What superhero stunt doubles really look like

Unlike our favorite comic book characters, the origin stories of silver screen superheroes often involve more steamed chicken breasts and HGH than kryptonite and dead parents. But while the actors get paid to look the part, it's the stunt doubles who take the hits, the falls, and the rubber bullets, all without any of the glory. Let's go behind the scenes to highlight some of these brave performers who toil in the shadows to bring the Earth's mightiest heroes to life.

William Spencer is Spider-Man

Most stunt performers don't learn their trade at school — their skills come from the school of life. William Spencer, who's earned the nickname "The Skate Ninja" thanks to his unusual skateboarding style and YouTube following, never thought his board would give him a career in the movies. Thankfully, The Amazing Spider-Man director Marc Webb had other ideas. For his first outing with the web-head, Webb wanted to do something completely different, and that involved a skateboard scene for the ages. Spencer, who'd spent a few years picking up spare paychecks doing light stunt work on movies like Jonah Hex and Project X, didn't even make it to his Spider-Man audition. Ultimately, the filmmakers couldn't find what they were looking for and looped back around to Spencer, who ended up as Andrew Garfield's double for two web-crawling movies, launching a new career as Hollywood's go-to skate rat.

Ingrid Kleinig is Harley Quinn

Ingrid Kleinig has taken the long road to the top of her profession. Despite possessing movie star looks, this badass babe knew she was born to chase the thrills. In fact, she told The White Space that her brother used to take her on motocross jumps when she was still just a baby. That led to a long journey through some of the more forgettable Hollywood projects of the last ten years, including shows like Cops LAC, Panic at Rock Island, and Sea Patrol, before Kleinig broke into the big-time with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Still, if she has had one defining part, it's her work as Margot Robbie's stunt double on Suicide Squad. Robbie is a classically trained dancer and comfortable with her body, and the two became friends while tag-teaming the stunts for Harley Quinn. They even held a long-running contest, under the supervision of free-diving instructor Kirk Krack, to see who could hold their breath the longest underwater. In the end they both topped five minutes and bested all comers from the crew who tried to take them out.

Albert Valladares is Superman

After a long day of taking a pounding, falling off buildings, or being set on fire, these stunt men and women have to find some solace in the fact that they're getting paid to pretend they're superheroes. That's got to help ease some achy joints at the end of each day. And that goes two-fold for Albert Valladares, who got his start practicing wrestling moves in his backyard with friends, because Valladares got the chance to play not one, but the two biggest comic book heroes in history. On Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Valladares split his time doubling for both Superman and The Dark Knight. And with the nickname "Spider," we have to guess he's got at least one more superhero in his future.

Mike Runyard is Hank Pym

Some actors have a new stunt double on every set, while others find someone who works and then keep the relationship going for years. For Michael Douglas, his collaboration with his double, Mike Runyard, dates back 28 years. A professional motorcycle racer, Runyard got into stunt work in the late '70s. He first worked with Douglas on Black Rain, and the two clicked. They quickly became golfing buddies and close friends, and have worked on countless movies over the years, including Falling Down and Basic Instinct. In fact, Runyard actually beat Douglas to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having worked on the first Iron Man movie. When it came time for Douglas to bring the first Ant-Man, Hank Pym, to life, he knew exactly who he wanted backing him up.

Manny Perry is the Hulk

Before becoming Lou Ferrigno's stunt double in the 1978 television series The Incredible Hulk, Manny Perry got his start as a professional bodybuilder, training in California's famous Gold's Gym alongside other bodybuilding stars like Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Eventually, Perry would find a place at the top of the bodybuilding world, winning the titles for Mr. America, Mr. USA, and even Mr. World. Perry later made the transition into stunt performing starting with his role in The Incredible Hulk.

Perry still works as a stunt double and stunt coordinator today, recently working as a stunt driver in 2017's The Fate of the Furious. Perry has collected some amazing stories over the years, and perhaps our favorite is from Hulk writer Allan Cole, who's recalled that one time Perry was nearly killed by a runaway yacht. Perry is pictured above (right), alongside both Lou Ferrigno (left) and Frank Orsatti (center), who was Bill Bixby's stunt double on the series.

