Dialogue: ActionFest's "Female Star of the Year" Gina Carano on Kicking Ass On Screen and OffBy Fred Topel Apr 13, 2012
MMA fighter Gina Carano became a movie star this year. Steven Soderbergh developed the movie Haywire as a vehicle for her, because he was so impressed by her in the ring. If the critical raves and box office success weren’t enough, Carano is already winning awards. ActionFest, the film festival entirely for action movies, is giving her the “Chick” Norris Female Star Of the Year Award at their third annual festival running April 12 to 15 in Asheville, NC.
Carano will be appearing in person to accept her award and participate in a panel on fight choreography in movies, “The Art of Fight on Film.” In the lead-up to ActionFest we spoke with Carano by phone to talk about her new Hollywood life, her upcoming film In the Blood and her trip to Asheville.
Movies.com: Are you excited about ActionFest? Seems like it’s just great that something like that exists.
Gina Carano: I know, just a bunch of good people I imagine. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m glad that they have it because you know they don’t give stunt awards out at the Emmys or Oscars. They don’t give the stunt awards out. I’m really surprised because those people are putting their lives on the line to make these films so it’s really nice to have an event for them.
Movies.com: Haywire wasn’t your first film, but your first lead so how does it feel to get Female Action Star of the Year?
GC: I really consider this my first film to be honest. I did a glorified documentary which I didn’t really consider a film acting role, and then I did a fight in Blood and Bone so I really consider Haywire my first acting, so it’s fine to call it a debut. I’m really excited. I’m super honored. I just don’t even know. I don't know how I get so blessed and put in these circumstances.
Movies.com: How did you deal with the reactions to Haywire, both the good and the bad?
GC: It’s a love hate type film and that’s fine with me. It was a beautiful experience. Steven Soderbergh gave me an amazing opportunity. I think he’s a quite interesting talent but people either love or hate his work so I think that the film kind of shows that. I think that’s really neat and I think that’s what it has going positive for it.
Movies.com: Have they mentioned doing a Haywire 2?
GC: No, I think that Steven, if it would have done incredibly well at the box office then he would have probably considered it but I think it just made its money back. So I think he’s looking at retiring in a couple of years and that was kind of like a special project for him to practice some action films. I don't think he’ll be doing it again.
Movies.com: Soderbergh developed Haywire because he saw you fight. How did you land your second film, In the Blood?
GC: It was a story, a script that I was reading. I remember what Ewan McGregor said one time. He said, “It all starts with the script. If you really feel the script, if you really attach yourself to the script and can see yourself in that script.” I didn’t know what he was talking about and then this script came along and I was like wow. So I called my manager and my agent and I was like, “Let’s do this. I like this one. I really like this one.” I think people are going to like it too.
Movies.com: How different is it from Mallory Kane?
GC: I think that Steven was really smart. He gave me a character in Haywire that was just very straightforward, basic, stoic and there wasn’t a ton of emotion. It gave me a very safe role to start off on and that’s a beautiful thing that he gave me the opportunity with that character. But now this role, she’s a lot more like me.
Movies.com: You haven’t announced a return to fighting, but also haven’t committed to retiring. Can you leave it open and fight when you want to, make movies when you want to?
GC: Yeah. If I want to do it I’ll do it and hopefully there’ll be a platform for me to do it on. So that’s why I really haven’t. For me, fighting is something that I do because I want to do it, not because I’m trying to support myself or for any other reason. It would just be nice to not have to do that. It’s been about 10 years and it’s really nice to put my energy into something different right now.
Movies.com: Is Hollywood glamour a new world for you?
GC: No, I mean, I’ve been playing dress up with my Grandmama since I was about eight years old. She lived in Las Vegas when she was younger so she’s been going to Frank Sinatra shows, to everything. I love playing dress up. That’s the way I look at it.
Movies.com: I like that you call her grandmamma.
GC: Grandmama, she’s actually my G-mama.
