I honestly cannot contain my excitement as I type this article. Being a fellow female martial artist who is of part Caribbean decent, I am truly humbled and thankful that the UK’s First Stunt Women of African Caribbean Heritage has agreed for me to interview her as part of this article for This Woman’s Word. Ladies and Gentleman, I introduce you, the tremendously talented Amanda Foster…
This interview has been in the pipeline for a while, but with Amanda’s ever busy schedule and working commitments both here in the UK and abroad, we managed to finally arrange a telephone interview earlier this week after my good friend and professional photographer Colvin Hazzard saw her at the Screen Nations Awards 2014.
It was worth the wait so be prepared to be inspired! 🙂
For those not familiar with the name or face, Amanda Foster has graced our screens (most likely without your knowledge) performing various stunts on an array of Blockbuster Films including James Bond 007 Die Another Day, World War Z, The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter Films as well as TV Commercials, Music Videos.
Amanda Foster has been in the business for over 25 years now and she shows no signs of slowing down!
Extremely keen to gain an insight into Amanda’s professional career as a Stunt Woman, together with curiosity of what inspired her to make what can be an extremely dangerous job to complete; I began the interview with the following question…
What was your life prior to be becoming a Stunt Woman?
I started out in theatre as an aspiring actress and did a little bit of modelling. I then proceeded to work as a supporting artist (extra) for approx 10 years.
Whilst working on the film Patriot Games with Harrison Ford it became very evident that there were no African / Caribbean stunt women in the UK.
This inspired me to put in the work and train to be accepted onto the professional stunt register. This took 6 years to complete.
What led to the decision to embark on the journey to become a professional Stunt Woman within the Television and Film Industry?
I have always been the sporty type and was a part time PE teacher at the time of making this decision so with my martial arts background and being a pretty active individual I thought it was the perfect avenue to explore.
Describe the different types of intense training you had to undergo for six years in order to qualify on the Elite UK Stunt Register?
You have to have six disciplines in fighting falling and water sports. The grades are set by the stunt committee.
I qualified in 1997. I’m not too sure on the exact qualifications now but my disciplines and skills include, Precision driving, Gymnastics, Trampolining, Fencing in three weapons, martial arts, Hand gliding Licence, Swimming, Jockey Licence, HGV and Motorcycle Racing Licence to name a few.
I find that you are constantly accumulating skills along the way.
What has been the most dangerous / scariest stunt you’ve ever had to perform?
(ponders for a bit) I don’t know, most stunts have an element of danger to it. As a stunt woman, you are employed to take the risks, knocks and falls or whatever the scene requires.
The best way I can try and describe it is stunt person is like a crash dummy. This means the coordinator can get to play with you (literally).
Sometimes endless amounts of rehearsals are required just to put things together to see if the directors will like it or not.
You can find yourself being physically tested over and over again just to see if an idea works.
Talk us through how you would go about preparing yourself both physically and mentally for an upcoming death defying stunt (if any)?
A lot of mental preparation is required. I tend to go through the scene(s) in my head most of the time but ultimately it depends on the type of stunt e.g. if it’s a fall, a car crash etc.
There are some stunts where you are relying on other people to do their job so you can complete your job safely. One of many examples was having to complete a 300ft abseil on a small wire whilst working on the James Bond Movie.
You work with many different people, from special effects, to riggers which may include the use of pyrotechnics, fire, explosions, wire work, animals and vehicles.
Then there’s your own performance so there’s a lot of mental preparation that is involved.
If it’s something that can be rehearsed without being on set I’ll rehearse it but there are obviously some things you cannot rehearse because you cannot physically do it until you are on set so your rehearsal is done on set on the day
Have you ever injured yourself on set?
Oh Many times! I have been quite fortunate to not have done any serious damage to myself but others haven’t been as fortunate. Stunt men and women have seriously injured themselves whilst on set and sometimes you experience the unfortunate case of a fatality. It’s a seriously risky job to do.
What has been the most bizarre stunt you’ve ever had been asked to perform?
(ponders) I was doubling for an actress called Nimmy March for a programme called Whizzy Wig.
Because Nimmy was bigger in build than I, costume put me in a sponge suit. Unfortunately as part of this crazy action scene, I was required to dive into a pond. I swam out to the point where I was supposed to be, filmed for a little bit then they called cut.
I turned back around to swim to the bank, but because I was wearing a sponge suit it filled with water which made me sink! I recall it taking forever and all my physical effort to swim back to the bank as by this point the suit was seriously heavy.
A rescue team was at hand ready to jump in I but managed to get myself back to the bank safely.
Being in the Film and Television Industry you are constantly surrounded by incredibly talented Actors, Actresses, Director’s, Producers and fellow Stunt Professionals.
Have you in your professional career experienced being Star Struck?
No (laughs) funnily enough never (laughs again).
I admire the great talent that I work with and that’s not just the big named A list Actors and Actresses and the Directors, it’s also the people that tend to go unnoticed for their contribution that really adds to the whole picture of getting the production complete.
The end result is because of a team effort.
Over a two decade period you have appeared in over 300 feature films television, commercials and video productions.
If you had to shortlist them down to your ‘top three’ all time favourite sets you’ve worked on thus far, what would they be and why?
My favourite obviously has to be the James Bond 007, simply because I won a Taurus World Stunt Award for my involvement which was really good.
Secondly has to be Ninja Assassin.
I just loved everything about Ninja Assassin and working with the Wachowski Brothers, Andy and Lana (who were the directors of The Matrix films).
