January is easily the worst month of the year for movies, but this year there is at least one amazing bright spot: Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire. I had the pleasure of being at the film’s world premiere back in November and every time it has been brought up in conversation I have made note to express just how badass the movie really is. Now, however, the wait is over and Haywire is arriving in theaters today. And to go with it, I recently had the chance to attend a press conference with the movie’s stars in which they spilled all of the juicy on-set details.
Below you will find Gina Carano, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor and Antonio Banderas talking about perception of action movies prior to working on the film, the combat scenes with a real MMA fighter, and what it was like working with Steven Soderbergh.
Gina, what was your perception of the initial process of how you got the part?
Gina Carano: I got the phone call after I lost my first fight to “Cyborg” Santos. And I didn’t really want to speak to anybody at the time I was bummed. I had a black eye, and my agent called me and he said that this director wanted to meet me, and I didn’t know who he was. I don’t know anything about Hollywood really, still. I’m still learning. So, he called me, and I knew he did Traffic, and that was a movie that really touched me. So I decided to pick him up at the train station in San Diego. We had a four hour lunch and at the end of it he offered me a movie. So, there was no auditioning. I don’t know what that is like yet.
How were you gentlemen informed about the movie and Gina’s role in it? How were you sold on the movie?
Ewan McGregor: The script was very, very strong. It was a really good piece of writing. It had good strong elements from obviously fight movies, which I am not familiar with particularly. There was a spy element. What it is like to be an undercover spy, James Bond. And at the center of it this incredible strong female lead, which is unusual in a film like this, I think. So it was very intriguing, and for me personally the opportunity to work with Steven was very strong. I wanted to, he’s a filmmaker who I think is on all of our list in terms of people you really want to work with.
Channing Tatum: Yeah, that was definitely. I got the call and I didn’t even need to know what the role was. I was like, yes. Soderbergh is by far one of my favorite directors of all time, and then I got to talk to him. I got to read the script. I had meet Gina earlier that year at a Strikeforce fight. One of my buddies is a Strikeforce fighter. She is just a lovely girl. I followed MMA for a long time and been a fan of hers. I saw her first fight. She’s the first sanctioned MMA fight if I’m correct of that, in Nevada. So, that was a pretty monumental occasion to see that ushered in. So, I just followed her. I followed her on Girl Fight, the reality show.
GC: Fight Girls.
CT: Yeah, Fight Girls. After that I didn’t really need to know anything else. I knew for the first time there was going to be a real, maybe even a male or female in action movies. There was going to be a real fighter. I don’t know, maybe probably in some Japanese or Chinese movies where you have some action stars that could actually step in the ring and could hold their own, but in America she’s probably the first one.
Antonio Banderas: In my particular case, just following the answers of my fellow actors. Yes, Steven Soderbergh is one of those guys you say yes to sometimes without reading the script. I had the opportunity, he’d called me twice in my career, but I couldn’t actually work with him. One was for Che and the other one was Traffic. You know, I was signed at that particular time with other movies, but I knew. I had talked to him very early when I came to Los Angeles. He just presented Sex, Lies, and Videotape. I loved that movie. We were talking about Almodóvar, because he’s a fan of Pedro. So, at that time he said to me, I would like to have the opportunity to work together some day. But many years, almost twenty years, happened in the middle. He sent me the script. It was very confusing to me, to tell you the truth, but it was an immediate positive answer to work with him. I don’t regret it for a second. It was great.
GC: Absolutely, they had me getting up at five o’clock, and then I did three hours of stunts, and then three hours of Mossad secret service training with guns and pretty much boot camp, and getting yelled at. And getting stalked and stalking other people. And then after that I did strength and conditioning, and there wasn’t any acting training until probably like the week before. I had the script with me and I had so much anxiety about it. I don’t even know what to do with this damn thing. And then finally the week before, they were like let’s try reading some lines with this acting coach.
It sounds like more training than just your fight training?
GC: I believe they were trying to brainwash me.
What was it like adjusting to fighting for a movie with these actors? For the gentlemen, was this a different experience working on an action movie doing more of your own fight scenes?
GC: These guys wanted to do everything, from the smallest things off camera. Which I don’t know if it’s normal or not, off camera to on camera. I showed up with the stunt crew and we coordinated the fights together. 87 Eleven is the stunt is the stunt crews name. And then these guys you know have busy schedules, and they would come in whenever they could and learn. We learned our fight scene in two days.
EM: Two days yeah.
GC: Which was kind of a…
EM: A struggle.
GC: No, it was a hard fight scene. It was a long fight scene, and when you put it on sand, and the water, and added all those crazy elements to it. But they wanted to do everything. Which I think Steven Soderbergh did a good job surrounding me with some of the best people he could in a film.
GC: Fassbender’s crazy. He loves that shit. He had no problem slamming me into anything. Actually Steven Soderbergh told him once, “We need to get this shot better when you slam her head into the wall.” I was like, damn that thing’s not soft. Soderbergh is behind the camera and he’s being really mischievous. He wants something bad to happen.
CT: He’s always trying to piss her off. And see what happens…
GC: I don’t know, better acting that way? I’m supposed to slam a vase on his face. I supposed to throw the vase right past him just for that take, because we want to get that slam, my head slamming into the wall. So, we were going for it and he slammed my head so hard into the wall I kind of lost it for a second. I kind of slammed the vase right into Fassbender’s face, but he said he know it was coming because he saw a flash in my eyes. And right after that happened I thought, I’m so fired I’m going to lose this job, because this is the first fight scene we did. Fassbender, he loved training for the fight scenes. He did 300 with the 87Eleven group too.
CT: He’s a masochist. He loves it.
How about yours in the dinner?
CT: We kind of did it really quickly.
