My Hertfordshire Life - Welwyn film stuntwoman
PUBLISHED: 12:08 07 June 2013 | UPDATED: 12:41 07 June 2013
Welwyn stuntwoman Belinda McGinley talks about doubling as Kylie, kissing Colin Farrell and jumping off cliffs. Interview by Cath Harris
What lured you to stunts?
I saw a TV ad about an Australian stunt school featuring 10 lads and just one woman, which I thought was uncool. After my degree I went to see it for myself. We did high falls, boat drags, fire burns, climbing and abseiling. I had a brilliant time and knew when I left it was what I wanted to do.
What qualities do you need as a stuntwoman?
You need to be athletic and fit and have a head for heights. You must be composed and patient – there can be multiple filming takes – and be able to follow direction. You have to enjoy spontaneity and surprises, and thrive on challenge.
Is it easy to qualify?
No. You have to meet standards in six sports, which took me three years. It costs between £3,000 and £6,000 for the kit, tuition, exams and insurance. You also need 60 hours of on-camera experience. Then you apply to a panel with a video of yourself and hope they say yes.
Are you naturally sporty?
I did all the sports at school at St George’s in Harpenden, swam for Verulam Swimming Club in St Albans and belong to Beaumont Diving Academy in Hatfield. Now I specialise in falls from cliffs and balconies and underwater scenes such as drownings and people trapped in cars. I swim at the University of Hertfordshire for fitness and to practise breath holding.
Who have you doubled?
Kylie Minogue in a fake fight with her sister Dannii and I helped Keira Knightley with underwater swimming in Atonement. I’ve been Sienna Miller and Naomi Watts, and Gemma Arterton jumping off a cliff in Byzantium. I was Patricia Hodge tumbling into the wheelie bin in Miranda and have been Dot Cotton and just about everyone else in EastEnders. I’m all flailing arms in Bond movie Skyfall when I’m knocked by Daniel Craig on an escalator in the London Underground.
What’s it like working with stars?
They’re great. Keira was really good fun and on the set of Ondine I was kissed by Colin Farrell! I was in makeup and he walked in and kissed the makeup girls. He asked if I minded if he kissed me too. It was the first thing he said to me. I let him, of course!
It sounds very glam!
Well, I’ve filmed in Thailand, Iceland and the Caribbean but it isn’t always so exotic. I’ve also worked in dirty, dusty stinking basements in London and being a corpse in the Thames was hideous.
Is there one stunt you want to do?
A somersault from the nose of a killer whale. It would have to be well trained.
No. If I’d stuck at swimming or diving, I might have made the Olympics. But I wouldn’t have had such an amazing career. I wouldn’t change anything now