Heidi and Renae Moneymaker were two gymnasts who took the world by storm with their incredible stunt work! Heidi wanted to work as a stuntwoman and encouraged Renae every step of the way. Both girls have the talent and discipline it takes to pursue such a demanding career, but they make it look easy.
Heidi Moneymaker is a strong role model for her sister and woman all around the world. It’s inspiring watching someone who is setting high goals and having the skills and determination to accomplish them. The sisters are an inspiration to women all around the world, and this is their story.
Born this way
Heidi Moneymaker attempted her first stunt when she was just three years old. Heidi was so full of energy as a child that she wouldn’t go to sleep at night! Trying to get her to go to sleep, Heidi’s parents put her on the top bunk and removed the ladder.
It was a good idea. However, it didn’t last long. Heidi noticed a chair in front of her bed and leaped towards it. Unfortunately, the toddler missed and fell to the ground crying after smashing her nose on the chair.
Dennis and Casey ran into their daughter’s room when they heard her crying. Her nose was swelling, and they were worried that she might have broken it. The doctor assured the family that Heidi’s nose would be okay. Thankfully, because of her age, it was almost all cartilage. It would be very difficult to break.
Today Heidi is still jumping off high structures, but now she lands on her feet. She is one of the best stuntwomen working in Hollywood. She is most famously known for acting as Scarlett Johansson’s stunt double for the Marvel movies. Her success helped paved the way for her sister Renae who is also working as a stunt woman. She doubled for numerous actresses including Jennifer Lawrence and Brie Larson.
Usually, stunt work is a male-dominated field. Due to the nature of the discipline, men tend to gravitate towards it more. However, there may be a bit of sexism in the film industry.
Chad Stahelski is a director and stunt coordinator. He stated that “They’re not writing female gladiators or female soldiers in WWII. They’re not writing female ninjas. It’s what the writers write and where the studios go…” This makes sense. If you cast a male actor who does dangerous stunts, it only makes sense to cast a male stuntman.
However, now that there are more action-driven movies starring females are being created, there are more opportunities for women in the stunt world. In the Marvel Comic Universe, Johansson plays Black Widow.
She was the only woman in the first Avengers Poster. She also used to be the only female character that didn’t play a love interest. Now, there are plenty. Too many to name. After the success of movies starring women such as Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel can almost guarantee the continuation of women playing Super Heroes or starring in action films.
At the center of this advancement are Heidi and Renae. For the past 10 years, Heidi’s career was very much dominated by playing a stunt double for Scarlet Johansson in Black Widow. Renae has also been busy. She was working on the entire Hunger Games franchise doubling for Jennifer Lawrence.
Although they are not twins, the Moneymaker sisters do a lot together. Not only do they share a career and a home, but they co-parent their niece, Rosie. Recently, Heidi has recently been considering a career beyond stunt work, while Renae has been booking movie after movie. According to Hank Amos who is the stunt coordinator of Captain Marvel, “They changed the face of what female stunt performers are supposed to be.”
Heidi walked into a martial arts center in Los Angeles called Gracie University. She was training with her husband Rener Gracie and with Eve Torres Gracie, a former WWE Diva. Since Rener’s family has been teaching jiu-jitsu for years, Heidi thought it would be fun to brush up on the style. Heidi looks tiny at just 5-foot-3 next to her husband, but that is the point.
Jiu-jitsu is a sport that relies on positioning and speed, so it’s perfect for fighting bigger bad boys. It also works well in movies. As Rener attempts to come at her with his elbows, his wife traps his arms using her shins. When he gets up to gain more leverage, she stretches her legs pushing back. She then kicks him twice and stands up before walking away. Rener said Heidi is a natural.
Although Heidi doesn’t have a history of black belts, she does have an athletic foundation. At age 5, she started gymnastics, and at 12 she was already competing. Out of the 7 Moneymaker children, Heidi is number 3 and was the first to start gymnastics.
Altogether five of the kids participated in gymnastics, including Renae who is the youngest. Dennis and Casey Moneymaker said the gymnastics bill was more expensive than their mortgage. Dennis, who was already working two jobs, would wake up in the middle of the night and clean the gymnastics room to help with the expenses.
Hard Work Paying off
Heidi’s free time was consumed with gymnastics. Weekends and after school was filled with training. It all paid off however when gymnastics earned her a scholarship to UCLA.
