ON THE SAME PAIGE

MEET THE MODEL WHO KNEW OF THE WRESTLER BE­CAUSE SHE’S A BIG FAN

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | SCREENLIFE - WORDS: SEANNA CRONIN Fight­ing With My Fam­ily is in cine­mas now.

Ellie Gon­salves didn’t need to look up who Saraya Knight was when she got a call from Dwayne “The Rock’’ John­son about star­ring in his new film.

The Bris­bane-based model al­ready knew all about the wrestling star, who goes by the name of Paige in the ring, when she said yes to the com­edy drama – which will be her act­ing de­but.

Fight­ing With My Fam­ily, co-pro­duced by John­son and direc­tor Stephan Mer­chant, tells Knight’s real-life un­der­dog story of a teenager from a scrappy wrestling fam­ily in the UK who goes on to be­come the WWE’S youngest ever Di­vas Cham­pion.

“I’m a re­ally big WWE fan,” Gon­salves says. “My part­ner (Ross Scutts) and I have been to­gether for 10 years and I orig­i­nally got into it be­cause he and his lit­tle brothers loved it. I would go to his par­ents’ for a Fri­day night din­ner and they’d all be watch­ing so I’d sit down with them.

“I’d al­ready heard of Paige and I knew a lot about her story al­ready; it’s a very in­spi­ra­tional sto­ry­line on WWE as well. To have seen that and then to be in a movie about that is so crazy.”

The 28-year-old, who re­cently moved back to her home­town af­ter liv­ing in Los An­ge­les for the past four years, plays one of the other re­cruits Paige meets in the WWE’S de­vel­op­men­tal branch NXT.

Up­rooted from her tight-knit fam­ily, Paige (Florence Pugh) doesn’t feel as though she fits in with the other women – many of whom are for­mer mod­els and cheer­lead­ers with no for­mal wrestling train­ing.

“The con­trast be­tween her char­ac­ter and mine and the other two di­vas is pretty crazy. With the white teeth, tanned skin and busty fig­ures, we rep­re­sent the pretty typ­i­cal look for WWE back in the day,” Gon­salves says.

“She comes in and she’s very goth-like and has this se­ri­ous wrestling vibe about her.”

Gon­salves, who shot to fame wear­ing a white bikini in Yel­low Tail’s 2017 Su­per Bowl ad, can re­late.

“When I first moved to LA, I had a mo­ment like she has when she is ly­ing on her sofa bawl­ing her eyes out be­cause she misses her fam­ily and doesn’t feel like she fits in,” she says.

But Paige even­tu­ally dis­cov­ers there is more to the other women than meets the eye and the four di­vas even­tu­ally form a close bond. “It’s very rel­e­vant in this day and age with so­cial me­dia that you don’t judge a book by its cover,” Gon­salves says. “Peo­ple make the mis­take of hav­ing a per­cep­tion of some­one or they judge them too early on when they don’t know their story.

“This is a true story that hap­pened years ago but it’s still rel­e­vant now. It sends a good mes­sage to peo­ple, and it’s heart­felt and hi­lar­i­ous too.”

Play­ing the part of a WWE diva was a phys­i­cal chal­lenge for Gon­salves, who is cur­rently train­ing for her first half marathon.

Many of her scenes with Pugh and Vince Vaughn, who plays NXT boss Hutch, in­volved ac­tion in the ring or boot camp-style train­ing on the beach.

“We were in the gym for hours ev­ery day and we did a ton of work with the stunt train­ers to learn how to wres­tle like di­vas. The most im­por­tant thing for us was for this to be an au­then­tic per­for­mance,” she says.

“I got to do all of my stunts ex­cept for one and I re­ally en­joyed it. Of course there are a few bumps and bruises; you don’t come out un­scathed when you do one scene 25 times.

“With those beach drills, they made us do it from start to fin­ish and we did those about 30 times. When Vince is yelling at us, we’re act­ing but we are ac­tu­ally tired.”

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