One Stupid Stunt
Kimberly Conrad, the hottest female movie star in the world, has a problem. A fake romance stunt became a PR disaster that caused her to go from America's sunshine sweetheart to its biggest liar. Her long slow climb back to respectability requires her to do two things–stay away from relationships and do something daring to remake her image.
One incredible Stunt
Mattias Wilkins, the grumpy daredevil stunt coordinator, likes to hide in the shadows. After a lifetime of disappointment, things are finally turning in his favor. He's designed a death-defying stunt that will propel his little company to the top of the Hollywood industry. An injury to a critical stunt member threatens to kill the dream.
That is until Kimberly raises her manicured fingers.
He's the grump who doesn't work with pampered Hollywood stars. She's the sunshine princess in need of a miracle. They have three days to make it work. Three days alone in exquisitely beautiful Singapore.
The Singapore Stunt
What could go wrong?
Release date: August 31, 2023
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The Singapore Stunt
“Five minutes!” the high-pitched voice arrives seconds after the double tap on my trailer door causing Ariana, my stunt double to turn to me and freeze, a brilliant smile on her face. She lifts a hand to her mouth and we both burst into a laugh that nearly shakes the movie trailer.
“Told you,” I laugh and pull the bulky hoodie over my head.
“Oh my god Kimberly. I thought you were joking,” she says with a modesty that warms my heart. Ariana is a former near olympic gymnast, and is sweet as the day is long.
“How did you not notice?” I joke. We are on location in downtown Los Angles outside a Graham Chinese theatre. (check spelling). “It’s always the quiet ones you need to pay attention to, they always have the kindest of hearts.”
She points to the door, “Declan?” She says the name of the grip (check title). “He has a thing for me?”
“In the worst way,” my comment causes her dimple to pop and it makes me swoon. “He only comes by my trailer when we are about to film a fight scene.”
“Scenes when you will need a stunt double,” she completes the puzzle as a blush forms on her face. “Times when he knows I’m hanging in your trailer. I think the most he’s ever said to me was Can you pass the sugar.”
“Ohh, how sweet.” We both giggle like high school gossips. You’d never know we are on the set of a high budget hollywood movie. One with all eyes of the industry on us. It’s a female led action movie. One which hollywood, even after the success of Wonder Woman and the Black Widow hesistate to green light. That’s not the only reason why every eye is on us. Some internet sleuth leaked the fact that the studio has optioned three additional scripts hoping to turn this into a franchise. A franchise that will rest heavily on my slender shoulders.
It’s a role I fought hard for. From a box office standpoint I’ve delivered. Two billion dollar box office movies in the last three years. Forever and the sequel Forever 2 (title). But both of those movies were in the romance genre. And both of them had something this one doesn’t. Trace Edwards the top leading man in all of hollywood.
I co-starred in an action film filmed primarily in Japan last year. It did well enough. But not blockbuster good. We’re still debating why. Part of my gut knows the truth. It’s a truth I’ll have to face soon enough.
“Are you sure? You’re a romantic at heart.” Ariana says as she steps to the brightly lit mirror and teases her blond hair. She’s an inch shorter than me and this close her defined muscle definition is almost laughable that anyone mistakes her body for mine. I’m fit and have been on dozens of magazines but I don’t have tight muscles that screams hours in the gym. Then I take a step back. Three feet in either direction and she’s my doppleganger. Especially when she lets her blond hair hang in front of her face.
She’s wearing the blue contacts (check eye color) to match mine and we could pass for sisters. (she hides the pads).
It took, Xavier, our stunt coordinator a month to find a right stunt person for me. The pic has over a dozen physically challenging setups, many of them in close quarters (ugh). I raised my hand do my own stunts something the studio nixed early on. Not a chance in hell with a picture this big, was the message they sent through my agent, too afraid to tell me directly.
