(I managed to bribe Matthew Polly into into hitting up the NY premiere of Gina Carano’s Haywire with the promise of a popcorn n soda budget. Being the intrepid writer that he is, he also snagged an interview with the Gina herself! Tapped Out is the tale of Matt Kerouacing his way through the MMA scene, and it’s on bookshelves now. Pick it up!)
It is traditional before a transcribed interview for the reporter to write a brief introduction of the subject. But no one reading this blog is unfamiliar with Gina Carano. I expect many of you go to sleep every night beneath a poster of her on your parent’s basement ceiling. I know I do. Not only has she put on fights of such technical skill that they shamed many of the men on the same card (Kimbo) but her girl-next-door looks and charm turned her into the “face of women’s MMA” and the first MMA star, with the exception perhaps of Chuck Liddell, to break out in the mainstream media world.
She is now the first MMA fighter to star as the lead actor in a major Hollywood movie, Haywire, which will be released January 20th. It is directed by Steven Soderbergh, who surrounded Gina with such an all-star cast— Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas— that actresses across Malibu will be turning in their yoga mats for 4-oz gloves.
The call-in interview was scheduled for ten minutes. After eleven, the movie publicist shut me down before I could get to the hard-hitting question I had prepared for my closing: Channing Tatum or Michael Fassbender, who is the better kisser? Now we will never know. But if you want to find out whether she plans to fight again, what she thinks of Cyborg’s positive steroid test, or if her voice was dubbed over, you can read the full, unedited transcript after the jump.
(And thanks to you Jackals who pitched in questions for the interview. As you will see I actually used a few of the less pervy ones.)
PUBLICIST: I’ve got Gina Carano for you.
ME: That’s great. Thank you very much.
PUBLICIST: Hold on one moment.
ME: Gina, it’s Matthew Polly from Fightlinker.
ME: How are you doing?
GINA: Good, how are you?
ME: Excellent. So how bad is it? [The call was an hour late.] How many interviews have they got you scheduled for?
GINA: Well, this is about my fifth day, I think. So… It’s been very therapeutic [laughs].
ME: I hear ya. I once had to do 20 interviews in a day and by the end I was making up answers.
GINA: [laughs] You’re like, “I don’t even know what I’m saying right now.”
ME: I appreciate you doing this. I’ll try to keep it short, so you can get a break before you have to do the next one.
GINA: Okay, I appreciate it. Thank you.
ME: First question, since I know I don’t have a lot of time, I’ll just dive into it. It’s been about two and a half years since you were last in the cage and all us MMA fans want to know: Are you coming back or have we lost you to Hollywood?
GINA: Oh God, I want to make sure you guys know you haven’t ever lost me. I’m more of a fan than I ever have been of the sport. I’m more proud to have been part of the sport than I ever have. But I’m not sure actually. I’m just trying to get through January 20th [the release date for Haywire]. I just want to get back to what MMA gave me. And what it gave me was probably one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Would I do another film? Absolutely. In a heartbeat. I’d do another film over and over and over, because I think I’d be stupid not to.
ME: That’s certainly true.
GINA: And I’ve been fighting for the last nine years, and I know that’s something you can’t do for a lifetime—as much as I loved it. But then again I haven’t been able to completely close that door yet, so we are definitely going to have to see.
ME: So it might be a little like Cung Le. You do some movies, then do a fight, then go back to movies?
GINA: I don’t know. I’m not saying no to that. I’m not saying that can’t happen.
ME: Other than the movie and all this press you’ve been doing for it, how have you been keeping busy the last two and a half years?
GINA: Ah, we filmed this movie and that took a good amount of time. I trained for it for about two months. We shot the movie for about two months. And then we came back and did additional scenes for about a year, here and there. They kept keeping calling me back just to have the story make sense and create the best product we could. And then I had a year to myself. I had this moment in my life I didn’t know if I was ever going to have again: to go travel and to go experience life; not to be pressured to fight again and not to be pressured to do anything else; just to walk around this planet and be human, you know.
GINA: I went to New York and spent some time there. I went to Chicago and spent some time there. I went to Thailand, San Diego, Palm Springs. I went all over the place. I spent most of the time by myself taking in different cultures. Just enjoying the moment I had to get to know myself actually. I took advantage of that. Then I came back and I started training for that fight [against Sarah D’Alelio] at Greg Jackson’s camp. Of course we all know that didn’t work out, but the training camp was incredible and it made me realize I still had it and I was still able to train for it. That was really encouraging, because I don’t know a lot of people who can take a year off and jump back into it. I guess for the last couple months I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family over the holidays. And now I’ve been pressed back into Haywire for promotions.
ME: I’m happy to hear you got to do some traveling. You probably won’t remember this, but we chatted a few times at Xtreme Couture and you said that traveling was something you always wanted to do.
GINA: Yeah, my grandmother always told me I should be a travel photographer or photojournalist, because I love it. I often feel more at home when I’m traveling than when I’m at home, you know.
ME: So the news of the week, and I don’t know if this is an uncomfortable question but…you traveled to the ESPY awards with Cris [“Cyborg”] Santos and you fought her in the cage, I guess people want to know if you were surprised she tested positive for PEDs.
GINA: Um, what are PEDs?
ME: Sorry, performance enhancing drugs.
