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Gina Carano: The lady is a champ

Steven Soderbergh needed an action heroine who could knock down any foe. Enter the MMA fighter

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When Gina Carano met Steven Soderbergh for the first time, it was not under the usual circumstances. Where many prospective actresses would make sure they were wearing their best foundation and eyeliner, Carano arrived with only a big, purplish bruise adorning her face. ”I had a nasty black eye and my nose was swollen,” says the mixed-martial-arts fighter-turned-action star. ”I looked like a monster.” Carano, 29, had just come off a massive loss in the cage, her first ever, when Soderbergh came out of the blue to help pick her up off the mat. He was taken by fight footage he had seen and told her he wanted to make a movie with a female star the audience would believe could actually kick ass. Haywire isn’t Carano’s debut in front of a camera — her MMA bouts are televised, and she was featured in both seasons of NBC’s American Gladiators remake — but it is her first attempt at acting, let alone opposite names like Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Channing Tatum. ”I was a complete dork when I met them,” she admits. But she adds that she was more than comfortable once it came time for her to beat them up. ”Those were the days when I was in my element.” Carano says that she would love to add a few more rounds to her acting career. After all, it’s not entirely different from her previous job. ”At the end of the fight scenes, we definitely walked away with some bumps and bruises.”