She trained five times a week and shadowed a Secret Service agent but Abbie Cornish says it was playfighting with her brothers that really set her up for action movie stardom.
The Australian actress, 35, plays a Secret Service agent in Geostorm, a futuristic disaster film. She also stars as the reporter Kate Adie in 6 Days, about the Iranian embassy siege in 1980.
Cornish said: “I love being a part of an action film — I’m not sure why, maybe because I grew up on a farm and my mum was a national karate champion and I grew up with her doing karate all the time.
"I was always playing with my brothers, fake sword fights and games around the farm. I think for me it ignites the child in me a little bit.”
Portraying her character in Geostorm, who she says is “sensitive and sexy but ... also strong and can kick some butt”, gave her a chance to practise her fighting skills.
“I’ve always done mixed martial arts and I’ve also trained a lot with professional boxing trainers,” she said.
For the film, “I was training five times a week, I was training with the Secret Service and FBI and LAPD. I spent some time with a Secret Service agent, he was so open with me, such a lovely person. We just hung out and talked. He was very open about some things — he would be like, ‘Don’t tell anybody, but...’”
Cornish won acclaim for playing John Keats’s lover Fanny Brawne in 2009’s Bright Star.
She starred in fantasy action film Sucker Punch and has more recently taken parts in the RoboCop remake and Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which has been pegged as an Oscar contender.
She also stars in Amazon’s Jack Ryan series and has a successful career as a rapper in Australia.
“I was wanting to do another big film for a little while,” she said. “I had such a great time on RoboCop and movies of that scale.”
Geostorm, also starring Gerard Butler, had its premiere in Los Angeles yesterday and is released here on Friday. Cornish stars as an agent protecting the US president, played by Andy Garcia, during a global weather disaster.
“The action stuff was very contained,” she said. “We were in the cab in this studio for two days straight, a little car with these crazy lights.
"We were a little nutty after that but you get to know each other’s sense of humour. There was a scene where I had to run down the street and we probably shot that half the night.
"I felt like Wonder Woman when I woke up in the morning. It was like a 12-hour transformation — for two days I would get up out of the chair and go, ‘Ouch’.”