When I was first asked to be the casting director for Paramount’s new film adaptation of Ronda Rousey’s best-selling autobiography, My Fight/Your Fight, I was hesitant. I’ve never cast a sports movie before and, truth be told, I don’t follow MMA fighting (I’m too busy with film, haha!).
Anyway, I decided to go into the auditioning process with an open mind. After all, Rousey’s story is so compelling, sports fan or non-sports fan, I wanted to make sure I secured talent who could make that story pop. So I arranged for a typical audition day to find an actor to play the lead role of Ronda. I rented a studio space, set up the folding table and chairs, and chose a scene in the movie to have the potential lead roles act out. Everything was going along great until the first auditioner came in and got knocked the fuck out in like six seconds.
The scene I had the actors audition with was a pivotal point in the movie where Ronda wins her first MMA fight. Here’s the script for the scene:
Everyone ended up breaking a bunch of bones and needing a bunch of ambulances.
Now, I wanted the scene to feel as real as possible so I brought in Hayden “Hurricane” Munoz, the woman who Rousey beat in her first MMA match, to read with the auditioners. Hayden was the picture of professionalism, arrived early, knew all her lines, and even agreed to work the whole day for free. She was also very excited, super jacked up, and ready to do this scene “FOR REVENGE!"she said. Whatever. She was a steal!
One by one, actors would come in to audition, nail the first half of the script, and then get their ass beaten down so hard that they couldn’t stand up and instead writhed on the ground groaning and bleeding everywhere. I’m talking blood on the floor, walls, and the old piano sitting in the corner. It was very hard to watch. Such amateur actors coming into an audition this unprepared.
Of course, I was not watching any of the auditions so I have no clue how all of these actors got beaten the fuck up so bad. Generally I sit through auditions staring at the script to make sure the actors get all the words right. That’s the secret to good casting: Just make sure the actors can memorize their lines — the actual director will do the rest. Anyway, we brought in some of the most veteran, professional actors in the industry and they couldn’t act out a one-minute scene without getting all jacked up somehow.
I mean, look at some of the big names we had come in and read for the part of Ronda:
Kate Winslet - Collarbone broken in three places
Elizabeth Banks - Both elbows bent wrong way
Jessica Biel - Her shoulders popped off. I can’t think of a better way to describe it.
Katherine Heigl - Lost five teeth. The important ones.
Jennifer Hudson - Head split open but was strangely not bleeding very much for how large the wound was. She also was acting like everything was normal. That was the most disturbing one of all.
After seeing some of the top actresses in Hollywood read for the part and coming up with zilch except some astronomical emergency medical bills, I got a genius idea. Who is better at playing Ronda Rousey than Ronda Rousey? Other than Jessica Biel, of course, the answer to that is a resounding NO ONE!
So I had Ronda come in to read for the part. I treated her like the rest of the auditioners, handed her a script and then sat with my head down making sure she got all the words right. She did! Incidentally, Hayden ran out of the room crying at some point during the scene, but at that point we didn’t need her anymore. Ronda booked Ronda, and it wasn’t even close.
As we were leaving I said congratulations to her and gave her a friendly punch on the arm. Next thing I knew I’m peeing through a tube and writing this via voice-recognition software. I don’t know what’s happening with me, I can be so scatterbrained sometimes!