Movies.com: How much do you train in regular life when it’s not for a movie?
GC: I was doing a lot of stuff that is kind of outdoorsy things. I was going hiking a lot in mountain trails in the Red Rock area. I was doing more things that fed my soul a little bit. Like I was getting outdoors and just really appreciating the beauty of not having everything I do physically have to be about not getting my head ripped off or taken off, or having to look a certain way. That’s actually been a really huge healing. After I got done with Haywire I just started doing a lot of hiking and a lot of a outdoors type stuff. It’s really kind of a healing thing to not always have to work out to have it be selfish, but to actually just do it because it’s something that you want to do.
Movies.com: How much sleep do you need to accommodate all your physical activity?
GC: My sleep patterns are very interesting for some reason. I start waking up around eight o’clock PM at night. I’m very nocturnal.
Movies.com: That’s reassuring. If I go for a run, I sleep all afternoon the next day.
GC: You must be running a long ways. How far are you running?
Movies.com: Only 4-5 miles, a normal amount.
GC: Yeah. I don't know. When I start going and when I start training, my body doesn’t want to stop. I’m a very extreme type person so it’s like when I start going, it’s like everything’s going in that direction. It’s hard for me to turn it off.
Movies.com: I feel bad. It seems there’s no point to working out if I sleep twice as much.
GC: Well, actually a good sleep is better than no sleep. A good sleep is just as important as having a good workout. If you’re sleeping good, then you’re probably doing your body that much more good.
Movies.com: Do you use any protein shakes or supplements?
GC: I’ve been turned onto this new product and I wouldn’t just tell you this product, XM3. What it is, it’s all natural and it's an appetite suppressant at night. It’s like a shot of energy but it’s not chemical, it’s all natural. It’s really been doing wonders for me. It’s a really good natural product that I find has been working for me and I’ve tried a lot of different products. This one makes me feel good. It’s not chemically.
Movies.com: I like PowerBar’s Tripple Threat peanut butter fusion. I eat one a day so I hope they’re good for me.
GC: [Laughs] Well, you sound like you like to run though so you can probably handle that. I don't know if it’d be good for somebody like me.
Movies.com: Was doing American Gladiators a good experience?
GC: It was amazing. It was such a good experience and it was at a good time in my life where I maybe needed not to take myself so seriously. I remember before I got that call, I was just like I really need to get serious and start to hamper down on myself a bit. Then when I got that call, I was like, “No, I can’t do it.” I turned them down about four times and said, “No, I can’t.” Finally my good friend now who was one of the producers on it, he was like, “Just come out here and just try it.” I did and I’m glad I did because I met some beautiful people. At one point I was in El Segundo because that’s where we were staying when we were filming it and I was like, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this.”
Movies.com: Was that like playing a character, Crush, or just being athletic?
GC: Well, one of my prerequisites for doing the show was that I didn’t really have to play a character. I was like, “I’m not going to be this big bodybuilding type looking person. I’m not going to go over the top with my character. I’m just going to relax and if you guys want me to be a part of it then I’m just going to relax and do the athletic part of it.” I wasn’t really focused on character that much. I was almost wanting them to just let me be quiet and just get the job done, like the silent killer, but they wouldn’t let me do that. they wanted me to talk a few times. Unfortunately.
Movies.com: During the press for Haywire you seemed shy to talk about yourself. Are you shy?
GC: Well, I think I’ve been pretty talkative. I think it depends on the person. I enjoy talking to you so I’ve probably been pretty talkative. But I think it always depends on the person. I think I’m good at feeling a person’s energy out so when the interviewer’s nervous then I get nervous. Or when a fan comes up to me and they’re nervous, then it makes me nervous. When somebody’s open and just wants to talk, then it’s okay. It’s a little bit easier. But to be honest, I don’t mind being a little bit shier. I don't know, I might not be that confident cocky type but I can get into that when put in the right circumstance. I’d rather be myself until there’s a character involved that I need to be a certain way and then I need to do that.