Questions for Gina Carano
The former MMA champion talks about her starring role in Haywire, her only loss in the cage, and how she got her American Gladiator nickname "Crush."
Slate: Was it a conscious choice plot–wise to have all your opponents in the movie be men?
Carano: When [Soderbergh] first saw me, he said that he would really like to see me beating up some of Hollywood’s finest, so I definitely think he plotted me with men for a purpose.
Slate: So when you stepped away from fighting in 2009, was it because you were cast in this film or were there other reasons for your taking a step back from MMA?
Carano: I got the offer for this movie a week after I lost my first MMA fight, and then two months or three months later we had a script and then four months later I was in training for the movie and then we had two months of filming it. Afterwards I spent a little bit of time by myself and re-evaluated where my life was at and got to spend some time with my family and I traveled to Thailand. I had the freedom to go explore the world.
Slate: So you met Soderbergh right after you lost that fight to Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos. Did you hear that Cyborg just tested positive for anabolic steroids? Do you have feelings about that?
Carano: I feel for her. I feel bad that those choices were made, whether it was the people around her that were encouraging her a certain way, or whether she thinks that she even needs anything to be a better athlete. I know that she’s a great athlete with or without that.
If I go back two years ago and I would have found that out, I would have been incredibly hurt, and I would have felt very frustrated. That’s the part of me that is maybe a little selfish because that was a big moment in my life. I know whatever it is, we’re all human beings, we all make mistakes, and I have my mistakes I make all the time. I know it will just make her be a better person, you know, in the future.
Slate: That’s a pretty diplomatic answer.
Carano: Everybody’s told me in my career, you know, “Well, of course she’s on steroids.” I’d always say, she obviously isn’t if she’s passing all these tests. I don’t want to take away that she is a wonderful athlete, but she doesn’t need to do that at all.
Slate: You were supposed to come back to MMA in June and then you ended up dropping out of the match at the last minute. What happened there?
Carano: I spent three months at the most beautiful training camp up in Albuquerque, and I proved to myself I could still do this. I had taken a year off at that point, if not longer, and I could jump back in, get back into shape and—and really kind of mix it up with people. But there were a couple different things transpiring at that time that I just would like to keep personal. You never want to force yourself to do something that may not be healthy for you at the time.
Slate: I know that you did American Gladiators for a little while and appeared on some reality shows. Is that something you’d ever go back to?
Carano: At that time there was a lot of coaxing that had to be done to get me to do it, and I’m really happy I did ’cause it gave me a ton of experience. But I really like acting and not having it be myself and actually get into a different character.
Slate: It’s not exactly yourself on American Gladiators. Did you get to choose the nickname “Crush” or did producers choose that for you?
Carano: They gave it to me. They had a couple different ones, and they were quite ridiculous, and I felt like “Crush” was probably the most mellow of them all.
Slate: It’s pretty dignified as American Gladiator names go.
Carano: Yeah, you have to be called something, and that’s as mellow as it gets.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Also in Slate, read Dana Stevens' review of Haywire.