Ana de Armas on the importance of women leading action films

MANILA, Philippines — In the Russo Brothers-directed spy thriller The Gray Man, strong female characters get their share of the spotlight, saving the day and even the male hero in times of distress.

Like Ana de Armas, who is also front and center of all the action alongside male co-stars such as Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. She plays CIA agent Dani Miranda, who comes to the rescue of The Gray Man, aka Agent Six (Ryan Gosling), not just once but several times, prompting the latter to quip that he is hurting not from his injuries, but from a bruised ego.

In one intense fight sequence, Ana goes “mano o mano” (or “woman o mano,” as Ryan put it during the film’s recent virtual presscon) with Bollywood star Dhanush as a hired assassin.

The 34-year-old Cuban star loves everything about her character, which by the way is not in the novel The Gray Man by Mark Greaney that the film is based on.

She said she’s been in movies where she’s presented as both beautiful and badass, but that it’s “refreshing” to be kicking butts with less focus on appearances.

“I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I was a woman in high-heels kicking ass … in a Bond movie looking beautiful and, you know, the way I was supposed to (be) for that movie,” she told the media during a virtual global presser.

“But there is something really refreshing about this one where the focus is not on that. And I’m not Ryan’s love interest. We’ve done that, too. We’ve been there,” she quipped, referring to their previous film Blade Runner 2049.

“So, it’s about her power in a different way, you know? It’s really cool. And it’s important to put women in action films in that light and have that vision of it, and accentuate that part of badass women.”

Besides Ana, The Gray Man also stars Alfre Woodard, Julia Butters and Jessica Henwick as strong and dynamic female characters.

Alfre, who plays the agency’s lady boss, also weighed in on the question why it was important to see more women leading action movies.

“It’s important because we are the stronger gender. So, we just need to keep… you know, thankfully, these guys have the kind of women in their lives that they know that,” she said.

“Whether they’re moms, aunties, daughters and all. You know, Ryan is just rocked by strong women in his life. So, we’re just presenting real life. And a lot of times, you don’t get that in film.”

As for Julia Butters, the youngest cast member in the film, she believes that it’s very important that female action heroes aren’t presented as “women wearing high heels, and beating the guys, and oh, they’re so sexy. You know, it’s very important that you represent them also in a way where they’re doing a job. And it doesn’t matter if they are found attractive necessarily. Even though this is a gorgeous cast.”

“But yeah, I think it’s very important to represent women as women instead of, you know, high heels, long hair, long nails, whipping the boys, you know? I think it’s very important to represent them respectfully and powerfully at the same time,” the teen actress added.

Meanwhile, in a separate roundtable, attended by The STAR, we asked Ana more about how she helped further develop her character, which as mentioned is entirely new.

She gladly took on the role because she was “this vibrant, strong, intelligent, independent woman. She was not the love interest. She was not the girl who had to be rescued and she was quite the opposite.”

“She was the agent assigned to complete this mission and therefore when things go wrong, she’s the one who has to figure out how to get out of there alive and clean up after Six’s mess. Also, kind of try to connect all the dots pretty quickly and be ahead of everyone else,” she further told this paper.

“And figure out who to trust, which is clearly very difficult in this movie because you don’t know who is who and what the intentions are. I loved all of it about her. It wasn’t just about physical strength. It was just like also psychological side of it. And also at the same time, the human side of her, how kind of flexible she is to adapting to the situation.”

To meet the demands of her part, Ana said she went through a process where she had to identify the things she was good at.

“The preparation for this film was quite long to my advantage. I think I started learning about myself, what I was best at, what were my strengths,” she said.

She collaboratively built the character with the directors. “The Russos were not with me on training. So, we had to like every other day catch up, and I would keep them posted about what I feel more comfortable doing. What wasn’t good, what wasn’t, you know? And we started building the character that way… putting more into the movie about what I was good at,” she recalled.

Part of her preparation and research was talking to a real CIA agent and working with a military trainer. “Because Dani Miranda works at the office, (and) she’s also in the field. So, it is a rare crossover happening there and I just wanted to have both sides of it — the physical, hardcore military training and background, and at the same time, someone who’s highly intelligent and sensitive and always like, trying to solve problems, ” Ana said.

“So, it just happened that this character came to life in a very organic and collaborative way because at the beginning, I really didn’t know what was gonna happen. Like, I hadn’t gone to this extent of training before. So, I just didn’t know how I was going to respond or my body was going to respond to this, or if I was going to feel strong enough or whatever. So, it just happened.”

“And the character, I just loved it. I love who this woman is and all her background, her training, her mentality, and how badass and how fearless she is, and all of that.”

(The Gray Man is now streaming on Netflix.)


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