Archive Feature

Anya Monzikova: Iron Man's Secret Martial Artist

By Edward Pollard
Wushu practitioner Anya Monzikova from Iron Man 2
Will Anya Monzikova
become the blonde Black Widow?
(Photo courtesy of Lori De Waal)
The first Iron Man movie was a major hit. It helped continue the string of successful superhero properties that have emerged from the ranks of Marvel Comics. It was also the first film independently produced and funded by Marvel Studios, and as such, it was somewhat of a gamble. Not every comic-book character or team has been an instant hit, but the pieces came together, the timing and chemistry were right, and it plumped the box office nicely, making the sequel a natural.

With a second crack at an appreciative audience, starting May 7th, the expectations are greater and the showoff quotient goes through the roof. One of the descriptive comments I’ve seen is “Iron Man 2: Double the villains, five times the hotties.” Enter Anya Monzikova. OK, so she plays Rebeka, a near-anonymous character surrounded by a gathering of big names in big roles, but she’s diligently working her way up the ladder thanks to her stunning looks and desire to succeed. Her longest gig was a three-year, 147-episode stint holding briefcase No. 10 for the game show Deal or No Deal. She’s been on numerous TV shows and is now in the sequel to a blockbuster. Oddly enough, her superpowers have yet to be revealed. She’s been learning how to do the fun choreography work, but she hasn’t had a chance to show them off yet. However, being a native Russian, it seems she has other skills that come in handy on the set. I got a chance to talk to the budding star and find out what makes her tick.

Tell me about your martial arts experience and how you became interested in the first place. What made you choose wushu over other styles?
I got into wushu because as an actor, I wanted to do wire work. That was my initial interest. I wanted to learn how to be on wires and do flips and fly through the air and do all that cool stuff. So I went to the National Wushu Training Center and said, “I just want to do wire work. Is there a class I can take?” They said, “No, you need to know what you’re doing on the wires when you get there.”

It’s not like walking into a gym and choosing between Pilates and sword work.
I was like, “I don’t want to learn martial arts. I don’t care; just sign me up for wires.” (Laughs) But they were like, “You need to know what you’re doing.” So finally they convinced me to join the class and I fell in love with it. Being a physical kid myself, I always did dance or some kind of exercise. It’s a great way to get in shape. The National Wushu Training Center also offers stunt workshops and I did some of those, and I’m doing the sword training.

Martial artist Anya Monzikova from Iron Man 2 with a sword
Anya Monzikova
(Photo by Charles Bush)
Are you a big fan of the action genre?
I don’t like sci-fi or scary movies, usually, but the action genre I totally get into it. It keeps me interested in what I’m doing, as well.

Plus, the costumes are good for wushu.

Have you ever had a chance to use any of your skills in self-defense?
No, I haven’t. But at least I have the security of knowing that I can defend myself, even though some people say that wushu wouldn’t necessarily be a defensive martial art; they say it’s more like a dance martial art. It really does teach you a lot of self-defense and how to be aware and alert and defend yourself against attack.

What do you think the practical benefits are that you’ve received from practicing wushu?
I guess being self-confident enough to know how to defend myself in case something happens. You learn how to think on your feet and you look out for certain dangers.

Is there any other martial arts discipline that you’re interested in and might want to investigate?
Yeah, I definitely would love to try krav maga. I’m open to anything. I love to try new things.

Tell me about being part of Iron Man 2 and how you got involved with that.
I auditioned for it and got the part. I was really fortunate to be part of a really great scene where all the lead actors are involved. Even though it’s a huge scene with tons of actors, Robert [Downey Jr.] and [director] Jon [Favreau] both gave me one moment to shine. They are very giving in that way. It’s a big break for me to be part of such a big box-office movie, so I was really fortunate in that. Jon asked me to translate some dialogue in Russian for Scarlett Johansson and teach her some Russian. It was definitely surreal.

Do you play a good character or a bad character in the movie?
Actually, I’m neither. But I’d love to come back as Yelena Belova, who is the blonde Black Widow.



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