Halle Berry and Valentina Shevchenko formed a friendship on set through pain and weight cuts

Valentina Shevchenko was inside a boxing gym in Newark, New Jersey, preparing to run. It was fall 2019 and the next day Shevchenko would start shooting an MMA movie alongside roster star Halle Berry.

To prepare for the shoot, Shevchenko reduced the weight and the run had to sweat a few extra pounds. The UFC flyweight champion wanted to appear at her best for the fight scenes. She put on her sauna suit and was about to start the run when Berry unexpectedly entered the gym.

The Oscar-winning actress had the same idea.

“I started doing my training and then I saw Halle,” Shevchenko told ESPN with a laugh. “She walked into the gym, the same thing – in a sauna suit.”

“Bruised,” which Berry described as a labor of love, premieres Wednesday on Netflix after it opened in theaters last week. Berry plays Jackie Justice, a UFC veteran who returns to the cage while juggling several difficult personal issues. The mixed martial arts film was also Berry’s first director. Shevchenko plays the formidable rival of Berry’s character, Lucia “Lady Killer” Chavez.

Reducing the weight, said Berry, was one of the things she felt needed to be done to better understand MMA and the athletes in the sport.

“It was difficult for me, because I had never done this before,” said Berry. “But that was a really big part of me playing that character. I wanted to experience every aspect of being a fighter that I absolutely could. I wanted to understand what it was like. And as the director of the story, I felt like I needed to figure it out. “

Berry, 55, had a more realistic take on being a fighter than she expected while doing “Bruised”. On the second day of filming, she said, she broke her rib during one of the fight sequences with Shevchenko. Berry said she already broke her ribs while filming “John Wick: Chapter 3”, and that it was the same feeling.

“I’m not sure exactly when the kick or the knee came in or whatever happened in our fights,” Berry said. “I just knew that at one point I got up and got this feeling and I couldn’t breathe.”

Berry said she confided in Shevchenko that something was wrong, but Shevchenko said it would be “good” and “it happens to me all the time”.

Berry persevered despite the injury because she knew that if she had told everyone, the shooting would have been stopped. She felt that she too might have lost her funding, and even though it was only a brief delay, there was a chance Shevchenko might not be available when things started again. After all, Shevchenko was, and still is, a defending UFC champion.

“It shows the power, its inner power,” Shevchenko said. “And it’s amazing. It was like a cool breeze on the set. It’s like the energy that came through. And at that point, everyone knew we were going to do it no matter what. , until the end.”

Berry said she felt like she had no choice in the matter.

“I knew I had to do what all fighters do,” she said. “Like Valentina told me, when you’re in the ring and hurt yourself, you don’t give up. You keep going. You don’t have a choice, but you fight. So just then, I thought, impossible I’m going to have to fight through this. “

Berry said she grew up watching boxing and idolizing Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and “Sugar” Ray Leonard. When she saw women in MMA, her interest was piqued in the sport. Berry cited Rousey’s Tower, Gina Carano and Miesha Tate as people she gravitated to, then the sport itself. “Bruised” was originally linked with another director with Blake Lively as the star. But in 2018, Berry took over as a director and knew she wanted to be Jackie Justice.

“It’s kind of that lucky moment where a project collided with me and that was exactly what I needed, because that was where I was personally,” Berry said. “It was this project.

“It was exhausting and I pushed myself harder than I thought I could go. And especially at my age, I was really proud of it. Because what it says is we can do anything we can do. we want to do. I realized when to make this movie, combat is so much a mental game. You can be great, but it’s all about the mental and emotional game of how you feel. And that determines what you feel. can and cannot do. “

Berry said she had been a Shevchenko fan for years before selecting the Kyrgyzstan native to be in the film. Berry said she called the UFC and specifically asked for Shevchenko, although she was not sure Shevchenko wanted to “fuck” in Hollywood while being a UFC champion.

Berry thought that if she was an MMA fighter she would probably fight at 125 pounds like Shevchenko, so who better to throw than “the queen” of this weight class? Now, after bonding training together and fierce fight scenes, Berry and Shevchenko have become close friends.

“I want to be in every one of his fights,” Berry said. “Normally I can watch a fight and I’m for all fighters. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. But when Valentina is going to fight, from now until the end of her career – when you love someone and you i really care someone so much the last thing i wanna do is see her hurt i never wanna see her lose it will always be one of those situations i wanna see but i don’t want to see. I love him too much. “

Shevchenko, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, said she was amazed at Berry’s ability to fight every day to make the fight scenes as realistic as possible. Shevchenko said wake-up calls during those days were at 5 a.m. and they didn’t finish filming until almost midnight. She likened the physical drudgery to training camp to prepare for a UFC title defense. Every take, Shevchenko said, had to be at full power for it to look good on film.

“It’s every take [and] you have to do the best you can, ”Shevchenko said. “And certainly everyone is human. They are tired. We were tired at the end of the day. And the wounds come. “

Berry and Shevchenko have been busy advertising “Bruised” for the past few weeks. Shevchenko said she left her Las Vegas home for Los Angeles a day after defend your title with a TKO victory more Lauren Murphy September 25 at UFC 266 to do a women’s health photoshoot.

Both women said they were very happy with the film’s turn and the fight scenes it contains. And they’re not the only ones, Berry said. On set, Berry spoke to a well-known MMA referee Keith peterson, who played the official in the cage during the fight between Jackie Justice and “Lady Killer”.

“[Peterson] said, ‘I thought for a minute I was watching a real Valentina fight,’ “Berry said. This. For him to say that, I knew I had at least achieved the goal I was aiming for. was fixed: look like a real fighter. “

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