She joined UCLA’s championship teams in 1997 and 2000, which were the first two national crowns for the programs. In addition, she won individual national titles. In 1998 she won on the uneven bars and in 1999 on the beam. Her UCLA gymnastics coach has called her a legend with the energy of a superhero.
Gymnastics is what initially got Heidi into stunts. Heidi met some stunt performers while she was doing some stunt work on the side during her time at UCLA. Without even trying, Heidi was working once a month!
Since she was getting roles without really trying, Heidi wondered what would happen if she gave it her all. She figured she might as well try it full time and see what happens.
Her Big Break
In 2003, Heidi got her big opportunity in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. She was required to submit a tape of a specific stunt that involved, a backflip off of wrestling ring ropes, and landing on a man sprawled on the ground.
Drew Barrymore’s double didn’t have any experience in gymnastics so Heidi’s expertise would be very beneficial. The job went to somebody else after some miscommunication. To make up for it, Heidi was invited to set for a few days. Heidi said, “Those four days turned into five months.” Heidi ended up staying there until they completed shooting.
Experience and Training
Heidi’s work on Full Throttle was basically a crash course in stunts for her. The stunt coordinator working on the movie knew that Heidi was capable. She managed to do a 40-foot fall, stair fall, some wire work and even martial arts for the film. Heidi expressed “I did more stunts collectively on that film that I’ve ever done since.”
When the movie wrapped, Heidi put all her focus on her training. In addition to stunt driving classes, Heidi began taking classes in martial arts, specifically judo, because it involves a lot of falling. “Having been such a serious athlete, [I thought] to be a professional you have to train for years. So, I was just prepared for this massive training hail.” Heidi expressed.
Heidi met Stahelski, who was a stunt performer and coordinator before moving into directing. She joined his team, and then the two began a romantic relationship. They stayed together for 15 years and were married for four of them.
After working and training with Stahelski’s crew, Heidi was booking roles but was struggling to break into fight scenes. “I was looked at as a gymnast and for some reason wasn’t hired to do fight scenes.”
Dreams coming true
However, all of that changed With Iron Man 2. Heidi got to work with Thomas Robinson Harper, an MCU films stunt coordinator. Heidi already knew him since they worked together on numerous other projects.
She was even more comfortable on movie set sine she knew members of the production team as well. She never filmed a fight scene before, but Harper had full confidence that Heidi can pull it off. Heidi and another contender were brought to Johansson who ultimately made the final decision. She chose Heidi.
Since the summer of 2017, Rosie Moneymaker has been living with her aunts, splitting tie between Renae and Heidi who live about 10 minutes apart. Rosie’s mom is their sister, and when she needed help, both Heidi and Renae stepped up.
Both girls were working on long term projects and were living together in Atlanta at the time. Heidi was shooting Avengers: Infinity war and Renae was working on Ant-Man and the Wasp. Both films were released in 2018.
Caring for Rosie
Rosie spent a semester in Georgia and then came back to LA with her aunts. They bought her a car recently, and they take their roles in caring for Rosie very seriously, always calling parents ahead of time if she is going over to a friend’s house.
Renae said the move was a bit of uprooting which Rosie replied with “A five-hour uprooting!” When both of her aunts are home, Rosie switches between Heidi and Renae each week. However, when one of them is away, things can get a bit complicated.
When she was a teenager, Renae contemplated quitting gymnastics so that she could spend more time being a kid. Heidi was there to offer her advice and some words of wisdom. “If you make it to college, you’re never going to look back and wish you went to more dances.”
Renae trusted her sister and followed her advice. She eventually attended San Jose State University, where she was a competitive gymnast. Good thing she listened to Heidi!
Renae looked up to her sister as she watched Heidi on her professional path. Heidi was a determined role model; she was working hard to create a career for herself that she very much loves.
Therefore during college, Renae reached out to her sister and asked if she knows anyone working on the TV show “Make It OR Break It.” A scripted ABC show, focusing on elite gymnastics.
Make It or Break It
Heidi always encouraged Renae and helped her whenever she could. After filming the promo for Make It or Break It, the coordinators were so impressed by Renae and immediately hired her.
Renae flew back and forth so that she can film while still completing her education. As soon as she graduated Renae moved to LA full time to focus on her career in stunt work.
