The actress, 42, stars as boxing manager Jackie Kallen in Against the Ropes. The film, inspired by a true story, opens Feb. 20.
SI: Now that you've done this movie, how much money would get you to do Celebrity Boxing—maybe go three rounds with Tonya Harding?
Ryan: [Laughs.] I've seen those fights. There is no amount of money you can offer me.
SI: You had no interest in boxing before this movie. How has playing Jackie shaped your views on the sport?
Ryan: Hanging around Jackie and Roc [director and costar Charles S. Dutton] gave me an education. I read Thomas Hauser, Joyce Carol Oates and Norman Mailer on boxing, and I was impressed by boxing being used in a beautiful, metaphoric way. When it was put in a context for me, even in a poetic context, I started to like it. It's pure competition amid what's thought of as a corrupt environment. Hauser called it the red-light district of sport. The juxtaposition became interesting to me.
SI: We heard you met Mike Tyson in Las Vegas, and he mistook you for Melanie Griffith.
Ryan: I can't even begin to describe this encounter. He thought my mom was Tippi Hedren. In Vegas he trains at the Golden Gloves Gym, and I got to watch him spar. He is a force, that guy.
SI: During production of the film you attended your first Las Vegas fight. What was that like?
Ryan: I saw Lennox Lewis fight Hasim Rahman [Nov. 21, 2001], and when Lewis knocked him out, it was a completely extreme, electrifying experience. I had never been in a crowd that reacted like that That's when you see the social value in it; there's a release for everybody. It's something innate in everyone, this kind of aggression, so why not give it a healthy outlet
SI: Notice any similarities between the sport of boxing and the business of Hollywood?