“She does 95% of her [fighting] stunts herself, which was important to me because I could do long takes of her. She’s a dancer and therefore we were able to train her in ways other action heroes simply cannot do, including this kick coming up. The stunt coordinator came to me and said, ‘She can kick a guy in the head, behind her, around a pole.’” – Joss Whedon discussing actress and former ballerina Summer Glau in his commentary for his 2005 movie Serenity
I don’t know about you, but ballet dancers are not the first people I think of when the phrase “kicking ass” is mentioned. (Just look at the street gangs in the opening of 1961’s West Side Story, for instance.) However, a few of them have found a home in movies where they get to play action heroes or villains. In these cases, their ability to learn complex series of fighting exchanges, and to move their bodies in ways most people cannot, serves them well.
One woman in particular has used her skills in several movies. That actress is Zhang Ziyi. She has appeared in three movies that I will be reviewing – Hero (2002), House of Flying Daggers, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She also appeared in Rush Hour 2, but I won’t be reviewing that.
Another actress who I know started out as a ballerina is Summer Glau. She is referenced in the quote at the top of this post. I have a link to my Serenity review below.
As for the men, the two most famous that made the transition to acting are Mikhail Baryshnikov and Alexander Godunov. I have not seen any movie of Baryshnikov’s where he really gets to do a big action scene. Godunov does get to play a major villain in Die Hard. He has a big fight with Bruce Willis (or at least Willis’ stunt double). I have a link to my Die Hard review below.
As I post the new reviews, I will come back and post the links to them here:
Serenity (previously posted)
On to the reviews…