Amy Obiajulu on taking a break from prison work to star in Wonder Woman 1984, and how she deals with stress
How I got the job was a bit of a fluke. I’m not a stunt rider, it’s not something that had ever entered my head. A horsey acquaintance called me out the blue and said: “Amy, a friend of mine is working on the new Wonder Woman film and they are struggling to find mixed-race females who can ride – can I pass on your phone number?” So I said, “Of course!”
I didn’t hear anything for about 10 days after the first session at the Devil’s Horsemen, so assumed they didn’t want me. When they called me back for the second audition there were three of us; I thought, “Oh, I’ve got competition now”.
There aren’t that many black or mixed race riders around – competing in my younger years I’d never seen any. They contacted me within a couple of days and said, “We want you – would you be able to get five weeks off work?” I replied: “I don’t know, but I’m having the job!”
I’m a prison officer and work thought I was joking at first, but they were brilliant and told me to go for it as it was a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity. We went to Fuerteventura and Tenerife, filming galloping on the beach and on clifftops, which was nerve-racking but incredible.
We were treated like movie stars – five-star hotels, food on tap – it was amazing and everyone was really friendly. The Devil’s Horsemen took out 12 horses, so there was a nice big team of us, and we helped with mucking out and exercising. The nights before filming days we would get the call sheet and pick-up time, usually the crack of dawn. It made me laugh because I was a double, so they were never going to see my face, but we still had all the make-up, hair and costume.
The horses were Friesians and we had to do a lot of sitting trot, which wasn’t very comfortable; I was bouncing around all over the place! I really loved Bernie, he was my favourite. However there was one I didn’t particularly click with. For one scene we had to gallop through the sea and back onto the beach. He wasn’t too keen on the sea – I had my leg on to keep him straight, but we swerved and ended up taking out a camera. I was devastated, but the film crew just wanted to make sure the horse and I were ok.
I don’t do a lot of fitness work, but I’m quite lucky in that I’m athletic looking; I don’t actually do anything to warrant it. I don’t go to the gym, but having a horse and being a prison officer means I am active. I’ve always ridden. My mum is horsey and I was brought up around them. I hunted with the Sandhurst Drag for a long time and now I go with the Border Beagles. I enjoy eventing and a bit of British Dressage, and the prison service has an equestrian team, with which I ride.
When I got the job they initially thought we were just going to be cantering around, then they said I needed stunt training. We only
had a couple of weekends, so it was intense. We learned to vault at speed, dynamic dismounts, and rearing and jumping, plus archery, as we had to use bow and arrows, although in the film the arrows are CGI.
My favourite stunt was hanging off the side of the horse to pick things up from the ground. Five of us were galloping along the beach in a row, picking up our bows. Nobody could get it for ages, and I could see the crew thinking, “We thought they’d been trained”, which is fair enough. I was the first person to grab mine, and I was elated.
The shift work that goes with being a prison officer works well with having horses. I’ve been in the job for 15 years; I worked in Wandsworth for 11 of those and then came up to a new prison in Wrexham. The pandemic has been really tough on all the staff. I’m not really sure how I got into doing TikToks as I’m 41, not 12, but it was a bit of fun to cheer everyone up. All the staff got involved (in a socially distanced way) and we were featured on the Strictly Come Dancing final.
The job is stressful, but there’s no other job I could see myself doing and I buzz off the adrenaline. In this job you need a hobby and the great thing about horses is they just take all that stress away.
Also published in H&H 25 February 2021
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