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Transforming A Real-Life Fighter
To prepare for the role of Mallory Kane, Gina Carano underwent intensive training, starting with an in-depth special ops tutorial with the film's technical advisor and real-life security expert, Aaron Cohen. Cohen, who spent three years in Israel's special operations undercover unit, is the founder of IMS Security, a consulting firm that specializes in providing tactical counter-terrorist training. He helped the filmmakers and cast understand the realities of undercover operations.

"I felt that training with Aaron Cohen would provide Gina with a solid foundation of confidence," says Soderbergh. "If she felt that the physical demands were doable, that would go a long way toward making her feel comfortable with the performance. I chose Aaron because I wanted someone who was familiar with that world as it is today and not somebody who did it 10 or 20 years ago. He became part of the brain trust for this film, vetting virtually everything we did."

Cohen's participation in the film was crucial from the get-go, as he sat in on script meetings between Soderbergh, Jacobs and Dobbs. From small story points to wardrobe decisions, Cohen provided the filmmakers with checks and balances every step of the way. "I could ask how a conversation would go if you were trying to convey a piece of information but can't come out and say it," says the director. "He was on the set all the time and I would email him at all hours of the day or night. His input was invaluable, down to details like where you might hide your gun."

According to Cohen, the film captures the true nature of special ops. "Everything from the dialogue to the nature of the operations is authentic. In one case, an operation is botched and that is real. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in the world of special operations and they do."

Under Cohen's direction, a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in downtown Los Angeles was transformed into a staging ground for special operations training. Three dozen portable walls reconfigured the wide-open space to replicate the film's diverse settings. "He put me through two months of boot camp in that warehouse," Carano says. "He had me doing sprints, entering and exiting make-believe apartments—everything Mallory does in the film."

For 30 hours a week, Carano was immersed in special operations training. "Aaron's goal was to prepare me both mentally and physically for this movie," she says. "I read his book, but nothing could have prepared me for the boot camp. He taught me everything from the basics of guns to his life experiences. One of the things he impressed on me was that as a special operative, you're commissioned to take on the jobs that the government doesn't want to have its fingerprints on. If you're caught or imprisoned, you're on your own. The process was extreme and amazing. I come from fighting in a cage, which is very organized. He helped me develop the mindset I needed for Mallory, which is cutthroat to the extreme. It's life or death."

Even with her years of mixed martial arts training, Carano was pushed to the edge during her preparation for Haywire. "Gina has a warrior mentality," Cohen says. "We were really tough on her because we knew we could be. I wanted her to go beyond her comfort zone. It was important to immerse her in the mindset of a Special Forces operative. As a fighter, she's working alone. In special operations, missions are only successfully accomplished with teamwork."

To help develop that sense of camaraderie, Jacobs arranged for castmates Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Julian Alcaraz and Max Arciniega to join Carano's training for limited periods of time. "I felt it was important to bring everybody together so they understood the amount of cooperation involved in order to be successful," says the producer. "I wanted the training to be as real as the story consulting."

Channing Tatum spent four grueling days of training with Cohen. "The day I arrived at the warehouse, I had no idea what I was getting into," he says. "I don't even think Aaron said hi to me and for the next four days and I didn't really say anything. I just did exactly as I was told.

"We learned all the tactical movements," the actor continues. "He showed us how to take a room and look as if we'd done it for years and years. He just beat it into us."

Tatum's previous fight training gave him an advantage, according to Cohen. "He has great hand-eye coordination, tremendous balance and is very strong. He also had had some excellent training on some of the other films he's appeared in. I helped him clean up his pistol work for the hostage rescue scene. We worked with him and Gina on some of the things that can go wrong in an operation that haven't been seen before on film. Weapons do malfunction in the middle of a shootout, they jam or are empty or they weren't oiled properly. You have to be able to not only fire the weapon, but manipulate it through all types of problems."

Cohen's tutoring paid off in Barcelona when Tatum's weapon malfunctioned during a take. He cleared it and used it without anyone being the wiser. "When that malfunction occurred," recalls Cohen, "Channing looked at me, gave me a thumbs up and we moved on to the next shot."

Carano's impressive mixed martial arts experience with its emphasis on hand-to-hand combat did not prepare her for the wide range of weaponry used in the film but Cohen did. "I spent a lot of time developing Gina's primary weapon skills," he says. "We trained her in various forms of sub-machine guns and assault rifles, using real weapons that had been converted into blank-firing weapons. She also worked with pistols, including the Glock 179mm, Sig Sauer 9mm, the Uzi and micro-Uzi, as well as a Commando assault rifle. "The training was comprehensive and very physical," he adds. "Her background gave her a huge advantage in terms of the motor skills needed for handling weapons. She was able to move very quickly and effectively while carrying out complex maneuvers."

Along with the special ops training, Carano worked closely with the film's fight choreographer, J.J. Perry and stunt coordinator R.A. Rondell. Ordinarily the stunt coordinator's job is to teach an actor how to engage in a knockdown drag-out fight without getting hurt. But for Haywire, it was more important for the coordinator to teach the star how to not hurt someone else during the fight scenes.

Her natural athleticism came in handy, says Rondell. "You can teach an athlete to do anything. She came in with a heavy fighting background and she also has a unique discipline. I approached everything I taught her working off her disciplines as a fighter. We had to teach her not to actually hit someone. We had to reprogram her to pull her punches slightly and to react realistically to being movie punched. She actually sat a few people down initially. But in the end, she was as good as any stunt person in the fight scenes."

During her training at Los Angeles' Fight Gym 8711, Carano learned to admire the stunt people she saw working around her. "They are amazing athletes," she says. "All I could do was jump in. I already knew how to punch and kick, but stunt fighting is a completely different art. Since they knew my style is Muay Tai and boxing and Jiu-Jitsu, they incorporated all of that into the fighting scenes. I had my input and they were very receptive to it, which made for some very beautiful fight sequences."

The audience first experiences Mallory's physical prowess in a shocking fight between her and Aaron, played by Channing Tatum. Although they are on the same side in the Barcelona affair, they also find t


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