'The Marine' actress can take the heat

By Rick Bentley
The Fresno Bee

Kelly Carlson had no problem finding the motivation to act scared during a chase scene in the new action movie The Marine. The film is open nationwide but wasn't shown to critics ahead of time so it could be reviewed.

In one sequence, Carlson is seated in the back seat of a black Explorer. Her character is being kidnapped. The scene is familiar to fans of action films: The car races along at top speed in an effort to elude the hero.

The hero in this case is played by World Wrestling Entertainment champion John Cena. He plays a Marine whose wife is taken hostage by a group of diamond thieves.

"There was a stuntman driving. We are going down this country road when suddenly the steering wheel fell off. This happened just as we were heading toward a curve in the road," Carlson says during a telephone interview.

The actress, who is best known for her steamy and slightly demented role as Kimber Henry on the cable series Nip/Tuck, has a day off from filming the current season of the FX network series. Nip/Tuck airs 10 p.m. Tuesdays.

The Explorer went flying off the road. It was going about 30 mph, but any speed seems frightening without a steering wheel.

"Our safety guy almost had a coronary. The great thing was the stunt driver was able to use the brakes to get us safely stopped," Carlson says. 'It was bizarre."

Carlson knows bizarre. On Nip/Tuck her character, a walking advertisement for the plastic-surgery work done on the show, was attacked by a madman who decided to reverse every one of her plastic surgery procedures. Then there was Kimber's work in the porn business.

So far, she has not had to face four-wheeled mayhem on the television show. But the incident with the steering wheel was not her only fearful moment in a vehicle while making The Marine.

There is a scene late in the movie in which Carlson's character drives a truck that is on fire. The scene was shot under close supervision, so there was minimal chance that anything bad could happen.

That was little consolation to Carlson.

"It scared the hell out of me. They just assumed that people have done this a million times. Well, I haven't," the 30-year-old Minneapolis native says. She laughs softly, which could mean she's having a nervous reminder of the moment or a signal that she is just kidding about being scared.

"When I was driving the truck, logically all I could think about was, 'There is gas in this truck and it is on fire.' In the end, I just had to trust the pyro guys."

Her work on Nip/Tuck this season has been less scary than in past years. That's because the series, Carlson says, is moving back to the family stories that drove the first year.

That means this year, Kimber is dealing with her own spirituality by embracing Scientology instead of having plastic surgery.

"This approach this season will give Kimber a little less time in the early episodes. But, Kimber stories always get heavy toward the middle of the season," Carlson says.

Her role in The Marine is the opposite of Kimber. Carlson gets to play a loving and caring wife who also can handle herself in a fight.

In the production notes for The Marine, Cena says: "Kelly can fight. She and Abigail Bianca, who plays the villainous Angela, have a fight sequence in the film, where they went at it WWE-style. They made sure each kick and punch meant something. When I heard that they accidentally really connected by mistake, I patted them on the shoulder and said, 'Welcome to WWE.' "

It has been physically and emotionally bruising for Kimber on Nip/Tuck. The actress explains that playing that kind of role can be far more draining than fight scenes, runaway cars or burning vehicles.

"Any scenes where you have to cry is exhausting. In a scene where I am losing, it has to look real. That means I have to find something in my own life to vent. I am always exhausted after spending the day crying," Carlson says.

To tap into her emotions so she can cry in a scene, Carlson thinks about her father who died 10 years ago before she found success in Hollywood.

Carlson worked on The Marine two years ago. It was filmed about the same time she landed roles in the feature films Paparazzi"and Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation.

For her next film project, Carlson says she would love to be cast in a romantic comedy. That would mean there would be fewer scenes to put her character in physical, mental or emotional danger.

"I hope someone would see me that way," Carlson says. 

Copyright 2006. The Fresno Bee. All Rights Reserved.

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