What they don’t know is that Ariana and I are close. Over the last four weeks on set we’ve become good friends. She helps me run lines and I help her by working with her on stunts. She’s says I’m a natural, something I’ve heard all my life. What she doesn’t know is that I took an intensive three week stunt training before the start of the filming. Even to this day I hide the hard work I put in behind the scenes and let people believe the blonde starlet is a natural (ugh). With ariana I’ve improved. She’s taught me how to roll, how to twist and use momentum and how to turn at the right angle for a camera to make it appear I’ve been punched/kicked. Tips only come with experience. I’m hoping that by the time the sequel comes around I’ll be more engaged in my character’s stunt work.
“You ready for this?” I place my hands on her shoulders. She’s wearing a loose fitting cotton top with a bodysuit beneath it. Tight lyrca pants.
She nods and steps toward the door. I block her, reaching the tiny handle before her. “Remember we’re not on a closed set. There will be paparazzi and fans. They’ll be twenty feet away behind barricades but they’ll have cameras, they will scream for you.”
“You mean for you.” She bubbles with excitement.
I give her a wink, “For the next one hundred yards until we’re on the film set, to them you are me.”
“Are you sure? I can put on a hoodie too. They’ll never give either one of us a second glance.”
“What? And mess up that hair. Margaret will be pissed if you do that. Besides you work so hard behind the scenes. You deserve the shine of the spotlight.” What I don’t say is that it gives me the opportunity to walk in the shadows. A treat I’ve not had for the last three years. Ever since the first Forever movie premiered my life has tansformed into a fairytale of red carpet events, talk shows, magazine covers and papparazzi. I love, love it but it does take a toll and an insane about of energy to maintain that pace.
After the first Forever movie I thought I had mastered it all. Turned it into a game and took things for granted. It all blew up in my face in the worst possible way. A public humiliation that nearly took down my career. I’ve been slowly rebuilding my fan’s trust but I’ve scaled back my public appearances.
I open the door and immediatley bite on my lower lip. Declan is standing, back pressed to the side of the trailer as if he’s on buckingham palace duty. A massive golf umbrella in his hand he is waiting. I remember to keep my chin lowered and he lifts and opens the umbrella.
“Miss Conrad I can walk with you to the set and block the paparazzi.” He says and I look up at the sky. An out of nowhere sun shower shut down production for the last twenty minutes. It’s disappeared as quickly as it arrived but for the sake of continuity, the director called a time out for the rain to dry up. Even with the bright sunlight of a mid eighties degree afternoon I still spot water freckles on the side of the trailer.
I give the sweet young grip a wink. “The miss Conrad you are seeking is right behind me.”
He gives me a confused look which only lasts three seconds. Ariana lifts her hand toward the umbrella, her fingers brushing against his as she steps down the three steps to the street level. “This is so kind of you Declan. Aren’t you the sweetest?”
His blush is the cutest thing I’ve seen in weeks. Fourteen hours of intense focus and filming teaches you to appreciate the small things. If love isn’t in the cards for me, its nice to see it in the cards for someone as sweet as Ariana.
“Kimberly turn this way!” the squeal from the paparazzi is not a surprise. I keep my chin lowered and pace a few feet to behind them. I tap Declan on his back and urge him to keep moving. I work my way to the right of Ariana when I spot another paparrzzi with a long lens. I make sure to stay between her and the camera spoiling his shot. As long as Ariana keeps moving and lets her hair hang in front of her face, they won’t figure it out until after we’re on set and they have a chance to zoom in on their digital images.
“We love you Kimberly.”
Ariana lifts a hand and waves, a dimple I don’t possess pops on her face and I pick up the pace.
With each step the volume from the fans lower and the gaze from our director intensifies.
I turn and catch Ariana whispering something to Declan. He closes the umbrella with a smile worthy of the high school prom king that just made out in the back seat of a car with a girl he’s been crushing on all semester. He steps away and she spots my questioning gaze.
