TV & Movies

What It’s Really Like to Be a Professional Stuntwoman

In our new 9-5 series, we asked our favourite boss babes what their typical workday entails. This week, stuntwoman Gemita Samarra, who recently doubled for Léa Seydoux in the new James Bond movie, Spectre, gives us a glimpse into her high-action grind

be a professional stuntwoman

Gemita Semarra, pro stunt woman (Photo: Brian Rolfe)

Age: 22

Length of time in current gig: On and off for about four years, but mainly the past two years.

Education: Trained in high diving, kickboxing, climbing, scuba diving and competed internationally in show jumping and synchronized swimming.

Typical hours: Rehearsals tend to be pretty much 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but when we’re filming it can be literally anything. The boat and helicopter chase from Spectre was a night shoot so we were coming in around 4 p.m. to rehearse and then we’d go into hair and makeup and shoot until about 4 a.m.

 When do you wake up? If we’re going from the last film I did which was Spectre, we’d be getting in around 8 a.m. To get there for that time, I’d wake up around 5 a.m. to start the day.

What kind of preparation do you do in the morning before you get to set, so you’re on the ball when you arrive? I have a dog—a Czech wolf named “Lupa,” which means “she wolf”—who requires a lot of walking, so I tend to take her out for quite a long time in the morning. I’m also massively obsessed with food so I have a good breakfast as well. Since I’ve moved to Los Angeles about six months ago, I’ve been obsessed with acai bowls, which are like thick smoothies with granola and a bunch of fruit chopped into it. But since I was a kid, I’ve usually had pasta for breakfast. It’s really weird.

What do you usually wear to work? I usually turn up to work in active gear so I’m prepared to do anything. Normally a pair of running tights, a compression vest, and runners or something like that.

 What’s the vibe like on set? I’d like to say it’s stress-free but sometimes there’s a lot of shouting and running around and craziness. I enjoy it, though. It’s a fun job.

What’s your relationship with the person you’re doubling for? [In this case, Léa Seydoux] We have to be able to mimic and copy their exact movements—how they walk, how they move, whether they are right-handed or left-handed. So we have to watch them closely for day-to-day kind of things on set just to get their general character.

 When you’re preparing for a big stunt, how do you get yourself in the zone? It mainly comes down to training beforehand, but also just having a lot of confidence in the people you’re working with—that they will help you and take care of you because you’re usually in someone else’s hands. When you’re fighting with someone, you’ve got to know that they’ve got their distance right, or if you’re doing a wire stunt, you’ve got to know that the rigging team is doing their job. You’ve really got to trust other people.

 When doing such big stunts, how do deal with your nerves? The more you think about what you’re doing, the scarier it becomes. As long as you’re safe and you know what you’re doing and you can do it properly, you’ve got to just do it.

 Who do you admire most in your profession and why? Zoë Bell, who’s known to be the best female stunt performer. [She was Uma Thurman’s double in Kill Bill and will be playing a character named Six Horse Judy in Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, out on Christmas Day]. She’s much more fight-based than I am, but I still massively respect her talent and what she can do.

If someone else aspired to do your job, what qualities do they need? A lot of patience and strong shoulders to take a lot of criticism and put in the hard work. It’s a tough industry.

After such an adrenaline-pumping day, how do you unwind after work? I’ll usually just have a salt bath and chill out in the evening. But if I’ve been sitting around or doing something that’s not physically that exerting, like falling off a chair all day, then I have to do a bit of training to get the rest of that physical energy out.

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