British daredevil Tiger Rudge has recently moved to the US to be closer to the action – and to hang out with Luke Hemsworth and land work on the next Star Wars film
Were you a thrill-seeker as a youngster?
Absolutely! I was a strange kid, into everything, scared of nothing. I seemed to see no boundaries and feel no limits. I was swimming when I was two, I won the high jump at school even though I was the smallest. The more people expected me not to do something or told me I shouldn’t or the chance of winning was slim, the more I would go all out to prove them wrong.
How did you get into stunt work?
Pretty randomly, really. I almost sold a horse to someone whose father was a famous stuntman and it got me thinking about what a cool job that would be. The idea of being a stuntwoman had never really occurred to me before that point and I didn’t even know it existed as a career.
What was your first stunt job?
It was for a horror film, running around, getting shot at, getting grabbed and thrown into an army van. It was great and I loved it. I knew right from that first job that stunt work was what I wanted to do.
Is the business hard to break into?
Yes, and no. In England, we have the British Stunt Register, and it’s the toughest in the world. You have to be highly qualified in six or more skills, and while I am on it, I live in the US now, where there is no register. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter what your experience is – it’s more about who you know, or who your father or your best friend is. The stunt industry stemmed from the mafia and some parts of that still exist, to a degree. The sad part is that you can be talented but not connected and not work – or you can be pretty useless, in with the right people and work all year long.
Has that happened to you?
Definitely. I’ve already had many more opportunities in the US than I would ever have had in the UK. America tends to promote and nurture talent – and women who can perform cool stunts are popular right now. Sure, it’s still a pretty maledominated industry, but there’s a real opportunity at the moment – women are shining right now.
How are women perceived by stuntmen?
It depends. You do get some old-fashioned types who think it’s not really for women or that they shouldn’t be doing certain stunts – which is funny when women can often barely wear stunt pads under their costumes because they need to look like the beautiful, slim actresses they’re standing in for. When it comes down to it, we hit cars in exactly the same way as the men do. Luckily, the directors and stunt coordinators usually have no favouritism when it comes to stunts.
When did you join the big leagues?
There have been moments where I felt that I’d stepped up a gear, I guess – like the time I got a call to chase Tom Cruise around London for the movie Edge Of Tomorrow and I had a scratch-your-head moment. Going to Pakistan and teaching 100 guys how to do stunts was another. Moments like that make your career seem magical, but they only last a moment and then you’re swiftly back on planet Earth.
Do you have a specialism?
Cars and horses. Horses are my soft spot. I’ve learnt all my life skills from horses and still love to work with them. I co-run a film company for horses.
Sounds like your dream job!
Oh, it’s the biggest privilege. We just worked on a horse job for a feature with Luke Hemsworth called Abilene, set in the Wild West. My partner, Ian Van Temperley, was doubling Luke; I trained and bought in the jumping horse for the job. Seeing it all come together was one of my best experiences yet.
What was the scariest stunt you ever did?
I had couple of stunts go wrong – a vehicle caught fire when it shouldn’t have and I’ve had equipment go wrong on a couple of occasions, like the time my vehicle sank. It can be pretty hairy but you just have to keep it together. I’m a pretty laid-back, calm person, so at the most dangerous moments I have a great ability to try to correct things – or at least to come out alive!
What was your worst stunt-related injury?
None of my injuries have been stunt related. I’ve broken and torn muscles with horses, playing rugby and in a car crash, but none were related to work.
Can you tell us any cool stories from your work on the next Star Wars film?
Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a really serious film. It was very high security and we’re not allowed to talk about anything at all. It’s a very boring answer, I know, but not even the actors could reveal a single murmur. We wore black capes so no one could even get a glimpse at our costumes at the studio.
Have you ever been asked to do a stunt and said, ‘No way’?
I’ve certainly questioned a stunt because I felt that decisions had been made by people who didn’t have the right knowledge. That happened twice – both were high falls, and I didn’t do either stunt. In the end they went with a different person and I’ve no problem with that because what they wanted wasn’t safe. I’m sure they didn’t like being told this, but hopefully they took on board my comments and no one was hurt.