“We’re going to meet at the craft table for coffee after the scene.” I give her a high five. “That walk was insane. I can’t believe this is your life. Like every day. What a rush?” Ariana is flying high. “You really didn’t have to do that for me. But I’m so glad you did.”
I give her a side hug, “anytime sweetie. You work so hard and never get to be in the spotlight. You wear it well.”
“It was only thirty seconds. If I got that everyday I’d be the biggest asshole in all of Hollywood. How do you stay so grounded?”
I brush aside the comment. “I always remember where I came from. I know the media says my movie Forever made me an overnight sensation. But I had struggled for nearly a dozen years in this industry. I’ll never forget and I will never take what I have for granted.”
The director Marlon Hayes walks up to us. He possesses a perpetual scowl. He’s a Hollywood veteran of over a dozen action movies. He runs a tight set. “Kimberly, shouldn’t you be resting or running lines, or doing anything but standing around my set right now?”
His question is expected. It’s the same one he gives me every time he’s shooting a stunt scene. “I’m here to watch Ariana. Everyone deserves a cheer section.”
Most stars disappear from set when stunts are filmed. I don’t fault them, our days are endless and demanding. But I’ve seen the work and dedication it takes to perform the stunts. Especially the insane ones in this movie. And they are doing it to make me and my co-stars look good. How could I not be here to give them support. They are literally giving us their blood.
“Fine, but stay hydrated and out of the sun. It’s going to be a long scene.” With that he walks away and Ariana steps up next to me.
“I’d understand if you need to head out.” She says. “He’s right. It’s going to be a long day. It’s a complicated maneuver, crashing through windows, falling down stairwells and leaping across a building.”
“Or as you like to call it in stunt world, Tuesday.”
We laugh and I give her another side hug. “I’m here for you.”
“Thank you. Let me check in with Xavier and get settled.” She skips over to the stunt coordinator.
Xavier isn’t just a stunt coordinator. He is also performing stunts in the film. He’s the double for my character’s love interest in the movie. My eyes search the set for my co-star Cameron Wirtel. When I come up empty, it doesn’t surprise me. If he’s in a scene Cameron doesn’t come to the set. He’s focused on the part, his biggest to date. He’s early in his career.
I follow the director’s advice and find a high back director’s chair under an umbrella and sink in for a long day of shooting.
Ariana is incredible. Yesterday I walked through all of these scenes in what felt like slow motion. It was for the cameras. Technical shots that will be seamlessly blended into the stunt shots. Other shots with dialgoue and with the principals. Today’s setup is all for the stunt doubles.
Most people fail to realize how much effort is put into an action sequence. Six hours of filming for a scene that will last less than three minutes on the screen. Less than a quarter of that time showcasing the stunt work.
We are three hours in, and have moved to the balcony fight sequence. It’s the last stunt here at the theatre and there is a reason the director saves it for last. It is the most daring and breathtaking shot here in LA. I’ve learned from him that stunt people love to ratchet up the danger and live for the adrenline. They like to finish their day on a high. There will be plenty of highs to chase. After we wrap in LA we are off to Singapore and a stunt that has even Xavier excited.
“Quiet on Set,” an assistant calls from the shadows and the theatre goes silent. I’m backstage with a sliver of opened curtains view the theatre. The director and cameras are in front of me, several others hidden in the shadows of the theathre. Another sun shower swept through a few minutes ago. This time Marlon refused to shut down the set, even for five minutes. We’re losing the light and if we miss the window it means delays, another day of shooting and a logistics nightmare.
Production staff have been enlisted to grab towels and wipe down any surface that may appear in the scene. Marlon gave them exactly sixty seconds to clear as much as they can. He’s already in the director’s chair ready to yell action. I’m not even in the scene but can sense the rising levels of tension. This is a difficult stunt. One that the team will only at most two shots at getting right before we lose the sun.
“Action,” Marlon screams and I hold my breath.
