Think twice about messing with stuntwoman Heidi Moneymaker.
As agile as she is attractive, California native Heidi Moneymaker has lent her talents to recent action films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Sucker Punch. Heidi took some time out of her busy production schedule to share with us how she first broke into stunt work, her work specialties, her first major film and thoughts on the rise of tough female film characters.
Hi, Heidi. Are you originally from the South Bay?
Heidi Moneymaker: I’m originally from Santa Rosa. I moved to LA when I was 18 because I earned a scholarship to attend UCLA for gymnastics.
How does one get into stunt work? Was it always something you wanted to do?
HM: As a child I was a little daredevil; I was a bit of a stuntwoman then. But I had no idea that that world really existed, you know? I was a gymnast, and I loved gymnastics. But a couple of gymnasts that went to UCLA had gotten into the film industry and they were doing stunt work, and I learned a bit about the industry there. And once I was done with school, there were a couple of times that some of the girls would call me and say, “Hey, they need someone to do a bar routine and we’re not really interested, so do you want to do it?” And that’s kind of how I got started. I worked a few jobs here and there.
Do you have any specialties on your resume?
HM: Flipping or flying, you know, using wires through the air—it’s something that’s just in my DNA. But actually I’ve been training in different kinds of martial arts since I got into the business roughly 12 years ago. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a martial artist because I’m not formally trained in any one particular martial art. But I’ve done a lot of kickboxing, wushu, a lot of jiujitsu and judo, some weapon work and that kind of thing. I recently got into driving in the last three or four years too.
Do you remember your first stunt job or a moment that stands out when you started?
HM: Well, my first jobs were small, little things that were for small television shows or things like that, and everything was gymnastics-oriented. But the first big movie I worked on was Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle as one of Drew Barrymore’s stunt doubles. I was brand new to the business and didn’t know much of anything, but my boss saw the potential in me and gave me a chance. I got to do more stunts on that movie collectively than on any movie since. Stair falls, a bunch of wirework; it was such a great experience. I got to learn a lot about the stunt world and how it works.
There must be a lot of pressure on you when you’re doing these sorts of stunts?
HM: I’ve always been the person in my life that puts the most pressure on myself. But there’s also a different kind of pressure, because if you do a bad job, it’s not like you just might lose your job. If you do bad work, you could hurt or kill people. It’s a serious business. You always have to be alert and in good condition. A lot of the times you’re relying on someone else who rigged a wire or has their finger on the button, so there’s a lot of pressure in the sense that you don’t want to do something that could hurt someone.
Have you ever been injured?
HM: I’ve gotten a few injuries. Nothing extremely crazy. Actually I did Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and I doubled for Scarlett Johansson. Captain America and I were jumping through a window after an explosion and I don’t know, something broke apart somehow, but I cut my face pretty good. I had an ugly cut there for a while. But that kind of stuff happens fairly regularly.
Is there a recent film that you’ve worked on that stands out for you?
HM: I’ve got to be honest, getting to do stunt work as the Black Widow has been amazing. And Scarlett Johansson is one of the nicest people I’ve worked with. But one film that stands out was Sucker Punch. The reason that stood out for me was because my weapons were a Japanese sword and a gun, so it was really fun to be creative with the choreography and the action.
I feel like there’s a growing trend in films to portray women as being a little tougher, a little more resilient. Do you agree?
HM: I think so. I think there was a trend for a while to portray women as tougher, like Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or Salt. But I think it’s gotten to the point now where people want to see a little more realism, like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, for example. You see someone who is believably tough and believably strong, and they’re doing things that seem possible, so it makes a bigger stand for women being stronger. Like Ronda Rousey and Gina Carano, who are unbelievable fighters and now they’re acting.
You obviously have to stay fit in your business. Can you walk us through your workout routine?
HM: I’m a gym rat. I’m a member of the 87Eleven Action Design team. We have a facility where we train. So pretty much I’m there five days a week. This morning I went and ran 30 minutes and did sprints on the treadmill. Then I stretched and did a whole bunch of flipping workouts. Yesterday I did something similar, but it had more of a martial arts vibe to it. Tomorrow I’ll do a jiujitsu class in the morning. There’s also a free running academy here in Hawthorne too that I go to. So I’m in the gym working out anywhere from two to six hours a day.
Do you have any other favorite workout spots here in the South Bay?
HM: My absolute favorite workout is running from pier to pier. It’s my favorite thing to do. When I’m on location, it’s the thing I miss the most.
“I’m an Oregon girl at heart who is down-to-earth and loves the outdoors. I follow my heart and stay true to myself.”