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Although you may not know her name, Monique Ganderton has been an integral part of many of the biggest movies of the past decade. She is a stunt performer-coordinator whose list of credits includes The Hunger Games, Atomic Blonde, Thor: Ragnarok and a little film called Avengers: Infinity War.
She’s doubled for Karen Gillan’s Nebula on Guardians of the Galaxy, Carrie Coon’s Proxima midnight in Avengers: Infinity War and Rebecca Hall’s Maya Hansen in Iron Man 3.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ganderton said that although she had been working on and off as a stunt double since 2002, it wasn’t until 2004’s I, Robot where she felt confident that stunt work was going to be her career.
For the 2017 gritty action film Atomic Blonde, Ganderton served as the additional stunt coordinator and stunt double for lead actress Charlize Theron. This nabbed Ganderton a Taurus World Stunt Award for Best Fight Scene, which is the highest award for the stunt community. “Stunt people still don’t have Oscars yet. We’re still fighting for it,” she said with a mix of both exhaustion and optimism.
The award-winning sequence in Atomic Blonde takes place in a stairwell with Theron’s character fighting off several men in what appears to be one continuous shot. But — spoiler alert! — that’s just movie magic. The sequence is shot segment by segment, or “stitch” as it’s also called, with the cuts hidden in certain movements or camera placements. When asked how much of the stairwell fight scene was actually Theron on camera, Ganderton said, “So much of it. We did the proof of concept, [where] you can see me fighting. And then we go ‘OK now it’s you, so you have to do all of the fight perfect before we can move on into the next stitch.’ Sometimes she’d have to do 17 takes of these fights. It was a really challenging scene for her.”
Ganderton also opened up about how she manages any fears or anxiety when performing a dangerous stunt, like say that jump off a rope from four stories high in Atomic Blonde. “Those are the stunts that I’m actually the most at peace with because there’s been so much preparation and I trust the riggers, I trust the rig, I trust the line and I know exactly what’s going to happen. Of course some freak thing could happen, but for the most part you’re pretty safe and you’re going down and then you’re going to stop hard at the end of the line. So I just kind of sit up there and I think, ‘OK, I’ve got to kick my legs but make it look natural and make it look painful when I hit the bottom.'”
She also spoke about stunt coordinating for a plethora of female superheroes on Avengers: Infinity War and the upcoming Avengers: Endgame.
“I’m a big fan of amping up the female superheroes in their fighting. The Black Widow character with Heidi Moneymaker as her stunt double is just incredible to watch.” Beyond that, she has to keep mum about any Endgame secrets for now.
When asked if she has any regrets from over the course of her career, she replied “Things are changing nowadays, but when I first started it wasn’t comfortable or approved to have [safety] concerns and to voice your concerns. There’s a couple of times where I was hurt on set and my instincts told me ‘say this’ or ‘ask this question,’ but it didn’t feel safe to do that. And I hate that. I don’t like that feeling. So as a coordinator I tell everyone ‘if there’s something that’s beyond your ability that’s okay, just tell me.’ Because everyone is going to be eyes on set — I can’t see everything… I want everyone to feel comfortable and confident.”
Her next work can be seen in the upcoming films Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, where she serves as the stunt coordinator for both.
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Robert De Niro