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SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

What I’ve Learned: Heather Arthur, Stuntwoman

Heather Arthur is stuntwoman and mother of two young children.  She currently resides in the Los Angeles area but is originally from Colorado.  You can view her stunt reel here and her IMDB page here

“I became a stuntwoman about 8 years ago now.  I have a 2 year old son and a 3 month old girl.  My husband is stuntman, too.  We were working corporate jobs in Colorado when we got a call about an opportunity to work on the set of Lost.  We both quit our jobs and moved to Hawaii in less than a week.

My husband Jon and I met in college and were married after dating for just 2 years.  Before we decided to become full time stunt actors we were working corporate jobs in Colorado, but we hated our jobs.  We just weren’t cut out for corporate life.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Heather and Jon and their son in Hong Kong

I guess it isn’t uncommon for stunt actors to date and marry each other.  I think you just find someone that is willing to be adventurous with you for the rest of your life.  We both love the adventure of it all.  We always knew there would be a challenge, and that this lifestyle would definitely be much more difficult.  But there is always going to be the option to stay home or to travel.  Sometimes the thing that is more challenging ends up being so much more rewarding.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Heather doubling Actress Lily Collins on Priest

People always told us things would change when we had kids.  We would disagree and say “nothing will change” and they would just say, “Oh, we’ll see…” But things didn’t really change.  I think we traveled even more after our first kid.  And then when we got pregnant with our second, those same people continued to say, “oh, your lifestyle is going to change…” but it still hasn’t.  Everyone has said it would be impossible, but we do it.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Heather and Jon at the Emmy’s in 2008

My dad was a stuntman and then became a stunt coordinator.  He is the one who told us about the opportunity in Hawaii.  I suppose it runs in the family; I remember him standing in the kitchen watching me jump off the refrigerator when I was a toddler.  My dad always encouraged me to do stunts like that.

We travel a lot.  Most people think we have a crazy lifestyle.  But we enjoy it.  We really like traveling, so that’s been a great aspect of this job.  When we travel we always book one-way tickets, because we never know when we’ll get a call and have to leave and fly someplace else.  Even though it can add extra stress, we really love it.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Heather on the set of Lost with actress Evangeline Lilly

In our profession, things are always done last minute.  I am constantly needing to fly somewhere for a job with very little notice.  I’ve been to Asia and Australia like 10 times.  My 2 year old has been to 17 different states.  My 3 month old has already flown to Florida, Colorado, and Hawaii. She’ll have been on 5 different round trip flights before she turns 4 months.

Our kids have already traveled a lot considering their ages.  We always joke that our daughter is fancy traveler: she’d rather fly than drive.  She never cries on a plane, but she cries when she’s in the car.  When my son was a baby his nickname was “carry-on”.

My husband and I have always put family first.  If its important, you just make it happen.  When my son was 8 months old I was in Hawaii.  I would be out on boats in the middle of the ocean and I had to bring a breast pump with me.  Just a few weeks ago I was working on the set of Fast and the Furious 7 in Colorado.  My kids were on set with me, and I nursed my youngest between cuts.  Our nanny was there with me and I would nurse whenever I could.  We didn’t hire a nanny until we had our second child, but she’s been a huge help lately.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur StuntwomanRight now I’m kind of part-time back to work.  For now, we recruit my mother-in-law if I’m out of town on location.  The nice thing is that I get to choose when I want to work. That’s the really nice thing about doing this job and being a mom.  I get to pick and choose the jobs that I take.  I remember my dad doing the same thing when I was a kid.  When he was gone he’d be out of town for a while, but when he was home he got to spend a lot of time with us.

We thought a lot about the decision to do private school or homeschool our kids.  So, for example, we could spend $20,000 a year on private school or we could take them to China to see the great wall.  We feel like traveling fits into our lifestyle, so we want to do it.  We are going to either Thailand or France in January for a vacation.  My 3 month old already has her passport.  So we don’t travel just for work – we like to travel when we have time off, too.

Being a stunt actor comes with a lot of risks, so I didn’t work when I was pregnant.  Even if they say it’s an easy stunt, it’s definitely not worth the risk.  The day I found out I was pregnant I stopped working.

I would say most stuntwoman either don’t have kids or have only 1 kid.  When I found out I was pregnant with my son I was training really hard to do X Men.  I was supposed to double January Jones and she’s quite skinny so I was training a lot.  When I found out I was pregnant I had to back out.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Just a regular day at the office for a stunt actress

It’s been hard after both my pregnancies to maintain a balance between getting enough calories for breastfeeding and staying skinny for some of my roles.  Being in stunt shape is different than just getting in regular shape or staying thin.  You have to be really really fit.  About 6 months [after my first pregnancy] I felt like I could do a job, but I would say it took around 9 or 10 months to get back into stunt shape.  Right now my youngest is 3 months old so I have a ways to go, I probably have about 10 pounds left to lose.

I do martial arts and probably train between 5 and 10 hours a week.  It’s no less than an hour a day.  On Tuesdays I do 2 and a half hours.  Sometimes I go for a run with the kids in the double stroller.  Having the kids is a challenge in regards to working out.  Sometimes I’ll strap on the baby pouch and go for a hike.  I have to find creative ways to exercise.  Right now my youngest isn’t old enough to take to the gym.  Sometimes I do leg exercises while wearing her.  I can put my son on my shoulders and do squats or have him sit on my back when I do push ups.  He actually likes to work out with me.

I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to be able to go back to work.  Being a stunt actor is a very performance based job.  If we don’t do a good job, we don’t work again.  So I’m thankful I still have the opportunity to work. It’s been very demanding, but it’s possible, and my husband and I have always said that family is more important.   

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur StuntwomanI don’t know if I’ll let my kids do stunts.  My girlfriend’s daughter doubled Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds.  That’s something my kids could definitely get into.  It’s not that I’m worried about their safety, I’m more worried about Hollywood when I was younger.

I’m glad my dad protected me from Hollywood.  It’s a very adult business, and I think you need to be careful.  I guess I lean on the side of wanting to protect them as long as I can.  I think a day here and there is fine, but its a business I’m very apprehensive about getting them into at such a young age.

Women tend to have a much shorter lifespan with stunt acting, mostly because actresses are a lot more vain.  They like having young people double them.  They’re very particular about those things. A lot of women don’t continue to do stunts after they become a mom.

Stunt acting is definitely a male dominated industry.  If stunt acting is the equivalent of an “entry level” position, then stunt directing is like the next step up.  That’s what my dad did.  So there are hardly any female stunt coordinators.  The next step up would be Second Unit Directing.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Jon and Heather with Heather’s dad and their son, Chase at his 1st Birthday party.

The funny thing about my dad and I both being stunt actors is that we’re both terrified of heights.  But one of the reasons I do stunts is because I like the feeling of being afraid and then conquering it.  Just because you’re afraid of something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.  There is no such thing as an easy stunt.  We take calculated risks. Nearly every day I come home bruised and scraped with scratches all over.  But there’s a difference between getting hurt and getting injured.  I do worry about death, but I worry more about Hollywood.  I don’t want to let that affect me, that’s more what worries me.

My dad passed away six months ago.  I remember back on the set of Lost in Hawaii I had this one scene where I had to fall down a cliff.  Probably to this day that was one of the most challenging stunts I’ve ever done.  At the bottom I was all scratched up, adrenaline pumping, and I looked up at my dad who was there at the bottom.  I remember him looking at me and saying, “I’m so proud of you.”  It was like that first moment he realized that his daughter had followed in his footsteps.  I’ll always remember that.”

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