Ariana is on the balcony. A trio of bad guys chasing behind her. She hits her mark and turns to face six other goons racing at her in the other direction. She wants to fight but her wounded love interest is by her side. She spots the wires holding celebratory flags in the theatre and grabs Xavier by the hand. They share a look that will be replaced with the shot Cameron and I shot yesterday. “Trust me.” I murmur the word from script as Ariana wraps her arm around his waist and steps over the balcony railing.
I hold my breath. She is about to leap with one hand, grab the wire. They will swing out about ten feet away from the balcony before the wire will snap from the added weight. They will fall two stories onto a hidden air mat between three rows of removed chairs. I stand and I see it in Ariana’s eyes immediately. When she planted her foot on the edge of the balcony it slides from a hidden water spot. The slip up costs her her momentum. She won’t be able to reach the wire.
Fear flashes in her fake blue eyes. A fear that has me gasping. That’s when I spot Xavier. His eyes fill with a protective determination. He takes control. Pulling on ariana’s shoulder forcing her body to rotate in his direction. I leap to my feet and whip the curtain from in front of me. Xavier twists his body in order to take the brunt of the fall. Their momentum, however, causes an over rotation. The two of them crashing into the theatre seats below. The stage in front of me fills with people rushing and shouts for the medics.
I remain frozen in place. Medics with bright red and white medical backpacks rush into the middle of the pile and I hold my breath, willing for them to stand and brush off their shoulders like I’ve our stunt people do a hundred times.
When I look up and spot the rest of the cast peering over the balcony with hands covering their eyes and tears streaming down their face. That’s when I know - it’s bad.
My phone buzzes, a welcome break from the madness occurring in front of me. I’m on studio backlot, a small conference room with a giant screen in front of us. We are officially in crisis mode.
Ariana: look who spent the night with me (heart emoji).
The attached picture is of Declan sitting in a hospital chair, eyes closed, head at an awkward angle pushed against the white wall, his dodger cap crumbled as a faux-pillow.
Ariana: he’s not left my side since you left last night.
Me: that’s adorable. How are you doing?
Ariana: bummed that I messed up the stunt and took out my boss at the same time (smiley emoji).
I chuckle and then remember where I am, covering my mouth. I picture Ariana’s smile brightening the entire wing of the hospital. She had a dislocated elbow and a mild concussion. The doctors said it could’ve been ten times worst if not for Xavier hadn’t taken the blunt of the fall.
Me: he’s happy that you are going to be ok. He’s staring at me right now on a Zoom call from his hospital bed.
Ariana: Really? Doesn’t he know how to take a day off?
The screen fills with three dots. Ariana: . I heard he’s in bad shape.
The last thing I want to do is worry her.
Me: They must have some good drugs there because he’s all smiles and is already asking to return to set.
Ariana: I hope they let me out the room today. I’ll check on him. How badly did I ruin the movie?
Me: You didn’t ruin a thing. Injuries happen all the time. They have contingencies. All is good. You concentrate on getting better and flirting with Declan. I’ll keep you posted.
I flip the phone over just as Elliot, one of the producers on the film slams his hands on the table.
“Tell me again why the hell we didn’t have a harness and wires on them?”
The Director pounds the other side of the table, matching him fury for fury. This is why I didn’t hesistate to swipe at my phone. The last five minutes have been men acting like barbarians to see who has the biggest set - in other words men acting like men.
I try to capture the gaze of Cameraon, my co-star who is freaking reading from the script as if today is another normal day.
“Because we are trying to make magic,” Marlon defends the stunt. The producers know what they got when they snagged Marlon to direct. He’s known for big explosions and crazy stunts. It was one of the reasons I signed up. After the so-so box office of my last movie I knew if I was going to stay in the action film genre, I would need to step it up.
“Wires require a lot of post-production work to remove and the worst part is they restrict movement. I wouldn’t be able to shoot as tight, the audience experience would be impacted.” Marlon is a visionary and he’s a veteran of action genre. It’s the reason the studio entrusted him with a budget this size.
