As lead stunt double for Gal Gadot in the film Wonder Woman, Caitlin Dechelle was responsible for the kickass stunts and fighting scenes that brought the film to life. A martial artist from the age of six, she has an incredible 95 world titles to her name. Eager to find out more, I put twenty questions to Caitlin about martial arts, her stunt background and her experience on the Wonder Woman set.
#1. You have an amazing 95 world titles in martial arts to your name. Did you have to make a lot of sacrifices to achieve this?
Yes, ever since I was 6 years old, I worked tirelessly to perfect my martial arts skills. Endless hours of training combined with travelling for tournaments kept me beyond busy. Schoolwork was a challenge as well, as I missed a lot of days at school. At the end of the day though, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
#2. At what point did you decide to pursue a career into stunt work?
I had some friends in the business which always piqued my interest but I never thought it was for me. I auditioned for a stunt double role in a film my senior year of high school and that really sparked my interest. I figured if there was any time to get into the business, it was then. I am so glad I made that choice!
#3. Your audition for Wonder Woman sounded pretty intense! What kind of things did it involve?
The audition for Wonder Woman was very intense, but it was also a lot of fun! It was actually on my birthday and I was psyched when I walked in and realized what it was for. It included all types of skills such as fighting, weapons and tricks.
#4. Did your role in Wonder Woman require you to build or maintain a certain physique?
You bet it did! She’s Wonder Woman! I had to be in tiptop shape. Workouts were 6-8 hours a day.
Typical days were busy, busy, busy. Rehearsal days started with morning cardio followed by a quick breakfast; then right into rehearsal till lunch; then another workout including weights and finishing up with any other rehearsal we had left to accomplish that day. Filming days ranged from 12 to 15+ hours.
#5. What kind of training did you do while on set?
Funny enough, I never ran on a treadmill. On set, we used cardio machines such as the ski machine, rower and bike. We also did sprints in the building. We did all sorts of weighted exercises from deadlifts to front and back squats. Weapons training was also a must considering her weapons were sword/shield and whip.
#6. How did you keep your energy up for long days training and filming?
Diet was very important. Most days, I ate as clean as I could. This helped me feel light yet strong. The food truck on set always had ginger shots and I’d do one to two of those a day. They helped me keep my energy levels up and they kept me healthy!
#7. Did you have to learn any stunt work or fighting you weren’t already familiar with?
Yes, that’s the fun part about stunt jobs… Every job is different and challenges me in different ways. For example, I will never do the same wire gag (stunt) on any given job. This challenges me in different ways based on what is needed for the character on that particular job.
I worked with Gal on some of the Wonder Woman fights, but did not devise the fight scene choreography. Our amazing boss Damon Caro and his team did that!
#8. Did you enjoy working alongside so many strong and physically talented women?
Yes! Every female brought their own skill and passion to the film which made it that much more fun! We had dancers, CrossFit athletes, competitive weight lifters, etc. It was definitely a cool experience not only getting to know them but also to work with some amazingly talented women.
Photo Credit: Clay Enos / DC Comics
#9. You have black belts in Chinese Kenpo, Japanese Goju-Ryu and Taekwondo. Do you have a favourite discipline?
No, I don’t have a favourite discipline. I enjoy them all. I learned sword in my first style: Chinese Kenpo.
#10. As a stunt performer you have to cover wire skills, fight skills, falls, weapons etc. Do you train all of these or focus on key skills?
The training never stops for a martial artist or as a stunt performer. There is always something else to learn. And as I said, every job is different so I am constantly learning and improving. Some weeks I may practice one thing more than others, it just depends!
#11. What does a typical week’s training look like when you’re not on set?
Each week is different. That’s what keeps life exciting and I love it. I may no longer be on the Wonder Woman set but I’m always training, working on stunt jobs, shooting YouTube skits, etc. and when I’m not doing that, I’m working on my acting skills! There is always something to do.
#12. Do you have a favourite type of stunt?
Fight scenes will always be my favourite.
#13. Have you had any hairy moments performing stunts?
Everything doesn’t always go exactly to plan and I end up getting hit or left with a few bruises but hey, that’s part of the job!
#14. Jackie Chan sought you out as a teenager after seeing you perform at a televised Karate comp – what was it like acting alongside him in Chinese Zodiac? And, ultimately, would you like to be considered an actress in your own right?
Yes, he was watching the US [Karate] Open featured on ESPN. Acting alongside him was definitely nerve racking, but a dream come true. And YES, YES, YES! That is my ultimate goal.
#15. You doubled for Ronda Rousey in Fast + Furious 7. What did this involve?
I stunt doubled Rhonda in the fight scene set in Dubai where we went over the balcony onto the DJ booth. It was a really cool stunt to do. I also played one of the billionaire’s bodyguards.
#16. Which is your favourite martial arts move or discipline?
I wouldn’t say I have a favourite discipline but I do love to kick so most people think my main style is Taekwondo. My favourite kick is a side-kick. My favourite martial arts trick is a webster! (An aerial one-footed forward somersault)
#17. You’re experienced in martial arts, but is making it work for the camera another skill altogether?
Doing martial arts and fights scenes in front of the camera is almost a style in itself. I have to know where the camera is because that determines where the punches will sell (make it look like they connect) without hitting the other person or the camera man!
#18. Will you return to lead Gal in the Wonder Woman sequel?
I guess we will find out …!
#19. Do you have any favourite tips for training and stunts?
Always train every aspect because you never know what you will be asked to do and it’s always better to be prepared and feel confident when on set!
To keep up with Caitlin’s stunt performing and training follow her social channels: www.instagram.com/caitlindechelle, www.twitter.com/caitlinedechelle, and www.facebook.com/thecaitlindechelle or by visiting www.caitlindechelle.com.