When you head to the movie theater to see the latest superhero film, you know that you’ll likely be impressed by all the incredible action scenes. And while the actors are definitely putting in their fair share of work, the real magic behind all those flips, falls, and fight scenes lies with the stunt actors. But what’s it really like to be a stuntwoman?
Hollywood loves to explore all the details of an actor’s life, but the stunt actors usually don’t carry the same weight as a household name. And that’s a shame, because they are pretty darn cool.
So we dug into the details of a stuntwoman’s life and spoke with six of the top stuntwomen in the industry, who are also the trainers of Rough Around the Edges on Openfit! You might be surprised by what they’re like, and what exactly goes on in the stunt industry
15 Surprising Things about Stuntwomen and the Stunt Industry
Here’s a behind the scenes look at what it takes to be a stunt actor, from the Rough Around the Edges stuntwomen themselves.
1. Being a stuntwomen requires a particular set of skills.
“I need to be able to watch an actress come around a corner and notice if and how she crosses her feet. I have to know which hand she uses to hold the prop gun so everything will match in the shot. I have to think to myself, ‘How exactly did she stab that guy?’ which isn’t a thought many people have at work. My boss will look at me and say, ‘What did she do?’ and you have to know. If you’re slow in the business, you cost people money and then you’re out.” — Anisha Gibbs
2. You have to train a lot.
“You have to learn how to do wire work, you have to learn how to fall, you have to learn how to fall down stairs, how to take a car hit—there’s a lot of training. Lots and lots of training that goes into it because it’s very specific.” – Corinne van Ryck deGroot
3. Being a stuntwoman also involves a lot of networking.
“A lot of people think you just have to train [to be a stuntwoman], but it’s more about making sure people know you exist. That was interesting and confusing to me, because when you’re competing [in martial arts], you’re set up for your tournaments and everything, so it’s not like you have to be invited to them. You don’t have to promote yourself as much. With stunts, you definitely have to stay on people’s minds and make sure they know you exist.” – Thekla Hutyrova
4. Stunting isn’t just about the thrill.
“We’re not just adrenaline junkies. The idea of a stuntwoman or stunt professional is just that we’re crazy and we that we jump off roofs, but there is so much technicality, so much hard work, so much rehearsal, team work, and science that goes into these things that we’re doing.” – Amy Johnston
5. Stunt fighting is pretty different from fighting in real life.
“Film fighting is different in a lot of ways. When I was competing at karate or Taekwondo, everything was a little faster and sharper. The stances are different—your back is usually straight and you’re a little squared. But for film fights, you kind of smooth it out more in between beats, your legs are bent, and it’s a little slower. And it’s a timing thing, too, when you’re working with the other person. It’s kind of a cross between a fight and a dance.” – Thekla
6. It takes a lot of focus to perform stunts.
“Rehearsal is crucial for stunts because it helps you trust the process and reminds you that you know how to do what you’re about to do. Visualization and meditation are also important. I close my eyes and think about how I’d like to perform the stunt and even how I’d like to feel while I’m doing it. I’ll think about the sounds around me as if it’s happening. That helps clear my mind and relaxes me and gets me into that ready state.” – Amy
7. The smallest changes make a huge difference.
“It’s amazing how much more difficult things become when you’re on set and you have wardrobe and lights.You have to hit targets, you have to do a front flip and land on one shoulder, and maybe it’s on wires and maybe it’s not. Maybe your shoes are heavier this time or you’re wearing a skirt or you’re doing it in a little hallway and there’s not as much room as in a gym. You just have to adapt to every situation.” – Thekla
8. Stuntwomen don’t get to wear a lot of body armor.
“Most of the time, women don’t have the luxury of wearing all the pads under the clothing because the clothing doesn’t exist. When I doubled Ronda Rousey in Furious 7we were in ball gowns and heels – not conducive to stunts at all. And having to go over a rail with no padding…it was a little iffy. And then in Wonder Woman when I was doubling Gal Gadot, the outfit was one piece and I had nothing on my arms – I couldn’t wear elbow pads or anything.” – Caitlin Dechelle
9. Motion capture doesn’t make the stunt work any easier.
“The aspect of motion capture that is most difficult is that you kind of have to be pretty specific with your movement, because you can see it from 360-degrees. The camera captures everything and you can’t really hide from it, so it all has to look good.” – Thekla
10. But motion capture does come with some perks.
“But what’s nice is that with motion capture you can get more pads usually and you don’t have to wear wigs! But you do end up in a Velcro suit and get stuck to everything, so…there are pros and cons.” – Thekla
11. Stuntwomen have a well-rounded workout routine.
“I’ll do a few days of just weights and a few days of cardio. Every day is different. I stretch all the time because of all the martial arts; it’s good to keep your hips open. I’ll do yoga, and sometimes hot yoga, which I like because it really burns and sweats everything out. I space it out and I keep it exciting. ” – Caitlin
12. Some stuntwomen get to travel all around the world.
“I love Australia. Melbourne is my favorite because of the shopping. I also love Cannes, France for the water and the structure and the houses. It’s a truly beautiful place.” — Anisha
13. Stuntwomen have pretty normal hobbies!
“I love the outdoors and snowboarding. I love photography, reading, and video games. I love anything that stimulates my mind. I love hanging out with my friends and family. I direct my own projects and do a lot of dancing. Learning is really my pastime. Working out is great, but there are so many fun things to do out in the world once you’re done.” – Amy
“I love spending time with my dogs and watching them be wild and free. I love to get outdoors and catch sun rays—just chilling. I study Arabic a few times a week because I love learning languages. There’s nothing wrong with catching up on some Netflix. I also pursue a lot of my own little personal passion projects. I write music, I write scripts, and I produce stuff with my friends.” – Michelle Jubilee
“I play the flute. I played the flute from 5th grade through high school, and I still play sometimes.” – Thekla
14. Even stuntwomen aren’t totally fearless.
“The most daunting thing I’ve had to do as a stuntwoman are falls – I’m not a fall girl. I don’t do a lot of high falls, but I had to do a fall backwards off a high platform and I’ll always remember that. That was horrible.” – Corinne
15. Yes, even stuntwomen enjoy a good cheat meal.
“My cheat meal is a double cheeseburger with smothered fries—the works. It’s not like you do it every week, but when I cheat, I go crazy. It’s so messy and fatty and wonderful and delicious. You can’t do it all the time, but when you can, you can really appreciate it.” – Michelle