Amanda Foster is a legendary British stunt performer who’s worked on everything from Coronation Street and Miranda to World War Z, Die Another Day and the Harry Potter films.
Having just returned from Bulgaria where she doubled Angela Bassett on action sequel London Has Fallen, Amanda explains what you’ll need to do what she does.
“I’m an all-rounder. I can do precision driving, fights, falls, motorbikes, whatever. To get on the stunt register you need six disciplines. You could do racing, various weapons or martial arts. You can do diving qualifications. The standards are set by Equity and the Joint Industry Stunt Committee.
Being sporty, being athletic, being willing to try new things – these are all important things you should know [if you want to get into the business]. Be willing to put your neck out there!
You have to know you’re going to take the knocks. There’ll be days you take knocks that are so hard you wonder why you’re doing the job. You have to be prepared for what you’re walking into. I always say a good day is a day when I can leave work in my own car and not in an ambulance. And yes, I have been taken away in an ambulance!
Currently I’m the only registered black female [stunt performer] in the UK, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee me the work. I don’t get the pick of everything. Each job really does depend on the co-ordinator and who he wants to choose for it. It’s a wonderful industry to be in, I love the process of filmmaking - but for anyone who wants to get into the industry, they have to know there will be quiet periods and it’s not something you can always take personally.
I thrive on being creative and resourceful – pulling it out the bag when it really matters, being put under pressure. Working on Ninja Assassin with the Wachowskis was really enjoyable in that way. There was one scene at the end of the day when I had to do a J-turn on a roundabout in Berlin (when you swing the car round to face in the opposite direction). I had to knock a ninja out of the way with the rear panel of the car. It was the last shot of the evening, I only had one go at it and I nailed it. I was proud of that one!
A lot of the time you do have to learn on the job, which is the fun part. Every day and every job is slightly different. There are times when you get to do things you’ve never done before and that’s exciting.
I’ve doubled for kids a couple of times. I doubled for a child actor on something called One Night for the BBC, where he had to go bombing off on a BMX bike and someone runs after him and drags him of the bike into an alley. In Nativity, I got on top of a church.
When you’re watching the big blockbuster movies, a lot of the time you are seeing quite a substantial amount of the double on-screen. Usually my actresses are very supportive. Halle [Berry on Die Another Day, for which Amanda won a Taurus World Stunt Award] was amazing. She’d stay behind and come and watch, clap and hug me. I tend to have a pretty good relationship with my leading actresses – I’m there to make that part of them look good. I doubled Whoopi Goldberg in A Knight In Camelot, which was one of my first jobs. She signed her autobiography for me and it said, ‘To Amanda, my other half’. It’s wonderful because they are acknowledging you bringing to life their character on-screen.
We always put our bodies and hearts and souls into it.”
You can see Amanda at work in London Has Fallen and Pan, both out later this year. You can also follow her on Twitter: @amanda30af