Following in her Sister’s footsteps
Heidi, of course, offered her help and connected her with 87eleven. Renae quickly started training in a discipline aside from gymnastics. Renae is the tallest of all the Moneymaker siblings. Standing at 5 foot 8 inches, she was a wonderful fit for many actresses.
Heidi took her to the gym every day, where they trained between four to six hours. Together they also practice rolls and falls. They worked in body reactions as well as basic punches and kicked. Heidi even taught her sister how to properly hold her hands to throw a punch.
Renae’s Big Break
After training with her sister, Renae was finally advanced enough to ass Judo and fight choreography classes in her 87eleven training. In addition, she was taking Taekwondo and combat classes on her own. She was completely dedicated and absorbed in preparing for her career in stunt work.
Renae’s first movie came as a bit of a surprise. Stahelski told her she had a fitting next week, but Renae had no idea what it was for. To her surprise, when she arrived at the appointment, it was to double for Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games. This was the biggest project Renae had ever taken on, but Stahelski had complete faith in her.
Renae was sitting at her dining room table concerned, but trying to act cheerful. She got a call the previous day from Heidi after Renae and Rosie left Hermosa Beach. Heidi was on the way to the hospital after she and co-worker knocked skulls! She and the other stunt performer were on wires to close to each other, so when they landed, their heads collided.
It was Renae’s birthday, but she couldn’t help but worry since her sister Heidi is in the hospital. A few days later, Heidi was recovering from her concussion. She got injured, and the accident quickly reminded her of the inevitable.
Accidents and Injuries
As you can imagine, stunts can really take a toll on anyone’s body. Heidi has dealt with a lot of pain after suffering from multiple concussions, ankle sprains, and other injuries. She had an especially painful experience when she tore her calf muscle in half.
Renae also had her share of injuries. She hurt her knee during a stunt performance on Captain Marvel and tweaked her shoulder at the beginning of her current project.
Staying healthy is important for everybody but for Renae and Heidi, taking care of their body is a full-time job. The girls need to maintain physical therapy and massage therapy in addition to orthopedic treatments.
Renae has to get injected with hyaluronic acid in her knees in between movies. This treatment helps reduce pain and stiffness in her knee by giving it a little extra fluid. It’s very important for her to take care of her knee considering she already had three surgeries on it!
With so many appointments, Heidi and Renae each schedule them independently. It’s not like a sports franchise where there are a central gym and medical experts on staff. Movie studios don’t do the same for those performing parkour over cars, intense fight scenes and falling from high buildings.
Renae expressed how she is more careful than ever. “Now that it’s just me and I have a family that depends on me, I try to be smart with my training and not taking unnecessary risks.”
In addition to caring for her physical exterior body, Renae is careful about what goes inside her body as well. Renae tries to eat clean and keep a healthy diet as much as possible. In college, Heidi would also eat cans of tuna (without mayonnaise), and drink a lot of carrot juice.
Heidi has changed the nutrition culture at UCLA, and her former gymnastics coach commends her for it. “She made it cool to eat healthily. In our sport, a lot of girls think if they’re skinny, then they’re healthy. She showed that skinny isn’t strong.”
The ability to physically perform stunts is directly tied to income for Heidi and Renae. Even though working on feature films come with longer contracts, the contracts are weekly, and money isn’t guaranteed.
For example, if you break a leg during a performance and can’t complete the contract, you will not get paid for the rest of the film. Renae got into a habit where she compulsively saves her money. She never wants to reach the point where she has to choose between her mortgage and her health.
Talent and Will to Succeed
At the end of a 16-hour workday, most performers don’t have to worry about performing a stunt correctly for the 10th time. Stahelski says, “Even professional athletes don’t jump out of plains, they don’t get yanked 50 feet on a wire. They don’t get thrown out to see if they come back to shore.”
What sets apart a good performer and a great performer is the determination to get up after flying through exploding buildings and broken windows. It’s when you can stare at danger and do it all over again.
Heidi has expressed that she never thought she would be performing and at this level at 41 years old. “I felt like I would get to a certain age, and things would start breaking down, but I feel like I could get better. It’s hindered me, kind of, in my career because I’ve stayed as a performer.”
Heidi just worked on a film in New Orleans where she landed her first coordinating credit! Heidi says that stunt coordinating is the natural next step as she is looking to pursue a career that doesn’t involve performing. The coordinators read the scripts, design stunts, and manage the budget. They basically get to run the entire stunt department.
Changing the Game
Hank Amos says he took a chance. “I knew that Heidi was ready, and I asked her to do this movie with me and what happened over the next three months was mind-blowing. She was meant for this.
Stunt coordinating is a job that is usually dominated by men. Heidi is helping this change however, taking more coordinating jobs means sacrificing other parts of her career such as performing.
Heidi and Renae lean towards the mirror at 87eleven as the girls are stretching. Both sisters touch up their makeup, and everyone leaves. Renae and Heidi laugh as they argue about how to spell “Literally.”
The girls don’t usually wear makeup before flipping and punching, but they were being photographed and wanted to be suitable for the camera. The girls warm up by jogging.
Heidi pieces some choreography together and the sisters jump into a fight sequence. Heidi push kicks Renae and then flips over her leg. It’s a dance, but instead of performing pirouettes, they’re throwing punches!
They weren’t doing anything that difficult. Instead, the girls showed their light-hearted side, messing around in the gym. At the same time, it’s a light sparring session between Captain Marvel and the Black Widow.
Working Her Way Up
Heidi Moneymaker managed to take her talent and determination to go from a gymnast to a stunt performer. One of her first jobs was on the Amanda Show in 1999! She doubles for a character that turned into an ape that does gymnastics!
Since then, Heidi has worked as a stunt double for many famous names including, Scarlett Johansson, Keri Russell, Saoirse Ronan, Jaime Presley, and Drew Barrymore.
One of her most memorable stunts while in The Host, doubling for Ronan. Heidi dove a car while explosives lifted the vehicle before throwing it into multiple barrel rolls.
While filming captain America: The Winter Soldier, Heidi drove through a window, which resulted in her separating her collarbone. Heidi says, “it’s part of the charm of the job.”
In 2011, Heidi doubled for Emily Browning in Sucker Punch. Since Emily is a tiny actress, Heidi needed to get a bit leaner for the role. While doubling for Johansson, Heidi didn’t need to change her appearance much.
All she had to go was wear a wig, jumpsuit, and padded bra. Changing her body for a role was her biggest transformation. “You have to keep the body type that allows you to make these big moves. If you get too thin or gain weight, you don’t perform in the same way.”
Pursuing Stunt Career
Renae Moneymaker has always gotten encouragement from her sister Heidi. Looking up to her older sister is what helped Renae decide she wants to do stunt work.
After making this decision, Heidi used her connections to help her sister and even trained with her every day. Since then Renae managed to work as a stunt double for actresses such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Beckinsale, and Evangeline Lilly.
Gymnast to Stuntwoman
Similarly to her sister Heidi, Renae was also a competitive gymnast in college. After being motivated by her sister, Renae landed her first job working as a stunt double in ABC’s hit show Make It or Break It.
After breaking out beyond the world of gymnastics, Renae became Lawrence’s go-to stunt woman. She appeared in all The Hunger Games movies. Renae describes Jennifer Lawrence as a great person to work with.
Renae appeared in John Wick doubling for Adrianne Palicki. Renae was the only woman to be in such a big fight sequence. She was required to crash into a wall and even jump through a window.
In 2014, Renae got her biggest movie makeover in X-Men: Days of Future Past. She was doubling for Jennifer Lawrence’s character Mystique, a “weird lizard chick.” There was a lot of blue makeup involved.
Heidi keeps up her training so that she can continue to perform stunts. More recently she has been working as a stunt coordinator, but she is most famous for her work on Captain America: Civil War, Star Trek, and The Avengers.
More recently Heidi has been pursuing a career in Stunt coordinating. However, both girls are still training hard every day and continue to take over our screens with their incredible stunt work.
Unfortunately, Heidi and Renae don’t get to work together as much as they would like. Yes, they train together and some of their projects overlapped, but they have never done a full job together.
Their most recent project that overlapped was in Captain Marvel. The movie involves a fight scene between Captain Marvel and s shapeshifting skill, disguised as an old woman. Heidi was the old woman. Heidi describes the sister’s relationship as “We’re like twins nine years apart.”
After spraining her knee during Captain Marvel, Renae took a break to ensure a proper recovery. Luckily, she was able to secure her next job, which allowed her to turn down daily work and focus of her recovery.
Since there is a chance that the girls can suffer a career-ending injury, both sisters have secured an insurance policy that will protect them and their families. The policy will allow the sisters to receive a payout that would cover them for numerous years.