Among the hundreds of men who work as stunt co-ordinators on feature films in Hollywood, Monique Ganderton says she only knows ” a handful of women” who do the job.
“It’s definitely an industry that’s taking some time,” she told CBC News. “I’m still trying to figure out why.”
Ganderton, who worked on Avengers: Infinity War, is Marvel Studios’ first-ever female stunt co-ordinator for a feature film.
Born in Edmonton, she started as a model, moved into acting and eventually got into stunt work, doubling for Daryl Hannah, Leelee Sobieski and Famke Janssen, among other actors. She spent 18 years in the field before the Avengers opportunity came along.
“A film of this size, it was mostly about us meeting and laying it all out,” she said about the planning process at the world premiere of Avengers: Infinity War in Los Angeles earlier this week. “What are we going to need for this movie? Who are we going to need?”
The highly anticipated blockbuster, 10 years in the making, is one of the most expensive ever made. Its co-director, Joe Russo, told CBC News the budget was more than $300 million.
This week, it nabbed the fourth biggest preview gross ever, earning $39 million US in North America from Thursday night screenings. Reviews have been generally positive as well.
The film blends storylines from some of Marvel’s most popular superhero franchises including Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange.
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chadwick Boseman, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benedict Cumberbatch are among its stars.
That’s the part that’s going to take a while. Just having people used to seeing women in the room.” – Monique Ganderton , Avengers: Infinity War stunt co-ordinator
The huge cast required the stunt department to collaborate closely and meticulously with the writers, directors and visual effects team.
That’s where Ganderton came in.
She hired fight units, stunt doubles, trainers for actors and put a team together that could work well under stressful situations for a year and a half.
Changing mindsets in an ‘alpha, male-dominated’ industry
Sam Hargrave, the film’s supervising stunt co-ordinator, said opportunities for women often come on smaller projects, but for ones this large — it’s rare.
“This is the world stage,” said Sam Hargrave, the film’s supervising stunt co-ordinator. “So that’s a great place to make a statement like that, to say ‘it works.'”
Even so, Ganderton said changing mindsets in an “alpha, male-dominated” industry doesn’t always move as fast.
“Even if I have my name as a co-ordinator of the biggest movie in the world, and I go to another meeting, they’re still surprised. They’re like, ‘Yeah but who else did it? It wasn’t just you,” she said.
“That’s the part that’s going to take a while,” she said. “Just having people used to seeing women in the room.”