Meet the Badass Stunt Doubles for Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lawrence

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In her audition for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2104) stunt actress Janene Carleton had to prove that she could ride a horse — something she’d been doing competitively since childhood — but in an “ape-like” position. “You just have to hunch your shoulders and squat down a little bit and be bow-legged,” Carleton explains. (Oh, just that?) She was eventually hired to double mostly for Nick Thurston’s character, Blue Eyes — but there’s a chance she’ll be seen playing the lead ape, Caesar (Andy Serkis), too. “There’s one scene where the horse is standing in a lake and a cannon goes off,” she says. “My horse reared up and lunged at the camera, which the director [Matt Reeves] loved. They discussed making me Caesar for that particular shot, but I’m not sure what they did in the end.” She won’t know until tomorrow, when she sees the movie for the first time, ahead of its theatrical release.

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Carleton doesn’t usually double as an ape. In the 10-plus years she’s been doing this, she’s doubled for Angelina Jolie in Salt, Jessica Biel in Total Recall, and Paula Patton in Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol. She’s also worked on movies like White House Down and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, though not standing in for any actor in particular, just doing background work. “You often hear viewers arguing over who did the action in a scene: the actor or the stunt double,” Carleton says, clearing up what she considers the biggest misconception about her job. “And the truth is that very often we both do it,” she says. The stunt double works with a stunt coordinator and a stunt rigger to set up and test the whole operation, and then the stunt double shows the actor how to execute. “Nine times out of ten, when there’s a stunt, both the actress and the stunt double do it, so that there’s enough footage to cut the scene together. Also, at the beginning of the film, we’ll work with the actors to train them and condition them — to get them punching and kicking so that those movements are natural to them.”

Here are some other things learned about badass stunt doubles, in conversations with Janene Carleton, Katie Eischen and Kristina Baskett, all top women in the field.

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