“Whatever,” Elliot waves a hand at the screen. Xavier is perched up in a hospital bed, teeth gritted in a world of pain which he’s doing a poor job of hiding. The rest of the screen is filled with half a dozen talking heads. Lawyer, studio execs, etc. I’m the only woman in the meeting, not a new experience for me. “It’s two stunt people. Pull in two others and keep it moving. It’s bad enough we had to shut down production yesterday.”
“Apologies for having you stop production to clean up all that blood in the theatre. What was I thinking.” Xavier grunts the words I was thinking.
“That’s not what I meant.”
“You’re not that deep Mr. Warren. You’ve actually said what you mean. And we may just be lowly interchangeable stunt people, hell I already have my replacement in mind. But you won’t find another replacement for Kimberly. Remember it took us three weeks to find Ariana and then had to purchase her contract out from MGM.”
“It shouldn’t be that difficult. We have six other female stunt people on the payroll. I’ve already looked.”
The director speaks, “none of them will work for a variety reason. Wrong body type, height, skills training. Remember the action sequences are going to be close up. We’re not shooting from a distance where you can toss a wig and shoot over their shoulders. Ariana was a perfect fit for Kimberly. Two peas in a pod. Same for Xavier and Cameron.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll have a replacement for me before we hang up from this call.”
“That’s what I want to hear. Solutions,” Elliot leans his palms onto the table. “Let’s talk about the girl.”
“That woman has a name. It’s Ariana, not girl and not stuntgirl.” Xavier looks like he’s ready to rip Elliot in half and the respect I’ve had for him on set as he prepped the team grows in leaps and bounds. Elliot is one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood, yet Xavier doesn’t cede an inch.
A defensive wave floats through me and I lean forward on the tips of my toes.
“How long before she can be back on set?” I bite my lip in disbelief that he has the audacenty to form this sentence.
“It’ll take as long as the doctors say it will.” I speak for the first time and the entire room goes silent. I think of my last co-star, the incredible Trace Edwards. He’s a billion dollar box office darling but he took it upon himself to mentor me on the ways of dealing with studio executives. I’m no longer the bashful quiet actress cast as girl three in the crowd. “We will not comprise anyone’s health for a movie. Our stunt people already give us everything. Sweat and even blood,” I steal a glance at Xavier who is holding his ribs yet nodding. “And we barely acknowledge them in a three point font a minute and a half into the credits when most people have left the theatre. The least we can do is not make them feel pressured to return to a set before they are ready.”
“It’ll be almost a month.” Xavier chimes in. “For an injury like what she has the recover time is six to eight weeks. Ariana is tough. We all are. We are athletes. She’ll be ready in four. Not a day sooner.”
Xavier gives us a definiteve timeline that shuts down all conversation. “And by the way, I’ll be out three months in case anyone cared to ask.”
If Xavier is out three months that means his injuries are more extensive than any of us feared. Xavier is damn near superhuman. I heard on his last movie he broke a finger in one fight scene, put some skin colored tape on and continued working for the next two weeks before getting it treated.
“Shit.” Both Elliot and Marlon say at the same time.
“We don’t have a month to wait. We don’t have the three weeks it would take to find someone else and have them train up for the part.” Marlon is already looking at the calendar and I know what word is about to come out his mouth before he speaks. “Singapore.”
Elliot says, “I know. We can finish the theatre sequence here in LA another time but Singapore won’t wait. It took us six months of negotiating and contracting to get all the approvals. Hell the head of the studio had to call directly to their government. We are taking over one of their most iconic monuments for two days. If we lose this window it’ll be another year before we can get it again - even if they allow it.”
“The Singapore Stunt.” Xavier says with a reverance reserved for the gods and heroes.
It’s the same reverence I heard in Ariana’s voice. A speculatuor climatic fight scene on the roof of the marina sands bay hotel and casino.
