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How Scarlett Johansson Got in Superhero Shape

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Scarlett Johansson

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Scarlett Johansson
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If there’s anyone who knows how to rock a catsuit, it’s Scarlett Johansson. Reprising her role as the butt-kicking Black Widow in The Avengers (in theatres today), the sexy superhero makes wearing a body-hugging, skin-tight leather costume look easy.

Make no mistake though; playing the part of a fearless, fit action hero takes a lot of work. The 27-year-old actress endured long hours of intense training to get ready for her physically demanding role, filled with a rollercoaster of stunts, fights, and hand-to-hand combat.

But behind every superhero (in the movies, anyway) is their superstar stunt-double! Enter Heidi Moneymaker, who has some of the most impressive stunt credits in the biz (with a name like that, we're not surprised!). From The Avengers and Iron Man 2 to Cowboys and Aliens, Mission: Impossible III, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, there isn’t an action sequence she can’t conquer.

“I've been working with Scarlett since Iron Man 2. She is one of my favorite actresses I have ever worked with,” Moneymaker says. “She works very hard and picks things up really fast."

So just how did Moneymaker get Johansson in such awesome shape? We got the scoop from the talented thrill-seeker herself on her action star workout, the craziest stunt in the flick, and life as one of Hollywood’s hottest stunt doubles.

SHAPE: First off, congrats on all your amazing accomplishments! Tell us about how you got into doing stunt work.
Heidi Moneymaker (HM): I had a scholarship for gymnastics to UCLA and I met a couple ex-gymnasts turned stuntmen. After seeing the exciting things they were doing, I knew I wanted to be a stuntwoman. I started training martial arts and various other skills, sent out my resume and demo, and as luck would have it, booked a job doubling Drew Barrymore in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.

SHAPE: Who are some of the other celebs you’ve been a stunt double for?
HM: I've doubled Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore, Kerri Russell, Emily Browning, Michelle Rodriguez, Fergie (The Black Eyed Peas), Julie Benz, Jaime Pressly, Saoirse Ronan, and believe it or not, Frankie Muniz!

SHAPE: What was it like working with Scarlett Johansson for The Avengers, and what type of training did you do with her?
HM: Scarlett was finishing filming We Bought a Zoo when we first started prepping for The Avengers, so we only had about five or six weeks to train before we started filming. Luckily, Scarlett is such a professional and works incredibly hard, so she learned all her fights and performed them with perfect execution. We would also take advantage of any time we had free during filming to sneak in a training session. She was trained in "hand-to-hand" fighting as well as some weapons training. She had many fights in the film, some one on one and some were multi-person fights.

SHAPE: What was the craziest stunt you did in the film as her stunt double?
HM: None of them were too "crazy,” but I did get pulled through a window while it shattered due to an explosion and landed about 10 to 15 feet below.

SHAPE: How many stunts was Scarlett able to do on her own?
HM: Scarlett did a lot of her fights, and any time she had the opportunity to try a stunt, she did! She always went the extra mile. She truly commits to her role as the Black Widow.

SHAPE: How much does fitness play a role in what you do for a career, and what do you do to stay in fighting shape?
HM: Being fit plays a major role in my career. Not only must a stunt performer be in shape to match the body type of their actress, but in order to perform the kind of tricks, fights, and stunts that we do, one must have strength, agility, and endurance. Often we do take after take after take. I work out in some form almost every day. I usually take Saturday or Sunday off to rest. I do a lot of different types of martial arts training, gymnastics, I run, and I do yoga.

SHAPE: What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
HM: I love what I do. I have always been just as big a fan of training as I am of performing. I get to spend my days off learning new skills and pushing myself, and I get to spend my workdays performing them. Working with Scarlett is such a pleasure. We are a great team. She is extremely nice and very motivated. I think we both want Black Widow to be amazing and therefore we work really hard to make her powerful and unique!
 

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