The acrobatics of Harley Quinn – Interview to Ingrid Kleinig (Stunt)

We present an exclusive interview to Ingrid Kleinig, stunt-double for the actress Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad. Kleinig worked on movies like The Legend of Tarzan, Mad Max. Fury Road and The Hobbit saga. 

Hi, Ingrid. Welcome to Lo Spazio Bianco. Can you tell our readers something about yourself?
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 on the wheels, the faster the speed around the motorbike track, and the more G-force generated on hard drifting turns in that wonderfully tractable pram with independent rear suspension, the more I would laugh and giggle. When I went quiet it was time to up the ante. In stunts I have found an ever-changing landscape of physical, mental & political challenges to keep me laughing… daily.

Did you audition for this role? What were you asked?
I had previously worked with the Second Unit Director Guy Norris on films such as Mad Max: Fury Road & Superman Returns. This combined with my recent stint as stunt double for Margot on The Legend of Tarzan helped me secure the role.

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How was it working with Margot Robbie? Did you work a lot together?
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 gave us pretty much free rein to create fight choreography, tailored to her strengths, that didn’t need to be simplified or compromised when going for the actor’s coverage.

She’s also stubborn & fiercely competitive – a state I can readily relate to! For one scene in Suicide Squad we were being trained by a world-class free-diving instructor, Kirk Krack. Each session we would push our respective boundaries in an attempt to surpass each other’s underwater breath hold, which meant we went far above & beyond what anyone thought possible at the outset. Kirk was soon in high demand with other cast and crew determined to pit their lungs against our standing record of 5 minutes. When Margot heard one of the crew had passed us by a mere 6 seconds, she said “I don’t care which of us wins, as long as the guys don’t beat us” (in the end they didn’t). This working dynamic translated throughout most of the action sequences… a constructively competitive drive that brings out the best in each other, alongside the camaraderie of being in it together and striving for whatever most serves the character.

In the action scenes where you replaced Margot Robbie, were you given any indications on how to move or to interpret the character in order to make their movements personal and recognizable?
The working relationship with the actor & the responsibility of creating physicality for someone else’s character are probably the most important (& most often overlooked) skills of a stunt double. It varies with each project but always involves delicate & ongoing negotiations with the holy trinity, being the director, stunt coordinator & actor. During pre-production we work daily with the actor to train specific skill sets & incorporate their character choices into the choreographed action.

ingridmargot1How much did technology change the role of stunt in cinema?
Those working at the forefront of the stunt industry today are collaborating with aeronautical engineers & physicists to devise cutting-edge systems to safely achieve the seemingly impossible. At this level, the craft of stunts is both an art form & a science. When technical innovation is combined with advances in digital technology & physical performers who are pre-eminent in their field, the potential scope of action sequences is really only limited by imagination… and budget.

Do male and female stunts have different tasks on set, are there any particular arrangements that are required for a role like yours?
There is no delineation between the onset roles of male & female stunt performers. We do everything the guys do, but more often than not we do it in sky-high heels & skimpy dresses.

What kind of preparation do you need for this kind of job? How do you keep in shape for these roles?
As a stunt performer I train for functionality, not just form. I choose exercise based on what it enables me to do not how it makes me look. Within this, there are two distinct types of training. The first is everyday maintenance, I have a sustainable routine that is achievable even when battered, bruised & fatigued. It involves low-impact full body workouts like pilates, yoga & swimming, with a run for cardio thrown in every few days. The second is skill-specific training, every new job requires a varying set of abilities so my ongoing training is tailored to whatever film is coming up next, be it motocross for Mad Max: Fury Rd, weapons for the Hobbit trilogy or free-diving for Suicide Squad.

ingrid4What kind of relationship do you have with the world of comic books?
Until now, very little. Though I did enlist the help of some very passionate friends for a crash course on all things DC & Harley Quinn related when preparing for the film.

For group scenes, how important is the chemistry among stunts? Were there any difficult scenes? What was your favourite scene from the ones you shot for Suicide Squad?
I have to say learning to hold my breath underwater for five and a half minutes & equalizing hands-free while sinking to the bottom of a tank stuck headfirst through a Lamborghini windshield was definitely a personally satisfying scene, however there was quite a unique challenge presented to the stunt team when we were asked to shoot a 60+ person fight in 360 degree virtual reality from the lead character’s POV.

This entailed fighting while wearing a custom 3D printed head & neck brace with 17 cameras mounted to it along with the accompanying power sources. Operating the cameras meant essentially floating through the scene without moving my head & torso or changing the horizon line, but as the cameras can see everything from my chest down, the rest of my body was simultaneously fighting a dozen of the guys. It was kind of like patting your head & rubbing your stomach while walking a tightrope in high heels.

In the VR realm the cameras are seeing the ‘whole world’ at all times which meant major timing issues for the other performers who could never be off camera. The action had to sell for all of the cameras all of the time & all in the one take as there are no additional shots to cut away to if one small element of an otherwise perfect take didn’t work.

Added to this, we could only do one take a day as the scene was full of people crashing through ceilings, breakaway glass walls & cubicles, squibs & explosions. We’d get one in the can & then it took art department an entire day to reset.

What are you next projects?
I’m afraid I’m unable to disclose anything about my future projects until they are released!

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