Source: USA TODAY
On action-movie sets, Gina Carano’s stunt double is more likely to twiddle thumbs than bend, twist and/or break them.
Spinning kicks, brutal punches, submission moves that make tough dudes cry, and mixing it up in physical situations are all pretty familiar for Carano, a former star in mixed martial arts and current actress in Fast & Furious 6.
It’s all the other challenges in her Hollywood adventures so far she’s loving, too, of course. Because she is so built for a world of hurt, though, Carano does wonder aloud if her stunt doubles actually like her.
“I think they like me but they get really bored in movies I’m in,” she says, laughing. “I try to include them as much as possible — it’s really good to see how a stunt double would do something. But I always like to bring my own flavor to it.”
In Fast 6, Carano plays Riley Hicks, a federal agent teamed with Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and the usual Fast & Furious suspects — played by Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, among them — to take down international outlaw Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).
Tanks blow up bridges, cars launch out of fiery transport jets and busy London streets become the Autobahn in the sixth installment of the action franchise. But in a more ground-and-pound fashion, Carano makes her presence known as a newcomer in two epic throwdowns with Michelle Rodriguez, who returns to the Fast flicks as mechanic and street racer Letty Ortiz.
“You don’t doubt for a second that Gina Carano or Michelle Rodriguez could kick any — well, maybe with the exception of the Rock — of these guys’ (butts), and that’s really great,” says co-star Jordana Brewster.
After 10 years in MMA, Carano, 31, brings a lot of her own moves to a film — many of them from Muay Thai kickboxing and jujitsu — but Fast 6 fight choreographer Olivier Schneider added “flashy” aspects to her repertoire such as flying armlocks and spin moves in addition to lots of blocks and combinations due to Riley being a technical counterpart to Letty’s street fighter.
Carano can’t help but be a little critical, though. Seeing the fights, she says, “I’m like, ‘Gosh, I wish there was so much more!’ But maybe that’s just me being greedy.”
She calls the big-budget Fast 6 “the beautiful second experience for me,” having been plucked from the fight world by director Steven Soderbergh for her debut film, last year’s Haywire.
She showed evolving acting chops in that movie, and in Fast 6, director Justin Lin wanted to capture the confidence she has as a competitor and athlete on screen with her character.
“She is unbelievably physical but also the nicest person you’ll ever meet,” Lin says. “What’s great is sometimes I feel like I’m more a coach than a director because that’s just the way we communicate. She just always wants to get notes.
“Her and Dwayne, they just hit it off because they’re both athletes,” the filmmaker adds. “Her process is very different than let’s say Paul’s or Vin’s, but I love the way they think, they never give up and it’s always about ‘Let’s go and make it better.’ “
Carano and Johnson bonded over their athletic backgrounds — her with MMA and his from the completely different style of pro wrestling.
“He’s such an entertainer and such a performer, and I’ve always been taught to go inward and not show emotion and not show pain,” says Carano, a Texas native whose father was a backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
Johnson built a strong filmography for himself, and that’s what she’s trying to do, too, using different movies as learning experiences. While Carano doesn’t exactly have “the Hollywood bug,” she has been infected with the desire to entertain.
Her nickname was “Conviction” when she was a fighter, and she’s bringing that quality to bear in fleshing out her on-screen characters.
“There are so many times I’ve walked away from set and just been like, ‘It’s the worst feeling in the world! What am I doing! This is awful!’ I don’t want to be one of those people on screen where people are like, ‘Gosh, she looks uncomfortable.’ But when I walk away and I get it right, there’s just something so beautiful about it,” Carano explains.
“I love drama, I love showing emotion. I’ve been reading scripts and everybody wants to put me in the serious-faced cop role, and I’m like, ‘Well, actually I’ve done that twice now.’ I want to go after something different and something somebody wouldn’t expect out of an MMA/action star.”
Carano is in the process of finding her next project. She thinks it would be “awesome” to put on a costume as Wonder Woman or another comic-book role in a superhero movie — “I’m just not sure what character that’s going to be. There’s a million” — and the actress is even checking out some projects that actually don’t involve her punching somebody.
“Well, they are more like roles I’ve sought out,” she admits with a chuckle. “I’m like, ‘Hey, what about this…,’ and my agent and my manager are looking at me like, ‘Gina, really?’ They’ve got their hands full.”
Her fans have yet to see her favorite moment of acting so far. That comes during a crying scene in In the Blood, an upcoming thriller directed by John Stockwell in which she plays a woman searching for her husband (Cam Gigandet) after he’s nabbed while on their South American honeymoon.
“Being physical and fighting is one thing because it feels so natural for me to be physical and just go and hit a bag or get in a fight because I’m upset,” Carano says. “But to actually get across to people, even just on set, what you’re feeling, there’s something really fascinating about it.
“I’ve never really had to try to focus on it. I’ve always been emotional — I just would always go be physical. This is a whole new creature for me. It’s like, ‘Oh, what’s this emotions thing people are talking about? It’s so interesting!’ “