If we lose Singapore, we lose the movie. The movie goes into a can. Probably never to be revied. Hundred of people lose their jobs.
My focus is on the only person who matters - Xavier. He’s the stunt coordinator. He knows the intricacies of the stunt. And over the last few weeks he’s seen me on set. His is the only opinion that matters. “I can do it.” I shout and hold my breath. Xavier pushes up in his hospital bed and gives me a smirk while the rest of the room gives me a look that says I’ve lost my mind.
“You? You want to do the singapore stunt?” the Marlon gives me the reaction I expect.
“A stunt that has never been done before?” Elliott adds.
For the first time the lawyer look engaged. “She can’t. It’s not covered in her insurance policy. Nor the studio’s policy. Contracts will need to be reworked. And after what happened last night the insurance company …”
Elliot cuts him off, “we’ll take care of the insurance company.” He turns his attention to Xavier, “Xavier, am I the only one who thinks she’s crazy. Yet I didn’t hear you jump across the screen and yell at her for treating your profession as interchangeable parts. Aren’t those the words you used?”
I hold my breath. I don’t know Xavier well but Ariana vouches for him. He’s tough, strict and can be a hard ass but she’s always said he’s fair and knows his stuff.
“You guys really can’t recognize a jewel right in front of your face.” His reprimand is directed at the guys and it sounds much like something Trace would say. “Kimberly is the only actor I’ve seen in my over dozen years of doing this that attends every stunt session for her double. I even caught her with a notebook taking notes back on week one. She’s a student. She doesn’t think I’ve noticed, but I’ve seen her practicing with Ariana on the backlots. I’m not saying she’s good. She’s not. She’s going to need a crash course by someone who knows what the hell they are doing. But she’s your best bet.”
I nibble on my lower lip. Having a room full of men assess my talent is never comfortable. One day I will own every part of my future and will no longer have to fight for every scrap a man decides to drop (ugh). I hold onto to the fact that I’ve had a crash training course. Now’s not the time to reveal that tidbit. I’m not some uncoordinated pampered starlet who’s never worked a hard day in her life. I’ve struggled most of my life. I ran track in college. I know the basics of the profession. I’m a quick study. I can do this. I have to do this.
“I can do it.” I repeat the words with more confidence in my voice than I should.
“And your agent is ok with you doing this?” Elliot asks a question that is so rude that even Cameraon looks up from his script and rolls his eyes.
“My agent works for me.” I let the words hang in the air like a boss.
Xavier chuckles and grabs his ribs. “Listen up team. Update the paperwork. My brother is already in Singapore prepping. He’s also my double and can fill in for me. Let’s stick to the schedule. Which means we start shooting in Singapore in four days.”
I’ve been in back meetings with heads of studio, billion dollar stars and top executives that will go down in hollywood history. But Xavier takes control of the room as if he’s own the entire damn backlot. Every person listening intently and taking notes.
“Here’s what we are going to do.” Xavier continues and even Elliot remains quiet. “Put Kimberly on the next flight to Singapore. I’ll have my brother meet her and train her the next few days. I trust his assessment. After three days he decides whether you guys have a movie or not. Only him. Am I clear?”
The lawyer is the first to speak to no one’s surprise. “Mattias? The assistant stunt coordinator?” Xavier looks at the screen as if he’s still waiting for a question. “Elliot? Marlon? Are we saying an assistant stunt coordinator is going determine the fate of a possible billion dollar movie? Are you comfortable with this?”
“It’s non-negotiable. If Mattias doesn’t give a green light there is no Singapore Stunt. And without the stunt there is no movie.” Xavier answers for them.
I spot the concern on their faces. Ceding control to a man they’ve only heard about. I don’t have their luxury. After the disaster I went through last year I need this movie to be made in the worst way. “Guys, don’t worry. Mattias will give us the green light. Everyone who meets me loves me. He’ll never be able to say to no to me.”
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