MONSTERS, ROCKS AND WOLVERINES
Meet local girl Rhianna Buchanan: movie stunt star
DRIVING a car with Hugh Jackman, hanging out with The Rock and doing giant leaps in a monster truck are just in a day’s work for one local girl who is making a big impact in the stunt industry.
Rhianna Buchanan grew up in the Scenic Rim and has worked as a stunt double for Scarlett Johansson, driven a car with Hugh Jackman in the passenger seat and hung out with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Not bad for the 30-year-old who is taking time out from her movie career to tour the nation with the Monster Jam team, which is coming down under next month.
Monster Jam is the world’s most popular monster truck event, where the massive vehicles leap into the air, accelerate at huge speeds and, basically, trash the place.
Born in Hillview just up the road from Ipswich, Rhianna’s parents owned a bike shop, so it was no surprise that the self-confessed girl with “ants in my pants” was drawn towards playing outside with the two-wheelers.
“I was always outside,” Rhianna said from her parents’ home where she was preparing for the tour.
“I’ve just got back from Monster Jam University (that’s a real place), as there aren’t too many places in the world you can go to where they teach you to drive a monster truck.”
Rhianna admits she didn’t have much idea what to do when she finished school, thinking that she would eventually help run the family business.
“I finished Year 12 and didn’t really have too much of an idea what I wanted to do. I was born into a motorbike shop, my parents bought it the year before I was born, but they sold it when I was in grade 12, as I always assumed one day I would run the business.
“My fiance Jack, who also has a love for bikes, started doing motorbike stunt shows, and I helped him with that. I started announcing at the shows, and then eventually rode in the shows ... honestly it just snowballed from there.
“I was riding more, learning more and opportunities came up. I was taught as a kid to take every opportunity as it comes, and I wanted to give everything a red-hot crack.”
Working on the stunt shows with her other half set her up for what led to working on The Wolverine in Sydney.
“Wolverine was my first real look into stunt work. I was working with Jack as his mechanic on the movie and
offering insight into the different stunts for the movie. It was one of those lucky things and they got to know me.
“They realised that they had a scene with actor Rila Fukushima where she was following Wolverine around, and they didn’t have a double. They called me over and asked if it’s possible for me to do the stunts.
“I met Hugh on set while I was working on the bikes, he came past and introduced himself. He’s well known for being friendly and he really is.
“I’m chatting to him and next minute I’m in the Audi ready to do this stunt, and he jumps in the car. He said, ‘What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘I guess I‘m driving you.’ He is just an incredible human being and such a cool guy.”
After finishing work on Wolverine, the couple went back to the stunt shows while doing the odd job for TV commercials, and Jack travelled to Namibia to do some stunt work on the blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road. Rhianna was called upon to be a stunt adviser on Central Intelligence starring Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. Then she got another phone call.
“I was travelling through America and got a call from an Aussie stunt co-ordinator about the possibility of doing some work on this movie he was working on,” she said. “It ended up with me going to Hong Kong for a month to work on Ghost in the Shell where I was the double for Scarlett Johansson.
“Look, I’d love to say being on a movie set is all glitz and glamour, like everyone thinks, but the truth is it’s long hours and lots of repetitiveness. You work around the clock, and you could be filming both day and night. You spend lots of time sitting around and then you get the call ... then it’s on. It’s a bit stressful but also a ton of fun, and so rewarding when you get to see the result at the movie premiere, plus I try to see where I am in the movie – often it’s hard to tell.”
Driving a monster truck is, of course, totally different to riding a bike, and Rhianna says you need to rely on all your senses in the cab.
“When you’re inside a monster truck you have a helmet and neck restraint on, then a five-point harness. You literally cannot move,” she said. “They are designed to take a hit, and the technology is incredible. These trucks are jumping higher and further than ever before, while keeping drivers safe. You don’t have any head movement behind the wheel so you must rely on your peripheral vision.”
REVVED UP: Rhianna prepares to film a scene for Ghost in the Shell.