How did you
get into stunt work?
a kid I was into every sport I could get my hands on: wheelie-ing bicycles,
riding unicycles, skateboarding, surfing and water-skiing. I started riding
motorcycles when I was six years old, and I started competing when I was
When I rode motorcycles competitively, I competed in the national championship
competitions against all men. I was 23rd in the nation in the highest
ranking class and I was the only woman. At the Supercross races I would
do a show before their final race, where I’d do wheelies and a balancing
act where I stand on my head on the motorcycle with no kickstand down,
just balancing there. I performed at places like the Houston Astrodome,
Texas Stadium, Pontiac Silverdome Stadium, and the Anaheim Stadium…
and that was all when I was in high school.
I got into stunts through the motorcycle riding, I was the Women’s
World Champion in the seventies, riding for Yamaha, and somebody just
called me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to work on a movie. Once
I got started, I realized they took safety precautions and weren’t
just crazy and hurting themselves all the time, so then I got interested
in doing the rest of the stunts as well.
was the initial stunt work you did?
first movie I worked on was called Deathsport with David Carradine and
Claudia Jennings, a Roger Corman B picture, and there was a lot of motorcycle
riding. I had to jump a thirty-foot ravine on a motorcycle, an old, old
Yamaha DT400. I had never done anything like that before, but as a kid
I always looked for every bump or thing that I could jump, and I loved
to jump. So they said they would take me out on a dirt road and we would
get the ramp set up and measure out the distance, and then keep jumping
it until I got the correct distance every time, so that’s what we
Those bikes had no speedometer or anything, so what I did was click a
gear and listen to the rpms and know I had the right speed. We did it
first time no problem, I jumped about thirty-five feet to clear the thirty
there any trepidation before starting out?
was kind of like when you start a race or a competition - you get those
butterflies - the same thing happens when you do stunts; it’s the
adrenalin kicking in.
the rumors that you worked on Wonder Woman true?
doubled Wonder Woman [Lynda Carter] early in my career on the TV show,
doing all the motorcycle stuff. I jumped over vans and fences and cars,
did wheelies, and all kinds of different things. She’s like five
ten and I’m five four, but on a motorcycle you can’t tell.
I did Barb Wire, doubling Pamela Anderson on that, doing the motorcycle
riding, and driving the big truck. I also worked on The Jerk, the Steve
Martin movie, doubling that S & M chick, riding over a Volkswagen,
and I did a turning wheelie off of a big semi truck, and then I had to
ride through a wall of fire. I’ve worked on hundreds and hundreds
of things over the years.
you encourage your children to ride motorcycles?
seven-year old started riding when he was three, and he’s a natural.
We have a twenty-year old son who wasn’t that interested in motorcycles,
he’s more interested in music. Whatever gifts they have is where
I want them to put their energies. I think my seven-year old is going
to be a stuntman. We had a port-a-pit out in the yard the other day because
we have stunt equipment, and he comes up on his bicycle - he’s riding,
riding really fast - and he hits head-on into the pad, which is about
two feet tall, and flips over into the pads doing a little stunt. Then
he goes again, only this time he figures he’ll do something different,
so he comes in and slides the rear tire and highsides into the pad, which
is a really difficult move for most stunt people. He had perfect form,
he’s a natural.
brought you to THE MATRIX sequels?
needed a girl who could ride one of the Ducati 996s really well, and
I’ve done a few jobs recently on the Ducatis. I did a
promo thing for Carmen Electra where they had me wheelie-ing through
smoke with a straight up and down wheelie on the 996. They wanted it
straight up and down, so I before I got to the smoke I picked it up -
it’s really weird going through the smoke because you can’t
see anything - and then I’d break out of the smoke and the camera
was right there, and I’d set the bike down and go round. Also,
Jimmy Roberts taught me how to do nose wheelies, which are where you
come in and lock up the front brake and get the rear wheel up in the
air, then you ride it like this for a little bit, then come down.
MATRIX: How long does it take to learn something like the nose wheelie?
took me out and in one morning I had it because I learned it on my trials
bike. Trials motorcycles are built to go over obstacles
and I did ‘stoppies’ on that so I had the feel of the front
brake and what I needed to do. He just gave me the coaching and let me
use his bike, and I’d say the third time I got on the brakes, the
rear wheel came up. Then I started working with it from there, until
I felt comfortable getting it up higher and riding it a little bit.
MATRIX: Do you specialize in bike stunts?
I specialize in bikes and cars. I’m known for my motorcycle
and car driving ability.
MATRIX: Are there many people who specialize in doing the specialist
bike work, like the nose wheelie?
are a lot of guys, but very few women. I don’t know
of any other stunt women who do the nose wheelie. A lot of times they’ll
try to get by with a guy doing a stunt, but on a motorcycle you can tell.
The body type is so different that it’s much better to have a girl
on the motorcycle, even if the size difference is substantial.
MATRIX: At this point, how long have you been working on THE MATRIX sequels?
DEBBIE: Three months. It has been a long run.
