Gina Carano, who stars in the action drama "Haywire," trains...

Gina Carano, who stars in the action drama "Haywire," trains at Burro Canyon Shooting range in San Gabriel Canyon, Calif., last month. (Dec. 14, 2011) Credit: MCT

Gina Carano has been kicked in the ribs, punched in the face and elbowed in the stomach on multiple occasions in what she calls a “honorable and beautiful” act.

But put her on a wooden board connecting one building to another via the rooftop and ask her to run across it. Nothing honorable or beautiful about that. Turns out, this tough Texas-raised mixed martial artist is afraid of heights.

“Ooooooh my gosh,” Carano, 29, said. “You could tell that if I would have tripped . . . or something, it would have been game over.”

She made it across the board, to the next building and into movie theaters nationwide Friday in the Steven Soderbergh action thriller “Haywire.” Carano plays Mallory Kane, a Marine turned freelance special agent who must save herself from attack after a botched rescue operation. She stars opposite Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum and Antonio Banderas.

“I was like, 'This is Zorro in front of me,'" Carano said about sharing camera space with Banderas. "Desperado.”

It’s the first leading role for Carano, very much the face of women’s MMA even though she hasn’t fought inside the cage in more than two years. Carano rose to prominence in her sport with a combination of talent and good looks. Those same two traits helped land this role -- Soderbergh saw her on TV one night and created this movie from that, he says -- and now her fighting is done in the street, in a diner, in a hotel room or on a building, but definitely all in front of a camera.

“I did all the climbing up the building and all the jumping and everything, but there was one thing I couldn’t do,” Carano said. “And that was take the fall.”

Insurance reasons kept Carano from falling down and rolling off the building. That didn’t sit well with Carano. “I was sitting there like, ‘No, I want to do a hundred percent of my own stunts, that’s why I got the job.’

Then . . . “When I saw her do the stunt,” Carano said. “I was like ‘Oh -- --, I don’t think I could have done that.”

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