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The Mary Sue Interview: Hercules‘s Ingrid Bolsø Berdal Talks About Women In Action Movies

Gosh I love arrows.


Today the Dwayne Johnson-led Hercules, which you’ll no-doubt remember from both Rebecca Pahle’s GIF-laden review and from that scene in the trailer where the dude throws a horse at somebody, hits shelves on Blu-Ray and DVD. We spoke briefly with Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, the film’s sole arrow-launching lady badass, about her history with action movies and how she thinks there needs to be more room for women to be women in them. Spoiler alert: she’s kind of awesome.

In Hercules Berdal plays Atalanta, an Amazonian warrior and member of the film’s central band of protagonists. She’s not the only female character, thankfully, but she’s certainly the only one who fights on the battlefield, and throughout the movie her potential clients and opponents alike don’t take her as seriously as they do the other mercenaries (this is despite the scene where she actively decides to take higher ground in the middle of a giant battle, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen an archer in a battle sequence do before. Take that, Legolas!)

This male-dominated aspect of the film was definitely something that Berdal says she thought about in approaching the character: She told us:

To me it was important that we created her in a way so that she didn’t necessarily have to respond in an aggressive way. Sometimes if you’re in a very male environment, you kind of subconsciously create the way you’re speaking and talking to feel respected by the guys. For me it was important to create something that has the femininity and the softness there, that we can be strong but still be a woman. And obviously it’s walking-on-a-tightrope kind of task because of her being a warrior and being in this sort of a film.

But what about all of those scenes in the movie where somebody balks at the idea of a woman mercenary? “I think that to me, Atalanta wouldn’t care. She’s so on the top of the food chain that she doesn’t care if people take her seriously and she doesn’t have to prove anything.” Right on, girl.

Berdal’s no stranger to action movies, of course; last year she was also featured in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, where she got to beat up—and get beaten up by—Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton using magic and anachronistic steampunk machine guns (in case you’re wondering, I’m kind of obsessed with this movie, too). We asked if there’s something about action films that interests her more than other work, and she said:

It’s something that I think is fun! Growing up I loved sports, and my brothers sometimes would invite me into the television room with their friends to watch all these action films. I also read a lot of Marvel Comics, all those superhero comics, my brothers had those. Something about it just makes me go, “oh, yeah, that’s really cool” when it comes to proper action films. So I put the value in it from my own joy and when I watch the films myself, it’s joyful! It’s two hours of forgetting about the problems that you have. With a film like Hercules, you can go into a theater and have a fun two hours, or watch it on DVD now that it’s out.

From an educational point of view, I’m educated as an actor and I’ve trained [for action roles], so hopefully in future projects they are more conscious of… I mean, I would love to do a little drama as well, but the amount of experience that I’ve learned about these films from a woman’s point of view… when you’re writing things for women, the message that I want to get out there is that [in action movies,] we don’t have to do things the way that all of the guys are doing them. We have so much to give, and I think that it’s important to remember that we can achieve things also in an action film, in the genre, and not in the way that the guys would necessarily be doing it. We love these movies too, you know?

Considering how few leading roles there are in action movies for women and how most of the roles we do celebrate, like Angelina Jolie’s Salt, were originally written for men—the “strong female character” fallacy comes to mind here, of course— that’s certainly a sentiment we can get behind. Hey, Hollywood! Give more women the opportunity to kick ass!

Of course, we couldn’t let Berdal go without asking her if she had a favorite Marvel character as a kid that she’d like to get the chance to play on the big screen. “Growing up I was very much in love with the Fantastic Four,” she admitted. “I had a dream of playing Sue Storm. I love that mythology and the way that they change. But I guess that ship has sailed for me now!” Hey, you never know. There’s already been two Sue Storms. There’s no saying there can’t be another, right?

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