Crazy car chases, set fires and jump off buildings.
Zandara Kennedy certainly leads a less ordinary life as one of Hollywood’s most prominent stuntwomen.
Zandara sets herself on fire and throws herself off buildings for movies and TV, but her passion is stunt driving.Credit: Tommy Flanagan
Zandara has worked with a host of Hollywood stars and is part of a select group of female stunt performers.Credit: Tommy Flanagan
And the Canadian daredevil has given The US Sun a fascinating and terrifying look at the dangers and excitement of her crazy, adrenaline-fuelled day job.
Zandara specializes in stunt driving and later this year will compete in Formula Drift, the world championships in drifting, a style of driving in which the driver uses the accelerator, brakes, clutch, gear shift and steering to maintain the car in a state of oversteer while spectacularly sliding around corners.
She calls it the “figure skating” of motorsports. Fire stunts are also a specialty.
Drifting is his focus right now, but his resume is stacked with appearances in movies and TV like X-Men, Deadpool, and Fear The Walking Dead.
He’s also been a stunt double for stars like Anne Heche, Uma Thurman, and Gillian Anderson, to name just a few.
After breaking her arm at the age of 14 while performing circus stunts, Zandara set her sights on the entertainment industry.
At 19, he attended the Motion Picture Driving Clinic founded by legendary stuntman Rick Seaman and got his first big break working on a Stephen Segal film shooting in his native Canada.
It’s not easy getting a break, especially with so much at stake, but Zandara got through it.
“It’s a huge leap of faith for a stunt coordinator to hire someone to do something,” he said.
Not all productions have massive budgets, so there is pressure to get it right the first time. There are so many cars that someone can wreck in one day.
“It’s one thing to know how to do something technically and maybe be able to do it with a couple of tries, but we don’t really have that luxury on a film set,” he continued.
“And then of course you’re hiring a person. You want to know that they are going to get the job done right away, get it done on the first take, because time is money.
“Many times we only build one or two of an item as well. If you’re supposed to crash into a flower shop or something, you only have a limited number of resets and each one costs money.”
Zandara also has no problem throwing herself off a roof or building.
But surely, even a professional stuntwoman must be scared.
The key, he says, is not to overthink anything.
“Obviously, we think about the details when we plan how to make it secure, but any kind of reflection beyond that can easily turn into anxiety,” Zandara said.
“For me and a lot of the performances I know, we manage that stress by just existing with it, but not repeatedly focusing on what we’re going to have to do until we actually can do it and have something to do. .”
Cars are her forte: Zandara is also a mechanic and works on her own games, and she has perfected how to crash safely.
It may all be part of the job, but it still hurts.
“You know it’s coming, but you have to pretend it’s not,” he said of the mental approach taken.
“Being T-boned is definitely the worst. It’s just not a way your body likes to move. Those have always been the least enjoyable for me.”
Interestingly, setting yourself on fire also requires incredible concentration and mental strength.
“The first one is definitely shocking,” he recalls.
“There is something very primitive about how your brain reacts to fire. My first fire burn was in training, so it wasn’t a big deal.
“But you are moving much faster than you think. I find the biggest challenge with fire is slowing down your brain enough to spread it out because you’ll often be done with the action before it really warms you up.”
Zandara’s friend and partner, Colin Decker, is the world record holder for the longest full-body burn in history: an incredible three minutes and 27 head-to-toe burns.
She’s not ready to follow suit, but she’ll never be scared of anything.
“I’ve always liked pushing my own physical limits,” he said.
In 2022, Zandara completed a 20,000 mile tour of the US and drifted on over 16 different race tracks in preparation for the Formula Drift championships later this year.Credit: Zandara Kennedy