Gemita Samarra returned to the big screen last week with Spectre, where she was the stunt double for actress Lea Seydoux.
We caught up with the actress to chat about her stunt work on Spectre and the movie roles that she has in the pipeline.
- Spectre has just hit the big screen, so can you tell me a bit about the movie?
Spectre is unlike any Bond before. Bond finds out something about his past and goes a little more 'rogue' than seen before. I don't want to reveal too much of the movie for those who haven't seen it, so go and catch it in the theatres now!
- The film sees you as a stunt double for actress Lea Seydoux, so how did you get into stunt work in the first place? And how did you land a role on the latest Bond film?
I originally came into stunts through a horse riding and swimming background. I got my first TV job when I was 17 which was an underwater acting role, and it was there that I discovered stunts was a genuine career and started training immediately after that!
Getting on Bond was luck for me, I happened to be in Pinewood studios in the UK and met Lee Morrison, the assistant stunt co-ordinator on Spectre and he put me forward to the stunt co-ordinator Gary Powell and director Sam Mendes. Within a week I had dropped all my other plans and was in work.
- I have read that you have called Spectre one of the 'most intense' jobs that you have ever done, so what was it about this shoot that was so tough?
I think more so the length of time on a job. I'm used to getting in on a job for a couple of weeks or a month and then taking on another project, and I think also working with such a top class, inspirational team, I couldn't have asked for more support and help from the guys. They taught me so much every day.
- The movie sees you work with Oscar-winning filmmaker Sam Mendes for the first time. How did you find him as a filmmaker? And how clear was he in his vision for the film and for the stunts that you were doing?
Sam is fantastic at what he does, and he seems to have a really good way with the actors he works with. Although I usually worked on 'main unit', I worked mainly under the stunt co-ordinator Gary Powell and also the fight co-ordinator Olivier Schneider. But I know Sam wanted it to be very 'real' feeling and not too 'stunty'. He seemed to be very clear with his vision as to what he wanted.
- Spectre sees you work as a stunt double for Lea Seydoux, so how closely did you work with the actress as you were developing those scenes?
I worked alongside Olivier and other guys on the stunt team to work with Lea and the other cast in rehearsals, so we had her come into training as often as possible to run through everything she was able to do. She's a great actress and a real pleasure to work with.
- Spectre is another fantastic action packed ride, so was there a stunt in the film that is your favourite? And which one was the most difficult?
I'm not sure it even qualifies as a 'stunt' necessarily but one of my favourites would have to be the boat chase on the Thames and the helicopter in Morocco. Although I didn't technically have to do much, they were experiences I will never forget.
The most difficult, I would say, would be the train fight where I get a dining table kicked to the face by Dave Bautista (Hinx). There is no way of stopping it hitting you! It didn't hurt and we didn't have to do too many takes but we sure rehearsed it a lot beforehand!
- You have also moved in front of the camera in recent years and were back on the big screen this summer with Pressure, which is out on VOD now, so can you tell me a bit about that project?
Pressure was a really fun job for me as I am very at home underwater. I was acting opposite some fantastic talent, Danny Huston, Matthew Goode and Joe Cole to name a few. I played Joe Cole (Jones') pregnant wife in the movie and we have a really special scene underwater where I appear as a vision to him. The movie is thriller about a group of deep sea divers that get trapped in a diving bell on the bottom of the Indian Ocean after going down to fix an oil pipeline.
- How tricky did you find shooting underwater? I suppose there is a greater emphasis on facial and body expressions than when you are filming on solid ground?
I love it! I am very comfortable underwater, probably from synchronized swimming for many years, but I find it quite easy and natural. It's really about your face and your eyes and that ability to really connect with the audience through your expressions.
The water isn't very forgiving at all, it will pick up on all your flaws and that is something you have to accept and embrace! There is no dialogue to be able to communicate with the audience like there is when performing on land so you really have to 'feel' your character and visually connect.
- You have just finished work on Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - where you were the stunt double for Ella Purnell - so how did you find working with Tim Burton?
I thoroughly enjoyed working on it, I was only on very briefly immediately after finishing on Spectre, so I joined them for the last couple of weeks of filming, but it was completely the opposite to most other films I've been on towards the end of filming.
The crew were still loving being at work and seemed to be a really tight-knit family. Usually by the end of a movie, the crew are raring to finish but not on this one! Tim was a pleasure to work with, as were the Stunt co-ordinators Rowley Irlam and Richard Bradshaw.
- Can you drop any little hints as to what we can expect from the film?
The movie is based on a book - 'Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children' By Ransom Riggs. The book tells the tale of a boy who, following a horrific family tragedy, follows clues that take him to an abandoned orphanage on a Welsh island. I wasn't on the movie long enough to know Tim Burton's take on the book, but from what I could see from the set pieces and costumes, he is a visual genius and it looks incredible! I can't wait to see it.
- Finally, what's next for you - both as an actress and as a stuntwoman? You have moved between acting and stunt work this year but how keen are you to move more into the acting side of things?
I have recently moved to LA, mainly for the weather and lifestyle! I love training outdoors and feel I can do a lot more of that here. I'm also doing a lot more auditions and finding the right agent to push me in the best direction for the dream 'action girl' role. So hopefully something great will come of that soon!
I have also fallen in love with writing and producing since being here and have started writing my own doc series about Animal Rights- focussing on Shark finning, testing, medicinal, poaching, extinction etc. and also have a feature and some other series lined up, so I'm excited!
Spectre is out now.
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