You may not know Lauria Wu’s name as of yet, but you do know the laundry list of names – say, Carina Lau, Karena Lam, Fiona Sit, Jade Leung and counting – she’s stunt-doubled for.
Having grown up a contemporary dancer, Wu, while entranced by all things related to the Hong Kong action film arena, never imagined she’d one day be a part of the genre-defining community. The pageantry circuit brought her back to Hong Kong from the United States and, while freelancing as an actress and model, Wu fell into tricking lessons conducted by a friend and seasoned stuntman. As thus, her journey into stunt work began – first as a wayward hobby; now, as an explosive career.
And yet, Wu has ambitions beyond the action. She’s proud to reveal she’s been signed to a new Dante Lam film, this time as an actress. “Although I wouldn’t mind some crazy action for the role if the director saw fit for it,” Wu says with a laugh.
What’s the most dangerous stunt you’ve ever done?
Explosions. Explosions are always dangerous because of the blast but also the subsequent pyrotechnics involved. Sometimes a blast or fire might be so intense that I’d actually feel as if a part of me was burnt. An even more dangerous sequence involved an explosion where I was airborne and crashed into the window of a car through the use of wired work.
What’s one stunt you’d never try?
I would try any stunt within my scope of abilities and am willing to go through with the training required to attempt any stunt out there. Many of us stunties are enthusiastic and open-minded in trying new stunts. One stunt I wouldn’t try at this point in time would be an equine stunt. Like any discipline, if I do not possess the proper training or qualifications, then it is something I would not attempt. Safety is always our top priority so if the preparation and equipment for a stunt seems questionable, I would listen to my gut and pass on it.
Your most memorable stunt?
My most memorable stunt was when I doubled for one of my favourite actresses, Karena Lam. The scene was during a fight with another stuntman and we had to jump-fall onto a glass table, shattering it together with him on top of me face to face. The move was altered from the original where the stuntman and I were informed to fall slightly slanted, landing onto the left side on my upper back instead of my mid-back.
After our landing, he was supposed to be strangling my neck and sitting on my waist with me pinned to the ground while I continued to throw punches at him. When I attempted to punch him, I realised my left shoulder was dislocated from our landing because I couldn’t lift my arm up. The camera was still rolling and the director hadn’t called “Cut”, so we continued with the scene.
Although I couldn’t lift my left arm, I was still throwing punches with my right, where, luckily, the camera angle panned in a way so it wasn’t obvious my left arm was out of commission. After they called “Cut” and were making sure everyone was alright because there was shattered glass everywhere, that was when I calmly mentioned that my shoulder was dislocated.
I still remember in the back of my mind I was thinking how interesting, because it didn’t really hurt, unless I had to move my arm. I even asked if any of the sifus on set knew how to pop in a shoulder so that we can proceed with the shoot. They responded that even if they did, they wouldn’t do so because they didn’t know if I had any shattered bone inside which may affect the injury more severely, so the crew called an ambulance. Fortunately, we had a good take with that shot and it was used in the film. We even joked that it was a take worth dislocating a shoulder.
What’s the coolest stunt you’ve ever seen performed by someone else?
Can I mention a few? It would have to be one of the legendary stuntman who doubled Jackie Chan, free falling from the second floor onto a human-sized vase on the ground, shattering it and landing on the ground with his upper back and no wire.
Another is a stuntman free-falling from the third floor sideways onto a steel canopy down the next floor, hit and bounce off down to another steel canopy in a zig-zag before hitting and bouncing off yet again and landing onto the ground with no wire.
Is there someone that inspires you in your line of work?
Michelle Yeoh is definitely one of my biggest role models. Not only did she perform her own stunts in her Hong Kong action films in the ’90s, but her determination and resilience is something I also model myself after. She pioneered the way for female stunts artists all over the world. There’s no other like Michelle, and working alongside Michelle Yeoh is something I’m always dreaming about – what an amazing honour that would be! Michelle, if you’re reading this … I’m available!
I am also greatly inspired by many martial arts legends and choreographers such as Bruce Lee, Yuen Woo-ping, Kenji Tanigaki, Sammo Hung and a good number of other masters. Not only did they master the skills and technique in their fields, but they also constantly share and pass down their knowledge and wisdom to future generations. They continue to grow and expand their legacy with their contributions and I think it’s very noble and inspiring.
In recent years, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to many great stuntpeople and talented choreographers around the world. There are so many coordinators out there now that inspire me. I would really love the opportunity to work with many of them, such as Kenji Tanigaki from Rurouni Kenshin, Andy Cheng from Shang-Chi, Brett Chan from Warrior, Andy Long from Liger … and many more. But if I can only choose one, it would be the master of masters, Yuen Woo-ping from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There is just too much to compliment them about.
Stunt work is understandably very taxing on the body. How do you keep your body and mind well?
Keep training and keep moving. Practice moves, skills, agility, techniques and form over and over to get better. Make it a habit like all athletes do, it can and will help maintain overall well-being.
In my own time, aside from maintaining practices in stunt and action, recovery and rest is a priority too. Yoga and stretches definitely help a lot in loosening tension in our muscles and joints as well as rejuvenating the body, mind and soul. Not to mention, it helps a great deal with flexibility too. Very beneficial.
Best advice you’ve received?
No excuses. Be disciplined. Don’t worry about what others think or say. Keep training, practicing and working hard. Focus on doing your best and keep thriving. Be aware of surrounding, timing, people, safety and own it. Be in it for the win. Love what you do and do what you love. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in the industry?
I would have to say our industry is affected by the increasing instability of work opportunities. The continual evolution of modern technology like green screens, artificial intelligence and visual effects, outsourcing stunt work, and increased scrutiny on safety regulations in our occupation are all some factors that take away from our craft. Stunt work is an art form in itself, but the demand for our work is only a fraction of what it used to be in the ’80s and ’90s. That being said, I hope our industry will continue to stay resilient and flourish. I love my field of work more each day and endeavour to continue sharpening my skills and abilities in hopes of growing, unifying, inspiring and honouring those in this community.
Meet Hong Kong’s New Action Vanguard’s other stunt performers and action actors here