Valentina Shevchenko was inside of a boxing gym in Newark, New Jersey, preparing to go on a run. It was the fall of 2019, and the next day Shevchenko would start filming an MMA movie alongside A-list star Halle Berry.
To prepare for the shoot, Shevchenko was cutting weight, and the run was to sweat out some extra pounds. The UFC women’s flyweight champion wanted to appear at her physical 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 weight cut, Berry said, was one of the things she thought necessary to do in order to gain a better understanding of MMA and the sport’s athletes.
“It was hard for me, because I had never done that before,” Berry said. “But that was a really big part of me playing this character. I wanted to experience every aspect of being a fighter that I absolutely could. I wanted to understand what it felt like. And being the director of the story, I felt like I needed to understand it.”
Berry, 55, got a more realistic look into being a fighter than even she intended while making “Bruised.” On the second day of filming, she said, she broke her rib during one of the fight sequences with Shevchenko. Berry said she had previously broken her ribs while filming “John Wick: Chapter 3,” and this was the same sensation.
“I don’t exactly know the moment the kick happened or the knee happened or whatever happened in our fighting,” Berry said. “I just knew at one point I stood up and I had that feeling and I couldn’t breathe.”
Berry said she confided in Shevchenko that something was wrong, but Shevchenko said it would be “fine” and “this happens to me all the time.”
Berry soldiered on despite the injury, because she knew if she told everyone, filming would have been shut down. She felt she might have lost her funding, too, and even if it was just a brief delay, there was a chance Shevchenko would not be available when things got started again. After all, Shevchenko was, and still is, a defending UFC champ.
“It shows the power, her inner power,” Shevchenko said. “And it’s amazing. It was like a fresh breeze to the set. It’s like the energy that ran through. And at this moment, 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 that I had to do what all fighters do,” she said. “As Valentina told me, when you’re in the ring and you get injured, you don’t quit. You keep going. You have no choice, but you fight through it. So just in that moment I thought, no way I’m getting shut down. I’m just going to have to fight through this.”
Berry said she grew up watching boxing and idolizing the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and “Sugar” Ray Leonard. When she saw women in MMA, her interest was piqued in that sport. Berry cited Ronda Rousey, Gina Carano and Miesha Tate as people she gravitated to — and then the sport itself. “Bruised” was initially tied to another director with Blake Lively as the star. But in 2018, Berry took over as director and knew she wanted to be Jackie Justice. Read More