An interview with Sarah Donohue

 Sarah is a model, TV presenter, powerboat racer, and Stuntwoman on the latest Bond film. She doubled for Maria Grazia Cucinotta, and performed all the stunts in the Sunseeker boat for the pre-credit sequence for 'The World Is Not Enough'

The following interview is part of a longer version which is now available in STUNTS magazine produced by Jon Auty.

Interviewer: Jon Auty                              Photographs: David Williams

J.A: Its interesting you saying that they came to you because there’s no one else on the Register who can do the job. That’s quite an achievement isn’t it?

S.D: There’s a lot of people who’s entry says ‘Boat Handling’, but anybody can get in and handle a boat, but there’s knowledge of water, knowledge of tides and currents, being able to see things in the water that your average ‘Boat Handler’ may see as a shadow and yet I’d know it as a plank of wood. Little things like that. Knowing that if you spin a boat around at such a speed and depending on where you hit the water and where the waves are and what the back-end will do. Things like this make it different from driving a car. Boats are so different.

J.A: Particularly with the ‘Sunseeker’ because its such an enormous boat.

S.D: She's a big old girl!!

J.A: To throw a boat around at speed like that is going to cause incredible G-Force. You found this out to your cost didn’t you because you broke a couple of ribs?

S.D: Yeah! two ribs 'cos throwing a boat around that size creates massive G-force (which I found out too late) and when you lock the steering, you literally have to jam yourself against the side or it'll jam you and jam me it did! "Crack" and it's one of those laugh or cry pains and there I was laughing hysterically which hurts more AGGGHHHH!! It gets really coughing, sneezing, laughing. The morning after I thought, "mmm there's really something not right here" and the x-rays showed a couple of fractures....ooops!!

J.A: So this was during rehearsals on the Thames?

S.D: On Horley Lake in January. It was funny because they were going away for five weeks to Chamonix to film the ski scene so I was really quite lucky. I thought well I’ve only got three days to go with broken ribs, they go away, I mend. Perfect timing. Simon Crane said, "You should wear protection" but because I'm not used to padding up for any of my jobs I've done before, I didn't think to because its alien to me (the truth is I enjoy taking a knock) but it is the right thing to do - you've a job to do and you're no use to anyone when you're broken that's for sure. But a bit of pain never did anyone any harm and it's good to do something and feel like you've done it, although I never thought anything would happen on a Sunseeker.

Franklin, (Mark Henson) was in the boat with me and one of the other stunt guys said to Franklin, "Sarah is going to go out in the boat, now when she throws it this way the G-force is so great that she’ll be thrown to the other side of the boat so you’ll have to push her into the side so that she can steer the boat", so Franklin said "Yeah, yeah okay" and the guys said, "No I mean hold her". Anyway Franklin just stands there and grabs onto me. So I said, "Franklin, have you got me"? He said, "Yeah yeah, don’t worry". So we shot down Horley Lake, I spun it around and locked it in position. Franklin went flying to the other side of the boat. I had hold of the wheel so I was okay, grabbed onto him as he shot down the boat and he looked at me and said, "Wasn’t I supposed to be doing that to you"?

J.A: As far as I’m concerned, that opening sequence gets better every time. Its certainly better than the last boat chase, which was on ‘Moonraker’ and that was gondola’s and doesn’t really count

S.D: I really liked that!!

J.A: Did you realise the Sunseeker could perform that well?

S.D: The testers didn’t realise the boats could do that either. The guys were asked to take the boats out and test them to the best of their ability, but even they were amazed at its possibilities. When we drove them we killed about nine drives. I was driving the boat and I had no power so I called another boat over and I said, "I don’t want to be funny or anything, but I think the drives are at the bottom of the lake". They said, "You’re joking"? I thought I’m new and all I’ve done is cost them a fortune because I keep ruining everything. I did suggest using ‘Mercruiser’, because it’s stronger and they use it for racing. They had a feel below the waterline and someone said, "I can’t feel the drives". So I was expecting to find the gearbox the lot at the bottom of the lake. They then picked up the boat and found the drives and the engines hanging on by wires.

J.A: Not content with that, did you put a couple of windows through as well?

S.D: At Horley Lake yeah. Wade (Eastwood) was stood outside the yacht club and the windows face the lake. Gary (Powell) said, "Right Sarah I want you to bring the boat towards the club house, chuck it around and spray as much water as you can because I want to see how much of a wall it will make". I said, "You really want me to throw it about"? He said, "Yes I do and I’m going to stand Wade in front of the windows so hopefully he’ll get a bit wet". I looked at where he was and thought; "Well he’s not going to get that wet". We shot around in this boat; I spun it around so quickly that all the water went up. I stopped the boat and asked, "What happened then"? And Jamie said, "You’ve put the window’s through in the club house, you’ve broken every window". Well I was shocked, as you can imagine. I turned around and got such a fright. Wade was almost unconscious on a nearby bench. The force of water had picked him up, thrown him against a wall and dropped him onto this bench. He was out of breath and in stitches with laughter because there were people coming out of the clubhouse with chocolate cake and sandwiches all over them after three tons of water came inside the bar.

J.A: On the subject of Bond, what was it like to work with Vic Armstrong and Simon Crane?

S.D: They are wonderful. I mean I spent most of my time with Simon and then when it came to filming Vic was there as well. Vic was such a calming influence. Simon’s the one who very calmly reaches boiling point if things don't go right. After all he’s a perfectionist to the end, Vic then takes over and he’s very gentle and calming which is really nice. I thought Vic was wonderful. I mean Simon Crane is just gorgeous. I found it difficult to listen to what he had to say because I was too busy looking at him. He said to me "I sometimes wonder if you ever listen to a word I’m saying".

J.A: And then he said "Stop Dribbling"!!

S.D: No! He said "Whenever I look at you you’ve always got this blank stare on your face". He’d say things like "Did you hear what I just said"? And I’d say "Yeah, just smash through that pier". You saw the pier I smashed through on the movie well Simon said, "Look no pressure, but you’ve got one chance". No pressure!!

J.A: Well you had managed to lose both of the drives on the boat and put the windows through in the club house, so I think he was just making sure you were paying attention.

S.D: Well I was like, yeah okay and said, "Simon, don’t you trust me"? And he thought about it and then said, "No" and then gave that smile of his and what a smile he has!!

 Many thanks to Sarah for her help and co-operation

For more information about Sarah, visit WWW.SARAHDONOHUE.COM 

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