Celebrity Crossover: Gina Carano of ‘Haywire’

gina caranoWhen word got out that Gina Carano would be starring as the leading lady of Steven Soderbergh‘s spy thriller, Haywire, I was immediately intrigued. Granted, it’s not the first time a martial arts expert has graced the silver screen thanks to the likes of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, but it’s much less common to see a female make such a substantial crossover. Of course, it makes sense, especially when dealing with such action-packed movies, and Carano is the perfect pick for the job. Her well-trained athletic ability and good looks will undoubtedly provide great authenticity to any role she plays, automatically making her a huge box office draw. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Carano’s come a long way to make it to where she is today.

Born on April 16, 1982 in Dallas County, Tex., Carano was the middle child of Dana Cason and Glenn Carano. She has two siblings (both sisters) and is of Italian descent. And given the fact that her father was a former quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, one can’t be too surprised that she became an outstanding athlete herself — it’s in her genes. By the age of 18, Carano graduated from Trinity High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she helped lead her high school basketball team to a state championship. She also attended the University of Nevada for three years where she majored in psychology.

But later she discovered that her true passion lied in the area of Mixed Martial Arts. Carano kicked off her fighting career by developing a background in Muay Thai kickboxing (Thailand’s combat style) and went on to hold a professional record of 12-1-1. From there she was invited to participate in the first-ever sanctioned female Mixed Martial Arts fight in Las Vegas in 2006, where she beat her opponent Rosi Sexton in the second round. And the rest, as they say, is history. Since then it’s been one victory after another and her popularity continues to grow both in and out of the ring. In fact, she actually served as a mentor to aspiring female fighters in the Oxygen reality series Fight Girls and appeared as “Crush” on the NBC show American Gladiators. With all this growing on-screen time, it’s not surprising she was ranked #5 on the Top Ten Influential Women of 2008 list on Yahoo and ranked #16 in Maxim’s Hot 100 list in May 2009.

However, it now seems that Carano is determined to make her mark outside the martial arts arena and is attempting to solidify her place in the entertainment world in a more permanent way. She’s been in a few fighting related flicks here and there, but never as the leading lady and never in this caliber of movie. So how did this fighter-turned-actress’ transition come about? Soderbergh actually watched one of her fights, thought she’d be a perfect fit for the film, and decided to offer her the part. Of course, one could find it intimidating to go up against the likes of Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, and Michael Fassbender, but if anyone’s up to the task, it’s Carano. Perhaps she could even teach those guys a thing or two.

Will this be one of many more box office hits in Carano’s future? I can’t see why not. Hollywood is always looking for the next big female powerhouse and this girl really seems to fit the bill. Plus you know she’ll look absolutely gorgeous in all those Red Carpet gowns. She’ll fit right in!

Be sure to watch Gina Carano in action when Haywire hits theaters on January 20.