GINA: Oh, okay, I heard that in another interview and I just guessed it meant steroids, but I didn’t want to make any assumptions, like, ‘Maybe she did get busted for something else.’
ME: Yeah I meant steroids. I was just trying to be polite, because there are so many different kinds.
GINA: Do you know what kind of steroids it was?
ME: I can’t recall. Nanolean or something? [It was stanozolol metabolites, an anabolic steroid. Nanolean is a marketing name for a weight loss system—kind of like what Cyborg claims she thought she was taking.] I remember when you were in the gym and it was announced that you were scheduled to fight Santos and everyone was asking, “What’s it like to fight someone who is built like that?” I guess what I’m trying to ask is: MMA fans were not so surprised [by the positive test] and I was wondering if you felt that way, if you were surprised. I mean you know her better than any of us do.
GINA: Yeah, well, when I was fighting her I would always steer clear of that question, because if she hadn’t been taking steroids I didn’t want to take her physicality away from her.
ME: Of course.
GINA: I definitely could have lived without hearing the news that she had tested positive. You know, it kind of hurts. For me that was one of my biggest moments. That was my biggest moment in mixed martial arts.
ME: You were the headliner.
GINA: It was huge. And of course people were saying that around me and I didn’t want to take anything away from her so I would steer clear of that question. But now that it’s positive years later, it really kind of hurts. But at the same time it could be some misguided direction. Someone around her was telling her that was a good idea. Obviously it isn’t something an athlete like her needs to do. She’s already a phenomenal athlete without it. I’m not going to sit here and rejoice in the hard time she’s going to have to fight back into the hearts of the fans to, you know, not be considered a cheater. I know she’s a great person and she’s going to get past this hard time and use it to make a better person out of herself. I know that because I’ve been around her, the little I have. It’s unfortunate that someone around her was telling her she needed it. That hurts my heart for her. But at the same time, there is this other part of me that’s like, “Dammit, I don’t want to hear that, because that was the biggest moment in my life.” I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it felt like a stab in the heart.
ME: Prior to this, did you ever think about a rematch? It is the one loss on your MMA record. Often fighters want to redeem themselves or avenge a loss. Had that crossed your mind before?
GINA: Yeah, absolutely. If this movie hadn’t come along when it did, I just would have gotten back into training and looking forward to the next fight. I had no idea that this kind of experience was going to happen. This is a life changing, incredible opportunity that Steven Soderbergh gave me. I couldn’t see that coming. And you can’t continue to be a part of this sport and not train to be the best. Having her beat me… that made her the best and so I definitely looked forward to a rematch.
ME: One of the things that people are talking about is that the 145lb division is a little shaky and there is a lot more competition at the 135lb division. If you did consider coming back, would you consider making the cut to 135 and fighting the Meisha Tates and the other top-notch women of this world?
GINA: The fascinating thing about that Cyborg fight is that I hit 143 without even stepping into the steam room. It was good, because I’m telling you I was in the best shape of my life. I was just mentally not as strong as I should have been. That could have been due to pressure and other things that were going on. But I would definitely love to try. Historically it has been a little bit hard for me to go down to 145, but with that Cyborg fight it proved a lot to me. It proved that it isn’t that hard when you do it correctly. Of course, I’d have a long ways to go and a lot of work to do. But I wouldn’t say that I couldn’t do it. It would just be a lot of work, you know.
ME: Totally. We’d just have to get you away from the Hollywood craft services table. I’ve been on movie sets, and it’s just this banquet of temptation.
GINA: [laughs] For sure.
ME: So I saw your movie Haywire last night. A bunch of the MMA media and also the New York Times etc were there, so we [the MMA media] were very much like the proud hometown in American Idol cheering you on to victory. One of the things I wanted to let you have a chance to address was this: I’ve talked to several times before and covered your career, so when I was listening to the movie your voice sounded a little different to me. I know this has been brought up in other media outlets but I didn’t know if they tweaked the sound or that’s just how it came out in the movie.
GINA: Yeah absolutely and I’m surprised that hasn’t come up sooner. Stephen Soderberg wanted Mallory Kane [the character she plays in the movie] to be a completely different entity than Gina Carano. So he definitely went in and I went in to AVR and he did some tweaking. We all knew that that was going to come up because people know me so well in the MMA world. But he is quite a genius in what he has created and it still was an honor to be a part of it. Even though it might not sound exactly like me, there are still parts of me that are in there. But he just wanted to make sure that that entity was completely different from myself.
ME: Gotcha. And I just wanted to be clear, because TMZ was hinting that you had been dubbed over by another actress and I just wanted to clear up that that wasn’t what happened.
GINA: Yeah, everyone was a little curious about that. And I don’t blame anyone for being curious about it. But if I was bald and they had given me the voice of Bill Clinton I still would have done the movie.
ME: [laughs] I can’t argue with that at all. But that leads me to the next question…
PUBLICIST: [breaking in] All right Matt, sorry that has to be the last question.
ME: Okay, sorry, she’s got to go. I appreciate it. Thanks very much.
PUBLICIST: Thank you.
GINA: All right, nice speaking to you. Bye.
ME: Definitely, bye.
(We’ll have Matt’s review of Haywire for you next week. Til then, here’s more Polly goodness.)