'The Old Guard' turns KiKi Layne into stunt-fighting action hero

Kiki Layne joins "The Old Guard" team of immortal mercenaries. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
1 of 3 | Kiki Layne joins "The Old Guard" team of immortal mercenaries. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, July 10 (UPI) -- KiKi Layne, who plays an immortal warrior in the Netflix original movie The Old Guard, credits stunt training and help from co-star Charlize Theron with turning her into an action hero.

Layne plays Nile in the film, which premieres Friday. Her superpower is that she can heal from wounds that would be fatal to regular humans. In real life, the bumps and bruises from stunts and fight scenes need a little more help.


Theron "gave me these different creams and ointments," Layne told UPI in a recent phone interview. "She just came to set one day like 'Here, girl. You're going to need all of this.'"

Theron plays Andy, a veteran immortal and leader of a mercenary group that recruits Nile. The actress is an action film veteran, starring in Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde and The Fate of the Furious.


Layne trained for fight scenes with the 87eleven stunt team, creators of the John Wick franchise and choreographers of Atomic Blonde.

The daily training involved hours of strength-building workouts, stunts and choreography, as well as combat tactics and weapons training.

"They were not messing around," Layne said. "They threw it all at us."

The Old Guard is the second action movie in which Layne appears after 2019's Captive State. This is the first one in which Layne was involved with intricately choreographed fight scenes. She credits 87eleven with building her into an action hero.

"They believed in my capabilities more than I may have believed in myself," Layne said. They "really showed me strength that I didn't even know I had."

Layne got to go toe-to-toe with Theron. Nile resists joining Andy's team. She tries to escape from Andy on an airborne plane, but Nile still is new at being immortal. She's no match for Andy.

Theron and Layne had rehearsed the fight in the 87eleven studio. However, the fuselage of the plane was not as spacious as the studio. Layne said choreographer Daniel Hernandez, who also choreographed Birds of Prey, modified the choreography to work in the space.


"The space was a lot tighter than I think either of us really could have been prepared for," Layne said. "It took some adjusting, but we got it done."

Nile ultimately gravitates toward Andy and her team as elders, who can teach her how to handle her power. Although immortality is the realm of fantasy, and The Old Guard is based on a comic book, Layne feels Nile's adjustment is true to any of life's stepping stones.

"All of us can relate to when something happens in your life and it just completely changes it," Layne said. "Now you have to figure out how you're going to move forward."

Immortals like Layne and Andy can survive and heal from gunshots and sliced throats. They still feel the pain of the bullets and knives. For Layne, it was important to show that being immortal does not make Nile gung-ho to walk into battle.

"It may heal physically, but just like all of us, some things hit them mentally and emotionally," Layne said. "That doesn't heal."

The Old Guard is Layne's fourth feature film. She made her feature film debut in If Beale Street Could Talk after appearing in an episode of Chicago Med, a TV pilot that did not go to series, and a short film.


She credits the acclaim and success of Beale Street -- Regina King won an Oscar for her role as Layne's mother -- with raising her profile in Hollywood. Layne is invited to more auditions, though has not yet reached the leagues where filmmakers offer her roles without a tryout.

"I'm very grateful that Beale Street was that opportunity for me to be introduced to the industry in that way and have some doors open for me," Layne said. "I'm interested to see, once The Old Guard is released, what that does."

The characters in the comic books have further adventures, and the movie leaves room for a sequel. Layne hopes for one and says her co-stars and director Gina Prince-Bythewood do, too.

"I know I guess it's going to be a numbers game, seeing how many people watch it," Layne said. "All of us would love to dive back into this world."

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