You may not recognize Angela Meryl’s name, but if you’re a fan of action flicks like Skyfall, Kill Bill, and Pirates of the Caribbean you’ve probably seen her work and just didn’t know it. She’s the one lunging through the air to fight an opponent martial-arts style, slamming into cliffside guard railings at 60 miles per hour, dangling from helicopters in mid-air and even plunging into the depths of New York’s Hudson river…all as one of Hollywood’s go-to stunt women.
After 16 years in the business doubling for a long list of movie and TV actresses including Vivica A. Fox, Naomie Harris, Vanessa Williams, Gabrielle Union, Halle Berry as well as Rihanna and Beyonce, Meryl’s sharing her expertise in a new book Stunts: The How to Handbook Secrets from an Award Winning Hollywood Stunt Woman (Volume 1).
“Over the years I’ve always gotten approached by people on the streets that are just curious: ‘How did you get into stunts?’” Meryl told EW. “My friends, my family always ask, ‘Why did you end up doing this? How did you end up doing this?’ A lot of people don’t even know that this is a career, that this is a business.”
Although she describes herself as a “very active child” who grew up in New Jersey taking martial arts classes, running track (while keeping up with World and Olympic champ Carl Lewis who was her neighbor, no less) and playing Powder Puff football, Meryl crash landed into her profession almost by a fluke when a friend asked her to do a fall stunt for the 1996 film First Kid. At the time she was a model and an aspiring actress who had appeared in a few commercials, “then they told me how much I was going to get paid and I thought ‘oh heck yes, I can do it.’”
She’s come a long way from those beginnings — and so has her field. “Editors these days are so good and so on it to make it seamless. It’s part of your job to try and hide your face, depending on what you’re doing, but they make us look like them so much that you could basically go onto the camera full on and people wouldn’t know because it’s so quick.”
Click on to see how Angela Meryl has taken on the likeness of some of Hollywood’s leading ladies for her action-packed scenes and get tips for jumping into the death defying day job yourself.
NEXT: Beyonce, Obsessed