Toronto-raised star Malin Akerman on the sisterhood in 'Chick Fight' and her own life

·4 min read

TORONTO — Like her character in her new film "Chick Fight," Toronto-raised actress Malin Akerman says she's faced a few struggles in her career.

But also like protagonist Anna, who turns her life around through an all-female fight club, the comedy star has pulled through those hard times — thanks to her girlfriends and a little boxing.

"It ebbs and flows all the time; it's constantly shifting and changing and I find myself at bottoms of different barrels," Akerman, who was born in Stockholm, Sweden and moved to Toronto with her family at age two, said in an interview this week.

"In the very beginning it was the struggle that I think most of us have coming out to Hollywood and trying to make it. I had my best girlfriend with me and I wouldn't have been able to do it without her." 

The two were in their early 20s and "literally had zero dollars" in their bank accounts, recalled Akerman, who won the Ford Supermodel of Canada search at age 17 and studied psychology at York University.

"I think we had $20 in our pocket for a good two weeks," said the 42-year-old.

"But I think that's life — you have your ups and your downs. And I have to say, whenever I've been at my lowest, I've had my friends to help pick me back up."

Available digitally across Canada on Friday, "Chick Fight" sees Anna broke and out of work after the coffee shop she owned with no insurance burns down. She's also grieving the recent death of her mother.

Through the encouragement of a girlfriend, played by Dulce Sloan, she joins the underground fight club and finds a source of income and empowerment.

Paul Leyden directed and Joseph Downey wrote "Chick Fight," which also stars Alec Baldwin as Anna's trainer, and Bella Thorne as her fight-club rival.

Akerman said she often boxes for exercise and has a punching bag at home, "which has been a saving grace" during the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I enjoy sparring. I enjoy just whaling on something. It helps," said Akerman, whose other credits include the series "The Comeback" and "Billions," and the films "Couples Retreat" and "The Proposal."

Still, it was a tight, 17-day shooting schedule in Puerto Rico with little time to rehearse and prepare.

Akerman only started training with stunt and fight co-ordinator Shauna Galligan two days before shooting.

"Some of the montage stuff, we had no idea what we were going to do," she said. "We just got into the ring and Shauna would go, 'All right, let's do a left hook and a this and a that, and then you'll bring it down to the ground.'"

The cast had stunt doubles for the complicated fight scenes but did take a few hits.

"There were a few pummelings involved," Akerman said with a laugh.

"There were a few bruises, for sure. Nothing too bad. One of our stunt girls in one of the montage scenes got really knocked hard in the head and got a big goose egg and concussion and she had to sit out for a day."

Filming wrapped just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit but post-production took place remotely, with Leyden in Switzerland and editor Kevin Armstrong in Paris.

Akerman is also a producer on "Chick Fight" and said she was attracted to the film's underdog theme, its empowerment, and the female touch it brings to a largely male-dominated boxing genre. 

"Women, we've always been told that we have to operate differently than men and that certain things are not ladylike and if we're too strong than we're a bitch. There are just these correlations that are so skewed. So I loved the idea of just going, 'Women also need to get their stuff out and get their rage out,'" she said.

"And just having the sisterhood of women come in and hold her up — I think that's a really important message, too. Because we're always depicted in films as very catty, one woman against the other, and I have such great female friends and we stick together and we hold each other up, and I think that's important right now."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2020.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press