MATRIX: With the specific types of stunts that you do, does the type
of bike make a big difference?
but part of being a really good stunt person is being able to jump on
anything, any motorcycle, any car, and make it work, because
you never know what you’re going to get when you get to the set.
A lot of times they’ll call you to go to work, and when you show
up there’s an old junker there. When I was young my Dad taught
me how to work on motorcycles, so a lot of times if something’s
set up wrong, or it’s just not right for me, I can borrow some
tools and get the thing working. A lot of people who just ride a little
bit don’t know how to do that, or maybe they’re used to one
particular kind of motorcycle.
I’ve ridden everything from Pocket bikes, which look like miniature
roadracing bikes, to big old Harley Fatboys. I’ve jumped sportsters
and wheelied motor scooters; you have to be able to be really adaptable
because the riding positions are so different. On trail bikes you stand
up and ride, but on the Ducatis you’re way down and the pegs are
way back, so it changes the whole feel of the motorcycle. You have to
be really adaptable to be able to jump from one motorcycle to another,
and be able to be proficient on both.
MATRIX: What are the qualities of a Ducati motorcycle?
Ducati is a road racing style bike, the bars are really close in, and
you lay down on the tank basically. Your pegs are further back
for when you’re going through corners. It’s good for cornering
and tight turns and high speed racing type stuff. It’s a really
cool bike, I like the Ducati.
WORKING ON THE MATRIX SEQUELS
was one the most challenging sequences for you during the last three
I was alongside the big eighteen wheeler truck with Will [Leong, stunt
Keymaker] on the back of the bike. We had to come alongside
the truck with the wall and the K-rail right there - I had to come in,
the truck cut across, and at the same time I’m backing out of it,
while he just basically closes the door. It got real close one time,
and that got my attention, I did not care for that one.
That was really challenging because, in a car, you’ve got lots
of metal around you, but on a motorcycle you’re not protected at
all, so I was glad when that sequence was over. You can stand back and
count how long it takes to get to the wall and all that, but every once
in a while things change. In fact, in one instance things did change,
and I wish they had caught it on film, because it would have been the
greatest, greatest shot. The trailer came over and smacked the wall right
near where we stopped, it was so close, but that was the one I was glad
was over when it was done.
costume is skintight, what kind of safety precautions are you able to
had some Fox elbow pads on which were real form fitting, so I could squeeze
them underneath the outfit. I have some real thin knee
and shin guards that I put on, and I slipped a couple of inserts from
some motorcross pants - they’re little hip pads - and stuffed a
couple of those in there, and that’s about all I could get on.
Underneath I had some long underwear that gave me another layer of protection,
and then also the wig. They wanted to cut my hair in the beginning, and
I really didn’t want them to cut my hair, one of the main reasons
was that with a wig on, I had that extra layer of protection. We’re
doing all this stunt work without helmets on, and should something happen,
I have the hair from the wig, the wig’s cap, and all my hair underneath,
which all acts as a little bit of a cushion. That’s it in the way
of protective gear.
MATRIX: Do you find that stunt work has progressively become more ambitious?
really. I feel that the safety devices and things we’ve
come up with have made us able to extend into another realm, as far as
excitement. When I first started in ’77 there wasn’t a lot
of equipment that was safe back then, now we have more and more equipment,
and we know a lot more than we used to. I really don’t feel it’s
gone over the top, for the most part.
MATRIX: Do you find blue screens a lot more often these days?
and sometimes that makes it even safer, because you don’t
have to do the stunt practically, you don’t have to do it for real.
You can put your background in, you can have pads underneath you, and
things like that.
MATRIX: Which sequence has been the most fun?
loved cutting in and out of the traffic, and laying the bike down sideways.
It was the neatest feeling, especially with somebody on
the back. It’s really hard to get that fluid motion, and a lot
of times Will and I just had it dialed in. Sometimes we were doing sixty-five
[miles per hour] through traffic, laying it down and making hard cuts;
I really enjoyed that.
We also did a jump that was a double on the Ducati, which was pretty
ambitious, because those bikes aren’t made to do that sort of thing,
but we pulled it off. We did it about six or seven times and everything
went fine, but man that bike landed hard. For that particular stunt I
had David Barrett [stunt Keymaker] on the back, who is a professional
motorcross racer, he’s a stunt man, but he’s a pro racer
as well. I chose him because he knows how to fly through the air, he
has that air sense. It was great because I didn’t even know he
was on the back, and that’s the way it should be.
MATRIX: What was your reaction when you first arrived and saw the Freeway
thought it was great, because most of the time we have to shut down streets.
You get a location that’s a practical location, then
we have to shut down and wait for the police officers to get in place
and everything else to happen, and then you have people coming in who
shouldn’t be coming in, dogs running around, and all kinds of distractions.
Just to be able to know we had the set was so great. It’s just
remarkable what they built, it really is, I think they should leave it
up because other shows will use it; it’s a great location.
MATRIX: Thanks Debbie.
Read more about Debbie here: www.stuntrev.com
Interview by REDPILL