GC: He wanted me to do more to him. He said “I want some bruises.”
CT: I wanted stories to tell my buddies.
GC: I can’t force that, Channing.
CT: I’ve said it before, and I want to say it again. My wife hates when I say it. Find a girl that you think can whip my butt and I’ll go to her movie. And then they did. And I wanted to be in the movie, like yes it’s for real. She can really do this stuff. There’s no faking it. She only fakes it, because she has too. It was fun. I’ve never got to move, even most of the stunt guys I’ve gotten to work with because I’ve done a lot of action movies and fight scenes, but she’s one of the best dancer-athletes that I’ve gotten to move with. And that goes to different martial artist to football players, basketball players. I mean she’s one to the best athletes I’ve gotten to move with.
AB: I was saved by the bell. You can actually imagine what she is going to do with me. If there is a sequel to that I may need a wheelchair.
GC: I’m definitely not a judgmental person. I fight for living and I think every fighter probably watches action scenes, and they think what they would have done and what is realistic. And everybody has been trying to compare me, and take away from certain females that are skinny and beautiful and great at acting. I don’t want that comparison. Does she have to do that? She’s gorgeous. Does she have to go and put herself out there in these physical roles? No, and I respect that about these women. They are good at acting and they can do anything they want but they still do these types of roles physicality. It’s a beautiful thing. What I’m bringing is just whatever I can to make fights look with my own flavor and my own personality.
Did you have to overcome the idea of hitting a woman?
CT: Yes, very much so for me. I grow up in the south and you don’t hit women you don’t even cuss at them, yell at them or anything even though people do down there. She had to call me the P-word, basically, to make me hit her. I’ll let you fill that in, you polite sir. I had to smash a ketchup bottle on her face. And it was so alarming to see a beautiful girl sitting across from me, and we had to do it to see if it was going to break, and how hard I was going to have to do it, and I was going to do it and I couldn’t physically do it. And then she had to make fun of me, and challenge of my man hood to do it. I finally did it and I realized I did a huge mistake. Because I did it way too hard, and her face came back like that. Oh, I think I’m faster but I’m not sure. Her conditioning is probably better than mine. She can run longer. I’m going to have to play this smart. But yeah it was pretty different. You see everywhere you go two men fighting. You see it in the bars. You see it on TV. You see it in movies. You see it everywhere. You very rarely see a man and a women fight, and even more rare a women beating the hell out of some men. And it was kind of a pleasure.
EM: I think my fight is very different. I’m fighting for my life. So, as Channing’s is instigating it. I didn’t have the same, because I’m defending. He’s not really up to it my Kenneth, not really in reality would have lasted that long. So I didn’t feel like that. I did note that it was a very different experience than the fights I’ve had with other guys, because what’s missing is the bullshit masculine, there’s always an element of that when you’re pretending to fight with another stunt guy or another actor. That was missing and what was left was this great care for each other and working together with that removed. And that was lovely. I thought it was great.
GC: There was no egos. It was just about making the best possible fight that we could.
CT: I had an ego with it.
EM: But it is different don’t you think, because you’re in there and throw the coffee and lay into her in a violent way. And my fight was kind of more about get me out of here. In fact to the point where he turns and runs and tries to climbs an un-climbable cliff. Poor old Kenneth.
EM: The beard was magnificent by the way.
AB: It was an accident. I did a workshop in New York for Zorba, a project I had in mind and may happen. I didn’t have anything to do and I wanted to do the workshop with a beard, because I just pictured the character of Zorba with a big beard. I was going to shave the next day, but I had an interview with Steven for the movie. He wanted to see me here in Los Angeles and he said I like the beard. I said, no please I haven’t shaved in two months. No, no the beard is fine it’s a different you. So I was trapped with my beard for another three to four months. My wife was not very happy about it. The interesting thing is I finished the movie. I wrapped in New Mexico, and I went to Spain and was doing the movie with Pedro Almodóvar and I think it was the last week I was working with him. Steven called me, and he said “I just put together the movie, your character is very enigmatic, and very shadowy, I kind of like him but we have to close him. It’s my fault. I’m just going to write a couple of scenes for him that is going to explain the whole entire thing, actually you became the mastermind of the whole entire operation, and you’re going to have a scene with Gina.” And I said, Steven I am still working with Pedro and I will be free in a week and I don’t have the beard. And he said “we built it for you.” So I came a year after we finished the movie and we did those new scenes which is actually the end of the movie. With the beard, we did a couple of scenes underground with the French actor, and then shaved for the last moment with her.
EM: I love that last scene with the ‘stache it’s so kooky. It’s such a great look. It’s brilliant.
Do you feel different without the beard afterwards?
AB: Yes, those scenes are … like a mask. When you have beard you act differently. It’s almost like working with different languages. I’ve done movies in Italy for example and you start doing things with the hands. All these kinds of things are different. You act differently with a beard. I don’t know how to explain it. I felt older. I can actually hide behind my beard in a way. It’s interesting for my character in a way, because he’s the guy that nobody knows what he’s really doing not until the end. I think it was a smart decision on Steven Soderbergh’s part. This is the guys that nobody is paying attention to, he never got beat up by the girl, but he is the one who is cooking everything in the background. Yes, you act differently with a beard.
Gina, are you trying to become an action star? What about a sequel?
GC: To be honest, I think a lot of people have been waiting to see how this does and my performance. You know, it’s not the easiest world to break into. But we have ideas, and we have scripts, and people who do want to work, but as we all know in this room it’s not the easiest thing to get a film made. As far as Haywire 2, that’s all up to Soderbergh, and I think everyone is just waiting for this film to come out. Regardless, I am really excited to get onto the other side of it and just land somewhere.