herself on-set alongside a cast of heavyweights: Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, and Bill Paxton. Amid all that testosterone, all eyes are on Carano, who takes ’em down in a leading role that would make Jason Bourne proud. With Haywire about to hit theaters on January 20, Carano caught up with McGregor to talk fight scenes, the future, and growing up in Vegas.
EWAN MCGREGOR: What was your life like right before you were approached about doing this film?
GINA CARANO: I was actually training for one of the toughest fights of my life against [mixed martial arts fighter] Cyborg. It was the first major female-headlined fight ever, a huge, huge deal. And I lost in like five minutes. I was devastated and had a black eye. I hopped in my car from San Jose, where the fight was, and drove all the way to San Diego. I was going to hide out there for a month. When one door closes, another one opens, though: In that same week, my agent called me saying Steven Soderbergh wanted to meet me.
EM: Were you nervous?
GC: My agent told me he was coming from LA to meet me and I needed to pick him up at the San Diego train station. I was thinking, Do I need to research him? Who am I picking up here?
EM: And then he asked you to star in a movie?
GC: Not until the end of our four-hour lunch! He was like, “Look, I’d like to do a movie with you. I don’t have a script. I don’t have a studio. I don’t have anything locked down, but I wanted to meet you and see if you’d be interested.” I was like, “Yeah, absolutely, let’s do it!” He said it was either going to happen really fast or not at all. Four days later, he called and said there were two studios bidding for it.
EM: How long until you started working on it?
GC: About three or four months later, I started training with [tactical trainer] Aaron Cohen. I was put through stunt training every morning from 7 AM to 11 AM, worked with Aaron for two hours after that, and then I did strength and conditioning for two hours. He rented out a warehouse in Pasadena. We did gunplay, and he taught me how to enter and exit buildings like they do in Israel. I think they wanted to keep me busy so I didn’t think about what I was getting myself into.
|McGregor and Carano enjoy a rare peaceful moment in Haywire|
|Using her skills|
EM: And he made us all carry plastic guns. I’ve still got mine somewhere.
GC: One time, I was outside of my hair salon after getting my hair done for the movie. He snuck up on me, pulled out his gun, and pointed it at me. I thought, OK, I lost that game.
EM:EM: So it was anytime, anywhere?
GC: He put a GPS on my car!
EM: What preparation did you do for the acting scenes and dialogue?
GC: Actually, Steven didn’t want me to get an acting coach. You should have seen my mom, dad, and my manager. They were like, “No, get her an acting coach, she’s never done this before.” But Steven said no. I remember picking up the script and thinking, Oh man. I didn’t have the first clue what you guys do, but you all made me feel so comfortable.
EM: I want you to critique our fight scene. I was very unfit...
GC: Yeah, right! Our fight was all adrenaline because we learned it in such a short time. We were on sand and falling all over the place. I remember it being the biggest adrenaline rush.
EM: Absolutely. I was quite nervous about it, to be honest. I think it was because I was fighting you and you’re a real fighter. I wasn’t nervous I would get hurt; I was nervous you thought I was a wimp.
GC: I loved tackling you into the water.
EM: The one moment I remember is when I punched you right in the head by accident. You looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Are you OK?” You were quite right to do so because it really hurt my hand, and you didn’t even feel it at all!
GC: [Laughs] The same thing happened with [Michael] Fassbender. He went to pick me up, and both of our knees clashed. After that scene, he started limping and asked if my knee was OK. I had no idea what he was talking about.
EM: You’re tough as nails! So what are your plans for the future?
GC: Right now my focus is getting this film out in January. It’s been such an amazing journey. I really appreciate you being a part of it and Steven taking a huge chance on me. I don’t know what happens now. Of course I love to fight, but I don’t really have plans. I’m just going to stay open.
EM: In the meantime, you’ll be living in Las Vegas?
GC: I love Las Vegas! I grew up here and have lived all over this city. A lot of people come here and don’t understand what it’s really about. There are a lot of beautiful people here, there’s a lot of beautiful land, and so many different cultures. Vegas is my home. It helped shape me, which is why I have such an interesting perspective on the world.
photograph by jared mcmillen (rotator); claudette barius (movie stills)
Makeup by Brandy Neugebauer-Quinto courtesy of Platinum Entourage, Las Vegas
Styling by Christie Moeller
Stylist’s assistant: Erika Lizzio
Shot on location at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino