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Body language
As a Hollywood stuntwoman, Savannah’s Marian Green knows how to take one for the team
Marian Green - photo by Michael Hofstein

MARIAN GREEN may be the toughest woman in Savannah. She estimates she’s been hit by cars, sent flying over the hood and skidding to the pavement, at least eight times. Maybe nine.

She’s survived explosions, high falls, point-blank gunshot wounds, bloody impalings and leaps from airplanes.

Green, 49, moved to Savannah five years ago with her husband, SCAD film professor Michael Hofstein. Here, she’s Marian Hofstein, helping out with class projects and doing volunteer work for the city’s film and music festivals.

In Hollywood, however, she’s got a gold-plated reputation as a stuntwoman who (almost) never gets hurt.

“They’re impressed with somebody who can hit the ground hard and get up,” she says. “And I was blessed with very hard bones.”

A California native, Green’s infatuation with movies began during her college years – she’d intended, ironically, to become a physical therapist. It was the Burt Reynolds B-actioner Hooper that got her thinking about stuntwomen; it looked like fun work, a lot better than doing 40 deep-tissue rubs every day in some depressing hospital.

A natural athlete who enjoyed swimming, running, soccer and basketball, she took a 10-week course at “stunt school,” where she made the acquaintance of friends – and contacts – she’d keep for many years.

Her big break arrived, literally, by accident. Working as an extra on the 1981 cheese-fest Return of the Rebels (starring Barbara Eden and a young Patrick Swayze), she was part of a crowd running from a motorcycle hoodlum.

“This guy was doing a wheelie, and I accidentally got too close and I got clipped,” Green recalls. “I flew about 15 feet – the motorcycle was going about 40, and I actually had the tread marks on my back. They got it on film, and they used it, so I was able to get my SAG card.”

Joining the Screen Actors Guild meant Green was “in”; she then became a part of the stunt union, the United Stuntwoman’s Association.

That opened the floodgates. Word-of-mouth, she says, plays a large part in getting gigs, and after she’d appeared in The Babysitter, a TV-movie in which she’d doubled for Stephanie Zimbalist, Green heard the producer had a new series in the works, Cagney & Lacey.

“This is how naÏve I was,” she laughs. “I called him and asked him if I could be the double for Tyne Daly. And he said ‘Well, I don’t see why not.’

“Knowing what I know now, I would never do that: ‘Can I have that job?’ But I didn’t know any better.”

She trained in judo, gymnastics, motorcycle racing, skydiving and hang-gliding. And the shows got better.

“As a stuntwoman, there are basically two jobs,” Green explains. “You can be a stunt double for an actress, or it can be an ‘ND’ stunt – ‘non-descript’ – that’s when I’m playing myself.

“I played myself, you could say, in the original Terminator. In the Club Noir scene, I’m ND; I’m just somebody in the club. Arnold Schwarzenegger is about to shoot Linda Hamilton, I take the bullet, and I die on top of her.”

Green tried acting a couple of times, even spoke a line or two on camera, but she’d rather act with her body.

“I felt that acting was actually for people who studied acting,” she says. “I feel like you could focus on stunts, or you could focus on acting, but to be really good at both? I just didn’t have the acting thing in me.”

So far, she’s taken one (or a thousand) for the team in well over 100 films and television series. Her horror movies include Candyman, Pumpkinhead, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and The People Under the Stairs. You can see her roughed up and/or snuffed in Reservoir Dogs, Basic Instinct, The Rocketeer, Blown Away, The Net, Broken Arrow, Escape From L.A., Pearl Harbor, The Replacement Killers and dozens more.

For Green, one of the most memorable stunts was rigged for director Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. Danny DeVito, as the Penguin, rises unexpectedly through an exploding glass floor. There are 14 people – including Marian Green, as a non-descript – standing on the glass at the time.

The stunt people were attached to wires that would “blow” them up and away from the exploding floor.

“It had never been done before – and if the machines didn’t fire, and our cables didn’t go, we were all going to be shrapnelled to death,” she says. “Because that glass floor was going to go. It was one take. The stunt guys that rigged that were remarkable.”

Getting hit by cars, she says, has become her specialty. (She takes a particularly nasty spill, slamming solidly on the pavement, in a 1989 TV-movie called Full Exposure: The Sex Tape Scandal).

“You do one, they see it, people talk about it. Getting hit by cars has a high degree of danger involved. There’s a very good chance you’ll end up in the hospital,” she says.

Mental preparation, Green says, is essential. “My adrenaline’s pumping, the heart’s racing, and when they say ‘Action’ everything slows down for me. I just focus on this car, and as it’s coming towards me, I literally think to myself ‘Attack the car! Attack, attack!’ That way I don’t think of myself as a victim. I dive at it, and it’s over in two seconds.”

(The cars, by the way, are rarely going more than 15 mph during a shoot.)

“But you also have to recognize that stunt people are just a piece of meat,” Green says. “If something happens to me, and they have to re-shoot, they’ll bring somebody else in.”

She met Hofstein on the set of TV’s The Fall Guy – he was running the camera, she was doubling one of the lead actresses. Hofstein went on to work on Rush Hour (the funny one), Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Lethal Weapon and others.

Today, their daughter Sara is 19 and a sophomore at Barnard College in N.Y.

Green’s stunt career has slowed in recent years, although she recently flew to Los Angeles to work on an episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

“I had been told for a long time that once you hit 40 as a stuntwoman, there’s kind of this ‘no work zone’ for the next 10 years,” she says. “Sure enough, I worked a little bit at 41, 42, and by the time we got ready to move here I hardly worked at all. After that, why bother?”

Now that she’s nearing 50, she explains, “the phone starts ringing again. There’s work for older stuntwomen who can still hit the ground.” She’s thinking about dyeing her hair gray.

Even more encouraging is the prospect of more film and TV coming to Georgia, thanks to Governor Perdue’s recent offer of increased tax incentives for production companies.

For a 2008 TV pilot called Drop Dead Diva, Green drove to Atlanta. Should the crews come directly to her, in Savannah, she’ll be thrilled.

“It’ll be great to work close to home,” she says, “and pursue stunt work on my own terms.” cs