Ingrid Kleinig is many things; a film aficionado unafraid to fling herself from buildings, a talented racing driver with unbridled athleticism, and – last but not least – Margot Robbie’s stunt double.
But Ingrid is no adrenaline junkie, she tells UNILAD from the set of her latest project which is currently under a strict NDA (watch this space).
It’s actually a common misconception a lot of people have of stunt doubles, she explains. In fact, Ingrid takes pride in the precision of her craft – lest she suffer more broken bones than those she already doesn’t care to count.
Ingrid seems just as comfortable walking the red carpet as Evangeline Lilly’s double at the Ant Man & The Wasp premier last month in LA as she did scaling elevator shafts in Harley Quinn’s four-inch heels and micro shorts on the set of Suicide Squad.
The Aussie stunt performer explained, aesthetically, how Harley’s infamous costume played a huge part in getting into character, but practically speaking, proved to be a bit of a nightmare.
Admittedly, she said, the head-to-toe leather suit she donned as Evangeline Lilly’s double in Ant Man & The Wasp was also a ‘complicating factor when shooting in the mid-summer Atlanta heat’.
Ever the optimist, Ingrid was happy to have the ‘full body coverage when smashing through windshields and tumbling down the road like a skipping stone’.
The Harley costume did place restrictions on the stunts, she explained, but added:
We became very creative with our safety equipment, from designing custom harnesses to fit under micro-shorts, to moulding body armour from 2mm thermoplastic Kevlar.
The technology allowed Ingrid to do stunts like this:
The stunts on Suicide Squad may look comparatively low-key when watching the rest of Ingrid’s showreel, but it’s still the ‘most fun’ she’s had on set to date.
Recalling the ‘real sense of family’ and rare ‘universal camaraderie’, Ingrid said:
We were on night shoots for the better part of six months and, at times, the cast didn’t leave the studio for days.
We’d shoot all night, wrap when the sun came up, spend a few hours unwinding, catch some sleep in the trailers and wake up late afternoon ready to start it all again.
You can watch how it all came together in Suicide Squad:
Ingrid, like Margot, was a consummate performer from a young age growing up in eastern Australia, but she didn’t realise stunt work was a profession and – like many of the Tom Cruise movie-going generation – assumed actors did all their own stunts.
Having developed a keen athleticism and unique skillset as a youngster, Ingrid said:
When I discovered I could combine my passion for physicality and extreme sports with performing in film, there was no turning back.
So, after years in the industry, when the notorious Harley Quinn role came up and offered a ‘no-holds-barred’ opportunity to combine characterisation with chucking her body around a film set, it was too good to pass up, apparently.
Harley Quinn is definitely the most fun I’ve had with a character. Her batsh*t crazy, unpredictable nature meant dramatically, there were really no limits to how far out of left field we could venture.
That’s rare. It was very liberating.
But she’s keen to share the reality of stunt work, which is so much more than costume and characterisation.
Ingrid described ‘delicate’ negotiations with directors, stunt coordinators and actors:
During pre-production we generally work daily with the actor to train specific skill sets and incorporate their character choices into the choreographed action.
We spend a lot of time in pre-production working with the actor to create a shared vocabulary that hopefully appears seamless when transitioning between shots of the actor and shots of the stunt double.
During filming my role ranges anywhere from moral support from behind the video split, to hands-on responsibility for the actors’ safety and wellbeing, to stepping in physically when the going gets tough.
O coordenador de dublês Richard Norton postou essa foto com a Margot e sua dublê, Ingrid Kleinig! pic.twitter.com/efJQW1Yqk5
— Margot Robbie Brasil (@MargotRobbieBR) September 25, 2016
‘Anyone can train to do a backflip’, she adds, but the most important and most often-overlooked skill of a stunt performer is the ability to create action for someone else’s character and cultivate a good working relationship with the actor.
Like so, with her SAG award-nominated contribution to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, in which she once again helped Evangeline Lilly portray Tauriel. They now follow each other on the ‘Gram.
You can watch the trailer below:
Ingrid’s IMDb page is littered with big names and blockbuster productions, from Chloe Sevigny (American Horror Story) to Cate Blanchett by way of Annette Bening.
Mad Max: Fury Road, The Great Gatsby and Justice League have been graced with her presence. Ingrid has worked often with Brie Larson specifically on KONG: Skull Island and Captain Marvel.
Most famously, she’s been Margot Robbie’s stunt double twice too, first in The Legend of Tarzan and again in 2016 for Suicide Squad. As reports from set praised the former Neighbours Aussie actor for doing most of her own stunts, it seems a good gig.
Ingrid confirmed suspicions, saying:
Margot is a classically trained dancer so she has a level of physicality you really only see in people that have done serious physical training in their formative years.
This gives us pretty much free reign to create fight choreography, tailored to her strengths, that doesn’t need to be simplified or compromised when going for the actor’s coverage.
She’s also fiercely competitive in a constructive way, which sets up a working dynamic between us that brings out our best.
