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Steven Soderbergh’s new movie Haywire, currently in cinemas around the US, is the story of a black ops super soldier, seeking payback after she is betrayed and set up during a mission.
The first scenes Gina Carano, who plays the operative Mallory Kane, filmed were set in Dublin, where Mallory begins to suspect she is being set up. Irish actor Michael Fassbender plays Paul, the charming but duplicitous operative paired with Mallory for what appears to be a routine assignment. “Michael Fassbender is not only a handsome, charming man and a tremendous actor,” says producer Gregory Jacobs “He is also able to hold his own in a fight scene with Gina.”
“That we filmed those scenes first turned out to be a lucky circumstance,” says Soderbergh. “Michael was extremely helpful to Gina, putting in a lot of time working with her away from the set, going through the scenes and lines. It made her feel very comfortable.”
Carano admits she was so inexperienced that Fassbender had to teach her to run lines with another actor. “I’d never done that before,” she says. “Michael took me under his wing. He was really giving with his time. When we got to the fight sequence, it was great because that is my comfort zone. I was able to be physical and shine. It felt like an exchange of expertise.”
Fassbender says he signed on to the film for two reasons. “What I liked about the script was the intrigue. There are many things not said. It is an old-school espionage film, like the spy thrillers that I remember from my childhood. And I was excited to be working with Steven Soderbergh. He has an air of confidence that relaxes everyone on set.
The speed with which Steven works is fantastic. It lends itself to experimentation, which gave the filming a very fluid feel. We were able to discover scenes as we went. It happened very organically. I discovered bits and pieces of Paul every day.”
The actor was also fascinated with the idea of plunging a non-professional into the world of acting. “Gina was willing to jump in headfirst,” he says. “With her fight training, she wanted to get things right. But she’s also very good at just sitting and listening to notes, taking everything in and then applying it. It’s been impressive to watch her work. She has a unique energy as well, which I think shines through.”
The idea of performing a brutal, hand-to-hand fight scene with a woman left Fassbender nonplussed. “But it was just a matter of accepting it,” he says. “Going in I had no problem knowing that she was going to kick my arse all over the place.”
The scene is one of Carano’s favorites. “We were smashing each other into everything possible,” she says. “Vases were getting smashed over heads, we were tumbling over couches, I got slammed into a flat-screen and then there’s the triangle choke at the end!”
Ewan McGregor plays Mallory’s boss and erstwhile lover, Kenneth. Jacobs and Soderbergh consider snagging McGregor a casting coup. “To have an actor of his caliber play the bad guy and Mallory’s foil was exciting,” says Jacobs. “Ewan brought so much depth to the role.”
Working with Soderbergh was a long-held ambition for the actor. The quality of the script was icing on the cake. “It was a total page-turner,” McGregor says. “The action was vivid and well written, and the plot quite complex. This is a story where everyone is playing his own game, perhaps Kenneth especially. You’re allowed bits of information here and there that unlock scenes as you go along. And the characters are not movie characters; they’re very real.”
McGregor experienced Soderbergh’s legendary speed behind the camera the minute he arrived on set. “You really don’t believe it until you get there,” says the actor. “My first scene was in Spain, where Gina and I did a walk and talk down some stairs and reveal this beautiful cityscape behind us. Steven did it in one shot. There was an air traffic control strike in France at the time, so it took me 22 hours to get from Los Angeles to Spain. I shot for maybe an hour and a half, and then it took me about 22 hours to get home.
“But there are no rules about what makes a director great,” adds McGregor. “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.”
McGregor has high praise for his co-stars. “I was very lucky to have some wonderful scenes with Bill Paxton and Channing Tatum as well as with Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas. It’s always exciting, but frankly, it was quite nerve-wracking, to sit down and start shooting a scene with those two giants.”