The stunt crew were particularly amazing in this film.
I got to play with some toys… guns and cars. One of my stunts in this film was to complete a ‘ J turn’ where I had to kill the ninja at the end.
Shot in Germany at Berlin’s Siegessäule roundabout. This involved driving the wrong way through traffic and executing a J turn, to slam the back of the car into the Ninja who was about to kill the hero.
I only had one attempt at this scene. It was the last shot of the night so had to get it right! It had to be perfect. With the entire film crew watching me, I was thinking don’t F*** this up. But I did it in one take. It was so good they used it in the film trailer!!!
Definitely one of my all time favourites to have worked on.
Sometimes you find yourself only having one attempt at a stunt for various reasons. Im a bit of a perfectionist and always feel it could have been better! Although Sometimes you are glad you only have to do it once!
The other film has got to be World War Z that I did with Brad Pitt last year. He is a focused talented human being. We had a great time working on this film and I had a great part where I had to dive on top of him, bite his face and drip blood in his mouth.
It was an exciting sequence to do and was great also working with the director Marc Forster. It was another great project to be involved with and because this was Brad’s personal project made it all the more inspiring. There are no guarantees of success in the film business. Its reliant on the what the public choose to spend their money on.
Your work within the Film and Television Industry has not gone un-noticed as you’ve picked up some prestigious awards, including the highly acclaimed ‘Taurus World Stunt Award’ for doubling Halle Berry in 007 James Bond movie “Die Another Day” Out of the awards and accolades you have won, which one means the most to you?
I am very grateful and honoured to be recognised for my work by being in receipt of these awards but for me the Screen Nations Award is very important because it comes from within my community. Being a person of colour and to be honoured by your own community is pretty important I think.
The other one is also the Taurus World Stunt Award as this is a world award. It is a massive achievement to be acknowledged for your work on a worldwide scale.
Stunts aside, you recently delved into the world of directing, making your first directing début in the short film ‘Killer Heels’ Tell us a bit more about this film?
So Killer Heels was a small production made by a group of Portsmouth University Students. I was contacted by Courtney Winston who had a short script written by Norina Mackey. He asked me if I would play the part in Killer Heels Chloe to which I agreed.
When we had meeting they asked if I would direct it.
We didn’t have much time equipment or budget. Shot with 7D camera. It was a very quick, gorilla shoot if you like so we completed the short film within a few days. It was sent into Cannes Festival and it surprisingly got selected to be shown much to the excitement of those involved.
The film went onto win an award at the Portobello Film Festival 2013. We won ‘Best Newcomer Award’ which was a wonderful achievement as I really didn’t expect it to go so far for it was really just a 6 minute experimental project.
It exceeded our expectations and that was down to the small crew that we had, in particular Norina for writing such a great little script, producers Courtney Winston and Garfield Wesley Hall, Billy, Jonathan and Dee Tails who supplied the music track
I do love directing and I definitely would like to do more of it. I love all forms of creativity.
Creativity is pretty much like food to me. If I’m not creating I become unhappy. I thrive off of creativity and love being around creative people and creative minds.
Everybody’s talents are endless, it will be a shame for any of us to limit ourselves to just one thing, for I believe as human beings our talents and abilities are unlimited, they are only limited by the limitations we put on ourselves.
I believe, the world is everyone’s oyster!
Now that you have had a taste of directing, can you see yourself stepping away from the Stunt World in favour of Directing?
I am open to all creativity. At the moment I am pushing forward with my acting career as I did start off originally as an actress and moved into stunts to which I got totally sidetracked but now want to move back in acting. I have a passion for it.
Can you give us a cheeky little insight into any upcoming projects / films you are currently working on at present?
Unfortunately can’t give you an insight as the projects are not released just yet but extremely grateful to have worked on Exodus with Ridley Scott and Christian Bale as Ridley is one of the directors I haven’t previously worked with.
It was a pleasure to have worked with Tom Cruise on The Edge of Tomorrow. Again, I can’t really discuss the projects as they are not finished yet but do look out for them as they will be two great films to watch.
Having gone through the ropes to qualify as a Professional Stunt Woman, what advise can you give people such as myself who maybe toying with the idea to get involved in the Stunt Industry? How would one go about applying?
As a stunt professional you are employed to take risks. The stunt world is a great industry as long as you understand what is required of you.
You need to have worked within the film industry and be a member of Equity film union before you can apply for the stunt register.
Do your research and if after doing this you’ve decided this is what you want to do GO FOR IT.
This interview has left me buzzing off the walls with positivity and having had the opportunity to actually speak to such a lovely, down to earth human being, I managed to gauge her friendly and extremely driven personality.
She is a wonderful soul with great energy who genuinely loves her line of work. She faces fear in the face daily whilst encouraging others to also bite the bullet and go after their dreams (that’s another thing we have in common) making her an excellent role model for the younger generation.
She gave me some great feedback and wise words of advice that I shall take with me as I continue on this evolving journey as a martial artist and as a health and fitness writer.
I shall conclude this article with a short stunt reel of Amanda’s stunt work so you can see her in action yourself.
If you too have been left inspired by this article and what to learn more about this amazing, fearless and talented lady, Amanda Foster can be found online visiting the Amanda Foster IMDb Profile Amanda Foster website, Amanda Foster Blog, Facebook , Facebook Page or by simply following her on Twitter.
Photo Credits: In order of appearance within this article.
Portobella 2013 Film Festival