In Steven Soderbergh’s new action thriller Haywire, Ewan McGregor portrays Kenneth, a government security contractor who sends operatives all around the world on dangerous missions. Antonio Banderas plays Rodrigo, a Spanish government official involved with Kenneth in setting up an assignment for covert ops specialist, Mallory Kane, (Mix Martial Arts fighter Gina Carano in her first acting role), and her teammate, Aaron (Channing Tatum).
When Mallory discovers she has been framed for the murder of the man she believed she was saving, she goes rogue, finding herself the target of skilled assassins who know her every trick.
I spoke with Ewan and Antonio about the movie and whether they were worried about doing the fight scenes with Gina.
What was it about this project that made you want to be in it?
Ewan: The script was very strong. It was a really good piece of writing.It had good strong elements from fight movies, which I am not familiar with particularly. There was a spy element.
What it is like to bean 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.
He’s a filmmaker who I think is on all of our lists in terms of people you really want to work with.
Antonio: Steven Soderbergh is one of those guys you say yes to, sometimes without reading the script. 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. I was signed at that particular time with other movies.
I had talked to him very early on when I came to LosAngeles. He had just presented Sex, Lies, and Videotapes. I loved that movie.We were talking about Pedro Almodóvar, because he’s a fan of his. So, at that time he said to me, ‘I would like to have the opportunity to work together some day.’
Almost twenty years later, he sent me the script for Haywire. 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.
What was it like working with Steven Soderberg?
Ewan: There are no rules about what makes a director. Steven is a quiet director, but he’ll absolutely guide you in the right direction when you need it.
He’s meticulous and serious on the set, very concentrated, like a surgeon, ticking off shots. But when you get back to the hotel and hang out with him, he’s chatty and amiable.
Did you ever fear for your life going toe-to-toe with Gina?
Ewan: No, not at all. We were in very safe hands with Gina, because she’s so precise. I really never felt there was ever an issue or worry to get hurt. The only time I did get hurt was when I accidentally punched Gina in the head. I had three punches.
One, two, and the third punch had to go right over Gina’s head and I messed it up. I punched her solidly in the side of her head and she came straight up to me and said, ‘Are you okay?’
I was trying to be very butch,‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ but my hand [felt] like I had broken three fingers, and Gina didn’t feel a thing. So we were in very safe hands.
Antonio: I was saved by the bell. You can actually imagine what she is going to do with me. If there is a sequel I may need a wheelchair.
Did you have to overcome the idea of hitting a woman?
Ewan: I think my fight is very different. I’m fighting for my life. Channing’s character, Aaron, is instigating his fight with Mallory. I’m defending myself. My Kenneth isn’t really up to it. In reality he wouldn’t have lasted that long.
I did note that it was a very different experience than the fights I’ve had with other guys, because there’s always a masculine bullshit element when you’re pretending to fight with another stunt guy or another actor.
With that removed, what was left was this great care for each other and working together, and that was lovely. I thought it was great.
Channing is in the diner and he throws the coffee and lays into her in a violent way. And my fight was more about, ‘Get me out of here.’ In fact to the point where he turns and runs and tries to climb an unclimbable cliff. Poor old Kenneth.
How was it like working with Michael Douglas?
Antonio: I’ve known Michael from a long time ago, because of my relationship with [his wife] Catherine in Zorro. I love the guy. We’d talk about movies many times.
It’s pretty easy because I have no lines to say in the scenes I have with him and Ewan. I would just sit there listening and taking it all in. It was relatively easy.
What did you guys learn from Gina that you weren’t expecting?
Ewan: I just never felt that I was working with somebody that was doing their first job. I knew that going in and then it never crossed my mind really. I felt there was a complete ease working together. So it was seamless.
Antonio: Yeah. I didn’t want her to think I was that old. I had this beard. So, the last day that I was shooting in New Mexico I shaved in front of her and I showed her I was still young!
Ewan: You don’t have to worry about that. She fought with me in the sand for two days. So she knows what old is!