Using her background in martial arts and wrestling in her new film career, actress and former WWE Diva Eve Torres gets her first opportunity to show her fans how tough she is outside a regulation ring in “The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power.” In the sequel, Torres, who is married to Rener Gracie of the legendary Gracie family of the MMA world, plays the character Chancara, a female warrior who goes head-to-head with lead actress Ellen Hollman’s character Valina.
During our interview, Torres, 30, and I talked about the differences between fighting for the WWE and fighting in movies, the choreography it took for her big scene with Hollman, what it’s like to be a part of the Gracie family, and why she believes all women need to invest in self-defense classes.
“The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power” was recently released on DVD/Blu-ray on Jan. 13.
You have such an impressive background in martial arts and professional wrestling. Did those skills help you with your role for “The Scorpion King 4” or is making movies completely different.
Having a background in martial arts and wrestling with the WWE helped a lot. It helped an incredible amount when it came to fighting on film. But it is still extremely different. Fighting on film is all about camera angles and selling things the right way. Basically, you have to make things look brutal instead of actually making them brutal. (Laughs) There’s a big difference there. When you’re wrestling in front of thousands of people, everything has to be larger than life. But when you’re on camera for a film, everything has to be precise and even subtle sometimes. But I will say my experience in martial arts and wrestling helped me sell my fight scene in “The Scorpion King.”
Talk about the planning it took to make your fight scene with actress Ellen Hollman work in the movie. Was it the same kind of choreography you would use for a WWE Diva fight?
It’s completely different. In wrestling, a lot of stuff in ad-libbed and making stuff up on the spot and reacting to whatever the crowd is reacting to. In film, everything is planned to a tee. Everything has to be choreographed from A to Z. When I got on set, I had about a day to learn the entire choreography. Ellen had that day off, but she came in anyway so she and I could work together and so we could get our chemistry down. It was really important to both of us. The choreography was done by Grant Powell, who is a stunt choreographer from South Africa. He was awesome. He did all this research and looked into my wrestling background and incorporated a lot of that into the fight. It’s pretty epic. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
Did it help that your fighting partner had starred in a project like “Spartacus” for Starz in the past? Did she let you know what to expect?
Yeah, she had done “Spartacus” and she was so comforting. When you really like and enjoy the person you’re working with, the fight turns out so much better. There is trust established and you want to do the best job you can. In the ring [with the WWE], my best matches were with my best friends. I think the fact that Ellen and I got along so well and had fun doing it really sold the fight.
Not only was this your feature film debut, it was also Royce Gracie’s first film. Royce, of course, is your husband’s (Rener Gracie) uncle and one of the members of the legendary Gracie family of the Mixed Martial Arts world. Was it special to share this with him?
It was, but I actually wasn’t on the set when Royce was there. He came on later. But we were at the screening together, so it was pretty cool. They have a few MMA icons in the movie like “Big Country” Nelson, “Bigfoot” Silva, and Don “The Dragon” Nelson, so it was so cool to watch all of them on screen. I thought it came together really well.
How tough do you have to be to be a part of the Gracie family? I mean, during family get togethers, do you have to arm wrestle for the last slice of pie?
(Laughs) Pretty much! Let me tell you, Gracies eat a lot! You should’ve seen us last Thanksgiving. It was like we had enough food to feed a small army. And we finished it all! (Laughs) It’s a really awesome family to be a part of. I come from a big family, so I love that my family has grown even more.
Was it always a hope that your time in the WWE would lead to other things like TV and film?
Yeah, at the time I didn’t know how much I was thinking exactly how it would translate. When I made the decision to end my career [in wrestling], I knew I still really enjoyed the entertainment aspect of the WWE. So, I felt I wanted more of that. But I didn’t want to do the travel. I feel like movies is a great middle ground for me. I’m still able to be physical, especially with these action sequences. I absolutely love it because it’s the best of both worlds.
There are rumors floating around that you might be making a return to the WWE soon. There is also one that states the WWE even went as far as trademarking your name back in October. Is there any truth to those rumors? (Note: On Oct. 24, the WWE filed a trademark application to the U.S Patent and Trademark Office for “Eve Torres” for the purpose of “wrestling exhibitions and performances by professional wrestlers.”)
I always find it so interesting where these rumors come from. That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I never say never, but as of now that’s not in the works.
So, I’m assuming you didn’t hear about the WWE poll either? (Note: WWE.com issued a poll late last year asking fans, “Who is the most dynamic Diva?” The poll was limited to active Divas, with one exception: Eve Torres).
I did hear about that. I saw it on my Twitter feed. People were mentioning what is going on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to still do appearances with the WWE and still come by when they’re in town. But the travel aspect of the work, I just can’t commit to anymore. I still like to stay involved in the ways that I can, but I can’t do it in the same role as I did before.
Something you are committed to is helping women defend themselves against violence and teaching them basic skills to keep them safe. A 2013 study came out recently that says 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced some kind of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Where do you think self-defense should fit into that narrative for women who might find themselves in these situations? Do you think more women need to know basic self-defense techniques?
I believe 100 percent that all women should invest into self-defense. It’s not quite as simple as saying, “Oh, if we all know self-defense, we’ll be able to fight off our attackers.” I think self-defense helps give women confidence and set boundaries for themselves and will help reduce the risk of being targets. Self-defense is complex. There’s a psychological aspect, verbal, and physical aspect to it. I think you have to have all three to have it be an effective means of reducing your risk of assault. My quest is to have women understand all three components. Obviously, the physical part comes from training. We have created a program specifically for women [at graciewomenempowered.com]. But the verbal and psychological aspects are equally as important. Women need to understand that, especially at a young age. These are things I wish I had learned in high school. I may have been able to avoid certain situations I was in as a young woman. Self-defense is confidence building, fun and a great workout. All women should adopt it as a part of their lives.
What do you tell women who might be worried that they don’t have what it takes to meet the physical requirements? I’m sure there are a lot of women out there who simply wouldn’t take self-defense classes because they don’t think they can handle the exercise that comes along with it.
That’s our uphill battle. The No. 1 concern for women is that it won’t work for them because they don’t have what it takes physically defend themselves. That’s the beauty of jujitsu. It’s the perfect combination of martial arts used for self-defense. It was specifically created for the smaller person to defend themselves against a larger person. It’s all about neutralizing a threat and not escalating a threat. It requires no athleticism. You don’t have to do spinning high kicks or be extremely explosive or powerful. Anyone can do it. We have the entire spectrum of women doing it from teenage girls to older women in their 70s. It’s absolutely amazing to see the women who have invested in this for themselves. It’s been one of the most fulfilling things in my life to be able to give that to them.
How is filming for your new movie “Skiptrace” with Jackie Chan Johnny Knoxville going?
I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to talk about yet, but so far it’s really awesome. It’s been incredible fun learning from the best crew in the world. I’m having a blast. I’m excited to go back and shoot in Hong Kong.