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Danger: Girls at Work.

They'll take a real beating for Julia Roberts...

Fall naked through a glass shower door for Meg Ryan...

And race over a minefield to save Cindy Crawford.

They're Hollywood's new elite, the stuntwomen who take it on the chin and every other part of their battered bodies for the stars.

Maria Kelly has a drawer full of false boobs - a different size for every actress for whom she stunt- doubles. They include Ryan, Roberts and Teri Hatcher, who plays Lois Lane on the TV series Lois and Clark.

Maria is now one of the best in a business that, until a few years ago, was all but closed to women. "When I started only a few women were regularly employed," said Maria.

"Co-ordinators who run the `gags' - that's what we call a stunt- would rather dress men in women's clothes and put wigs on them, which isn't very believable. They didn't think women could roll with the punches like the men."

Maria set out as a model and actress before turning her talents for horse riding, car racing, diving and judo into a paying profession.

And the money's good.

Maria gets pounds 350-a-day just for turning up on the set, and more every time she repeats a gag.

On an average day, she can pocket over a thousand pounds.

And the downside? She's had 12 major concussions and suffers permanent back pain.

"I can't count the cracked ribs," she said.

She plans to marry a stuntman and have a kid. "I'm 36, so I'd better hurry," she said.

Nancy Young is the beauty who doubled for supermodel Cindy Crawford in her movie debut Fair Game.

She wound up in hospital with severe burns.

Her injuries were the result of a make-up artist who mixed movie blood with glue on her arm.

As she ran through fire and explosions, the mixture melted into her skin.

"It makes me angry to get hurt over something so stupid," she said. "I don't take risks. If a stunt bothers me I tell them to hire someone else."

Denise Lynne Roberts, who has stunt-doubled for Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn, added: "Somebody gets badly hurt every year. It's like a wake-up call."

One such wake-up call came last year, when Sonja Davis died on the set of the Eddie Murphy film Vampire in Brooklyn.

She was doing a backward fall, known as a `deadman's drop', from a tenement roof when she smashed her skull.

Days before she phoned her mother and said: "I hope I don't die."

"If I was worried about a stunt I wouldn't do it," Maria said. "Fear makes it safe. Anxiety makes it dangerous."

But the last word goes to Charles Piscerni, who has co-ordinated gags for the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard movies.

"The girls don't let all that macho stuff get in the way," he said.

"And a lot of them are better than the guys."
COPYRIGHT 1996 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Grehan, Ellen
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 14, 1996
Words:487
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