As for working with her fellow stunt crew? Ingrid said:
People often assume we’re all adrenaline junkies. For me personally, professional stunt work is not about action being the fastest, biggest, highest or most dangerous.
This approach engenders a subculture of action pushing the boundaries merely for the sake of action, rather than serving to enhance the story.
Those working at the forefront of the stunt industry today are continually striving to devise new systems and techniques to safely achieve the seemingly impossible.
She does concede stunt work isn’t for everyone, admitting it takes a certain type of person to throw themselves from a building.
She admits her daredevil streak started young, recalling:
As a baby my older brother would take me over the jumps on his motocross track in my pram.
The bigger the jumps, the harder the landings, the faster the laps and the more G-force generated on hard drifting turns, the more I would laugh and giggle.
When I went quiet it was time to up the ante and I’ve been doing so ever since.
Ingrid has been hit by cars, held her breath underwater for five and a half minutes while going headfirst through a windshield and crashed a motorbike head-on into a burning van.
But a skilled stunt professional takes every step possible in the preparation of the stunt to mitigate the risks and make it repeatable.
So don’t go trying this at home kids:
While the big stunts which get ‘rewarded with the kudos’ may sound dangerous, actually, the most challenging aspects of being a stunt person are ‘the gags that don’t look particularly spectacular’, according to Ingrid.
By unspectacular gags, for us laymen, she means ‘those times when you’re taking the hard hits, being hurled across the room on wires, slamming into a wall again and again’.
You know every time you setup for another take it’s going to hurt just as much as the last 10 takes, and you know you still have another couple of angles to cover before you can get out of the rig, but you line up on your mark and go again anyway.
No surprise, then, Ingrid has had her fair share of injuries, including a fractured spine, broken ankle and ‘more stitches
than I care to mention’, mostly suffered during training and rehearsals before the cameras even start shooting.
Here’s why pre-production is the hardest part of her job, according to Ingrid:
Often in training you’re pushing boundaries, testing rigs, trying new moves and rehearsing scenes over and over again to get them right.
By the time it comes to actually shooting, generally, the kinks in the systems have been ironed out and the physicality has become second nature.
Ingrid has had years of experience so the very core of her job is second nature now.
After spending her formative years training in extreme sports of one sort or another, she literally fell into professional stunt work when performing with physical theatre company Legs on the Wall, 140ft above the arena for the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games.
‘My years touring the globe with this company gave me a wealth of physical vocabulary across multiple fields that lent itself precisely to the stunt world’ she states.
But driving is her first love, she tells UNILAD, having hailed from a long line of professional drivers.
Growing up around all types of vehicles gave her an intuitive understanding behind the wheel and under the hood of basic mechanics of anything with a motor; from dune buggies to big rigs.
Vehicles became an early niche in her stunt work, and she eventually landed a job on Mad Max: Fury Road.
She calls her time on set in Namibia working on Mad Max her most gruelling job, spanning four years of rehearsals and five months of shooting in the desert.
Between the logistics of remote locations, local crew, daily sandstorms, extremes of temperatures, scorpions, sidewinders and no Internet, the shoot tested even the most battle-hardened stunt performers and, as Ingrid says, ‘made Mad Max simultaneously my most challenging and most rewarding shoot.’
You can see the results of her work in the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road:
But the effort paid off and the film won a SAG Award for ‘Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble’ back in 2016.
Ingrid said they all knew they were working on something big at the time:
An early screening of stunt footage showing the blood, sweat and grit of our world viscerally translated to the screen and made it very clear that Mad Max would be a force to be reckoned with.
Partly due to her successes and partly because the stunt industry is relatively small, she rarely has to audition for a role. So if she could pick her dream job, what would it look like?
Resolutely, she replies:
Female James Bond. It’s time. I’m not particularly choosy on who…
Margot Robbie – yes, I may be biased – or Robin Wright or Emily Blunt.
With the way Margot Robbie’s career is going, maybe it’s not such a long shot:
As the first female Assistant Stunt Coordinator in Australia, UNILAD asked if there’s a lot of pressure to get it right and trail-blaze for gender equality.
Here’s some fighting talk in the form of her reply:
In stunts, there is always a lot of pressure to get it right. We don’t have the luxury of making mistakes so this is nothing new to me.
If, however, there’s an element within the industry waiting for we, as women, to get it wrong? Then I wholeheartedly welcome that as a challenge.
In the meantime, she’s happy making sure each performance she gives is stronger than the last, while travelling the world for the incredible variety her roles offer, often through word of mouth.
She loves how each day is different, giving some extreme examples:
One day you may be playing a dead body floating in the harbour in the middle of winter, the next you’re saving the Universe alongside Captain America.
But regardless of whether the day is glamorous or gruelling, it’s about being a part of the greater whole [and knowing] elements of my work contribute to a character and to a film that may be enduring.
The pre-production might be the hardest part, but she’s sure living her life like it’s the big take and the cameras are rolling.
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A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.