Margot Robbie has emerged as one of the brightest stars in Hollywood over recent years, but her rise to fame wouldn’t have been possible without a brilliant team behind her.
The actress starred in huge movies Suicide Squad and Tarzan last year, and Ingrid Kleinig has been supporting her at every turn.
You may not know her name, but the chances are you’ll be familiar with Ingrid’s work…
She’s has over 50 stunt credits to her name, and is fast becoming one of the most in-demand performers in the industry.
loaded spoke to Ingrid about working with Margot Robbie, performing stunts in that Harley Quinn costume, and living an action-packed life in the movie business.
loaded: You’ve worked on loads of huge movies, but what was the one you’ve enjoyed the most so far?
Ingrid: It’s impossible to isolate just one, every movie I’ve done was a highlight in its own unique way. I guess The Hobbit Trilogy was a turning point for me in terms of longevity & scale. Filming spanned 3 years & the experience I gained working as stunt double to Evangeline Lilly, surrounded day in day out by world-class crew has been a key factor in where I am placed in the industry today. This led me to the madness of Mad Max: Fury Road. I rehearsed for this movie on & off over a span of 4 years but the 5 months shooting in the Namibian desert dealing with daily sandstorms, extremes of temperatures, scorpions & sidewinders made it my most challenging shoot, but also the most rewarding in terms of end-product gratification.
Working on Suicide Squad would have to be the most fun I’ve had onset. There was a real sense of family that was cultivated & encouraged from the outset. We were on night shoots for the better part of 6 months & at times the cast didn’t leave the studios for days. We’d shoot all night, wrap when the sun came up, spend a few hours unwinding, catch some sleep in the trailers & wake up late afternoon ready to start it all again. That kind of universal camaraderie is rare.
loaded: You’ve performed stunts as Margot Robbie’s double plenty of times – what’s she like to work with?
Ingrid: 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 stubborn & fiercely competitive in a constructive way, which sets up a working dynamic that brings out the best in each other.
loaded: There are some huge stunts in Suicide Squad – including a huge helicopter sequence – what were they like to perform?
Ingrid: There were a lot of unique challenges presented to the stunt team on this movie, one that stands out is the 60+ person fight that we were asked to shoot 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.
loaded: Was it fun to get into character as Harley Quinn? – the costume couldn’t have been ideal for performing stunts in!
Ingrid: The opportunity to create physicality for Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad is definitely the most fun I’ve had with a character. She has such a crazy, no-holds barred personality that meant there were no limits to where we could venture. Aesthetically speaking the costume played a huge part in ‘getting into character’, practically speaking it could not have been worse! The 4 inch heels & skimpy outfit really did place restrictions on the stunts we could perform. 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.
loaded: What’s the most challenging stunt you’ve performed in movies, and what’s the one you’re proudest of?
Ingrid: I’m proud of every stunt in which the team walks away healthy & intact with the shot in the can & smiles on our faces. For me it’s more about being a part of the greater whole, elements of my work contributing to a character & to a film that may be enduring.
The most challenging stunt question is one that I’m often asked & one which I always struggle to answer. I’ve been hit by cars, held my breath underwater for five and a half minutes and crashed a motorbike head-on into a burning van. These stunts are rewarded with all the kudos, however I find the most challenging aspect of being a stunt person are the gags that don’t look particularly spectacular, but you’re taking the hard hits nonetheless… Being hurled across the room on wires & slammed 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.
loaded: So have you ever been unlucky and suffered an injury on set?
Ingrid: Most of the injuries I’ve sustained have been from training & rehearsing, not actually on set. Often in training you’re pushing boundaries, testing rigs, trying new moves & rehearsing scenes over and over again to get them right. The hardest part of a job for me is always the pre-production. By the time it comes to actually shooting, generally the kinks in the systems have been ironed out & the physicality has become second nature. That being said, I have fractured my spine, my ankle and had more stitches than I care to mention.
loaded: How do you train to perform stunts at the highest level like that?
Ingrid: 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.
loaded: How did you first start in the industry?
Ingrid: I spent my formative years training extreme sports of one sort or another, but fell into professional stunt work when performing with physical theatre company Legs on the Wall for the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games.
My years working with this company gave me a wealth of physical vocabulary across multiple fields that lent itself precisely to the stunt world. I also hail from a long line of professional drivers so vehicles became an early niche.
loaded: Are you working on any cool projects atm we should know about?
Ingrid: That, I’m afraid, I’m not at liberty to reveal right now!
Thanks to Ingrid Kleinig for speaking to loaded.