MMA star Gina Carano turns to acting with ‘Haywire’

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When athletes decide to try their hand at acting, the transition isn’t always a smooth one -- for every Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, there’s a Howie Long. It’s a pattern Mixed Martial Arts fighter Gina Carano was well aware of when she took on the role of Mallory Kane in Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming action picture, ‘Haywire.’

‘I definitely don’t want to be one of those athletes who turns into a cheesy actress,’ said Carano, 29, during an interview in December. ‘I’ve seen that happen so much, and I didn’t want that to happen.’

In the film opening Jan. 20, Carano plays a private contractor double-crossed by those she works with. She received a boost early on during the filming from her costar Ewan McGregor, who gave her the ultimate compliment: He thought she underdid it. ‘That is way better than too much cheesiness.’

McGregor wasn’t the only one to come to Carano’s aide. Michael Fassbender was an eager ally of the woman once called ‘the face of MMA,’ Carano said.


‘Michael really took care of me. He made me feel very comfortable,’ she said. ‘He ran lines with me. Even when we have phone calls in the movie, it would be Michael at some pub on the other line. I just responded to him very well.’

Although Soderbergh began the process of making ‘Haywire’ after meeting with Carano in San Diego and assembled the movie around her character, Carano says Mallory Kane’s is nothing like her own personality.

‘He said, ‘We are going to make the character off of somebody like you so that it’s not that hard for you to get to know her and be like her.’ But Mallory is nothing like me,’ said Carano with a laugh. ‘She’s serious. She doesn’t smile but once in the film. If the girl was flighty and funny and a little fun, maybe. But I would never handle situations like that. This is really acting for me.’

Soderbergh was very confident in the abilities of his new star. ‘She’s like a panther. She knows how to move. I felt like if her instincts about what to do with her eyes are any good at all, then we are going to be fine. And she had very good instincts about that.’

Soderbergh, who previously worked with adult film star Sasha Grey, knew that creating a comfortable environment would be the key to his novice actress’ success. Said the filmmaker, ‘I was pretty confident in our ability to create an environment that was pretty supportive and low-key and not to make her feel hurried or pressured to step into the first shot and turn into Meryl Streep.’


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— Nicole Sperling