Halle Berry on Training For Netflix's Bruised: "Nothing Was More Exciting Than Being in the Cage"

Courtesy of Netflix
Courtesy of Netflix

Halle Berry's directorial debut film Bruised is almost ready to stream on Netflix. In a press preview, POPSUGAR got to check out the film ahead of its Nov. 24 release. Along with directing Bruised, Halle Berry stars as MMA fighter Jackie Justice in the film, which takes audiences through an emotional redemption story of a disgraced MMA fighter and her demanding journey back into the octagon (the MMA's version of a boxing ring).

Watching the film we could only imagine the rigorous training that went into these roles. POPSUGAR spoke with Berry, Sheila Atim who plays Jackie Justice's trainer Bobbi Buddhakan Berroa, and UFC Champion Valentina Shevchenko who plays Jackie Justice's opponent, Lucia "Lady Killer" Chavez about the physical and mental preparation process for their roles.

As both director and actor Berry described it as ". . . one of the most challenging things I'd ever had to do, to sort of bifurcate my energies and those brain spaces. . . I had to count on myself, and trust that it was all inside of me."

How Did the Cast of Bruised Train For Their Roles?

Berry told POPSUGAR that she had to fold in six different styles of martial arts — judo, TaeKwonDo, jujitsu, wrestling, Muay Thai, and boxing — into her current yoga, strength training, and Pilates routine. Berry explained, ". . . all of these disciplines I had to learn elements of in order to present myself, and to have one believe that I really was this world class fighter that had been doing it probably for most of my life. So I pushed myself harder than I think I've ever pushed myself. I know I trained more hours, probably six days a week, about four, five hours a day, for at least a good year in my life."

"I know I trained more hours, probably six days a week, about four, five hours a day. . ." - Halle Berry

While Berry ramped up her regular fitness routine, Shevchenko was ready the moment she got the role. The 33-year-old UFC Champion told POPSUGAR that she's been fighting for 28 years and went through the same physical training process that she would for a regular fight. Along with her endurance training (comprised of three-hours practicing grappling, striking, and going over combinations), Shevchenko mentioned that she went through her usual process of wearing a sauna suit to help her cut weight — a sweaty dehydrating process that is shown in the film. When speaking about her overall pre-fight fitness routine, Shevchenko made it clear that "[t]his is the most difficult exercise in endurance . . . it's kind of for professional fighters who are getting ready to step into the octagon and fight for the belt, for the ranking. It's kind of different level for endurance."

As Justice's trainer in the movie, Atim also went through a similar endurance-based physical fitness training to Berry but was more focused on grappling and jujitsu. "I had to do much less than Halle, for obvious reasons, but I did . . . make a point of practicing drills every day, even just in my apartment in front of the mirror," Atim explained. She also learned how to coach from a couple of martial arts trainers that she knew so that she could apply the appropriate phrases and mannerisms to her role as Berroa. "[F]or me it was very much about understanding the actual role of a trainer, in terms of what it is that they're focused on when they're trying to get somebody to peak athleticism. . . but also making sure that I myself had done a little bit of training so that I knew what I was telling people to do, I could be on the receiving end of it . . . the kind of shouting and looking moody, I just, that came for free. I know how to do that already."

BRUISED (2021), HALLE BERRY, director
Courtesy of Netflix

How Did the Cast of Bruised Train For Their Scenes Together?

Shevchenko said that the focus when training together as a cast was making sure that they could emulate the fight sequences realistically without hurting one another. "It was teamwork. We were building fighting altogether. . . It's the same things that a fighter would do in the real fight. [T]his is what exactly fighter would do inside of the octagon what I would do in my usually fights."

"Nothing was more exciting than being in the cage, in the octagon with the real reigning champion . . ." - Halle Berry

Berry detailed the process of working with UFC Champion Shevchenko while training together ahead of filming. "Nothing was more exciting than being in the cage, in the octagon with the real reigning champion, and learning from her, and sparring with her, and having her teach me the intricacies of fighting." While she admitted that Shevchenko bruised two of her ribs, Berry said that "it was an honor." Berry continued, saying that she also asked Shevchenko about the mental side of being a fighter including "the psychological component that has to be present with us to even step in the ring . . . I learned so much from fighting with . . . a real champion." When we asked her about any particular ritual she has before getting ready for a fight with Shevchenko, Berry gave us her pre-fight prayer.

"'Dear God, please. Please, Movie Gods. Show up for us, Movie Gods. Let her be able to movie fight . . . please let me be able to perform all these moves that I've worked on so long. So hard. When the camera's rolling and the pressure's on, let me be able to actually perform this fight. Remember this choreography, not hurt her, not get hurt.' It was a constant, just praying. Praying that it all came together the way I imagined it would in my mind."

After watching Bruised, we think Berry's prayers were answered. The film is set to premiere on Netflix, worldwide, Nov. 24 — as of Nov. 17 you can watch the film in select theaters.

Halle Berry Bruised Netflix Key Art
Courtesy of Netflix