Have you ever daydreamed about working alongside famous actors as their stunt double, pulling off thrilling stunts on films likes Spiderman, Thor and Wonder Woman? For stunt rider, actress and showjumper Georgina Armstrong (pictured), the dream is a reality.
Born into a family heavily involved in the film industry, and as a third generation stuntwoman, Georgina’s first film aged six was Black Beauty in which she played one of the Birtwick Park daughters who rode cute little Merrylegs.
Here, she talks about what it takes to be a stuntwoman and what the job entails.
Q: How did you get into riding and stunt riding?
A: I was five days old the first time I rode a horse, wrapped in a blanket in my dad’s arms. I started jumping when I was about five and started competing in BS competitions when I was nine.
I was born into stunt riding — my grandparents and parents did it too. Going through school, I liked the idea of becoming an equine vet, but I got swallowed up by the family business and just loved it. It was something I was able to do alongside my showjumpers and it helped me fund it.
Q: What does your job involve and what films have you worked on?
A: I’m an all-round stuntwoman, so I also do a lot of car stunts, hand-to-hand combat, aerial work on wires and of course acting and stunts that involve my niche – horses. I’ve done the Amazing Spiderman 1 and 2, Thor, Green Hornet, Justice League and Wonder Woman. I’ve been really lucky.
People have always known me for being a good horsewoman and I think that’s what helped me get a foot in the door on Wonder Woman. I grew up with the Devil’s Horsemen so have always done wild things on ponies, but for the most part I crash cars, so it was fun being able to do horses again on Wonder Woman.
Q: What does it take to be a stunt rider?
A: You’ve got to be a bit of an adrenaline junky. I’ve always loved fast roller coasters, cliff jumping and go-karting and all that sort of stuff. I’ve always been a very physical person and to go far in the industry, you have to be really passionate about being active and challenging yourself to do new things.
You definitely need a certain level of fitness. I ride up to nine horses a day and on top of that, I hit the gym. I train with stunt friends and we’ll go rock climbing and hi-diving – anything where we’re learning more aerial skills and body awareness. It’s a different type of fitness, being able to make your body that adaptable.
Q: Have there been any hairy moments?
A: Not on film sets. I’m really lucky that I’ve always worked on very high profile films with incredibly talented stunt coordinators, so when you are doing challenging stunts, you are in the safest place possible. We are aware of things that can go wrong and try and prepare for them. If it does happen, everybody knows what the go-to plan is. Touch wood I’ve never had any terrible accidents on set, I’ve always been in very safe hands and felt very comfortable with the people and animals I’m working with.
Q: What have the best moments been?
A: Wonder Woman is definitely one of my best moments. It was such a thrill to be able to put on that costume – you feel like a real superhero the moment you step into it. The Spiderman movies were really incredible to work on too because I got to do a lot of car chases, which was a real buzz. There’s something really satisfying about someone telling you to go and smash up a brand spanking new Mustang.
Q: How do you juggle your work with your showjumpers?
A: I have a very good support mechanism. My boyfriend is incredibly supportive and if I’m away, he does the yard, and vice versa. My family are also very supportive and understanding of the industry, and will help exercise the horses if I’m not here. Otherwise, it’s a case of getting up super early and riding three or four before work and then another three or four after work. I have a freelance groom who covers for me when I’m in a real bind, but most of it I do myself.
Q: Does your job pay well and do you have an agent?
A: It is well paid, but you have to take into consideration the amount of time you’ve spent training and prepping throughout the years leading up to landing those big films. And then when you are on those films, the amount of time it consumes. It’s quite normal for someone to call and say they want you on a film next week, and you have drop everything, even if you are entered at Hickstead or Horse of the Year Show. You can’t turn down work in the film industry.
It’s a very intermittent business as well. Sometimes you’re lucky and work for a year and a half straight, and other times you won’t have anything for a year.
I only have an agent for acting, not for stunt work. It’s a case of networking, knowing what’s coming up and trying to get in touch with people to let them know that you are available and what your skills are.
A: What are the highs and lows?
Q: The highs are being asked to challenge yourself and do something fun and, what some people would consider dangerous, but what we would consider as invigorating. Every time you are involved in something like a big explosion, or galloping and falling off horses, or riding into battle, it’s a real adrenaline rush. The lows, quite honestly, are only when you’re not working.
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