Alex Armbruster is El Diablo

Since 2011, Alex Armbruster has become one of the most in-demand movie stuntmen, appearing in dozens of films and television series, including the RoboCop remake, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Nikita, and many more. He's pictured above (right) alongside Jay Hernandez, who Armbruster stunt-doubled for as El Diablo in 2016's Suicide Squad. This Canadian stunt expert is also an extreme sports enthusiast, spending his spare time performing live rollerblade and BMX biking shows around the globe and jumping out of planes for fun.

Armbruster revealed in a January 2017 interview that it was actually the Disney Original Movie Brink! that got him interested as a youngster in inline skating and, subsequently, stunt performing. If you head to the movies anytime in 2017, you'll probably see his work; Armbruster is slated to appear in over a dozen stunt roles this year, including xXx: Return of Xander Cage, American Gods, and Saw: Legacy.

Will Erichson is Deadpool

Over roughly a decade, Will Erichson has built up a huge Hollywood stunt résumé, appearing in everything from TRON: Legacy to Wayward Pines. In 2016, Erichson scored big when he landed the part of Ryan Reynolds' stunt double during the filming of Deadpool. Erichson, along with other Deadpool stunt performers Adrian Hein and Alex Kyshkovych, helped bring our favorite regenerating degenerate to the big screen. In particular, Erichson was instrumental in the SUV fight scene at the start of the movie. You can also spot him on the set of Arrow, where he performs stunts for various cast members, particularly as a double for John Barrowman (Dark Archer).

Buster Reeves is Bane

Growing up in the '70s and '80s in the English market town of Huddersfield, Buster Reeves cut his teeth on 1980s action movies, idolizing martial arts stars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. That interest would grow into a passion as Reeves started studying karate at age 11 and earned a Guinness World Record when he was only 13, for "most kicks done at head height in a minute," which he broke with an amazing 218 kicks. He still holds that record today after beating his previous record with 256.

Reeves started his stunt career in the late '90s, and has since picked up a number of high-profile gigs: he trained Brad Pitt how to use a sword while serving as his double on the set of 2004's Troy, and worked as the stunt coordinator on the set of Game of Thrones during its first season. He also served as Tom Hardy's stunt double for the part of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (he's pictured on the left), and his career has continued unabated in Warcraft, Jason Bourne, and the 2017 releases CHIPS and American Assassin.

Richard Bradshaw is Wolverine

Richard Bradshaw's impressively prolific stunt career spans nearly three decades of work on television and the big screen. He's also trained as an actor, which allows him to carefully mimic movements so smoothly you'd never notice he isn't the actor he's doubling for. You've seen his work in movies like The Fifth Element, Titanic, and Tomorrow Never Dies. Like Buster Reeves, Bradshaw has also been involved in the production of Game of Thrones, serving as both a performer and the show's assistant stunt coordinator for more than two dozen episodes. In the X-Men franchise, Bradshaw (pictured on the left) worked as a performer and stunt double for Hugh Jackman in X-Men 2, The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Days of Future Past.

Tracey Eddon is Supergirl

Born in 1958, Tracey Eddon has come a long way from her childhood in Harrow, England. Since the 1970s, she's worked as a stunt double and performer in some of our most beloved movies, helping make cinematic history from Return of the Jedi to Labyrinth, and Mission: Impossible to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. In 1984, Eddon showed off her super-powered stunt abilities when she served as the stunt double for Helen Slater in Supergirl. You can see her on the left alongside her superhero twin. Despite being nearly 60 years old, Eddon is still going strong today; some of her most recent stunt work can be seen in the 2016 Marvel blockbuster Doctor Strange.

Tony McFarr is Star-Lord

Before getting started as a stunt performer in Hollywood, Tony McFarr grew up on Merritt Island in the Melbourne/Cocoa area of Florida's Atlantic coast. His first credited role was for a single episode of Bones in 2011, and since then he's built up an impressive stunt résumé, appearing in dozens of television series over the last decade. With his role in 2015's Jurassic World, it seems McFarr found a niche as Chris Pratt's stunt double—he went on to doubled for Pratt in 2016's Passengers and again the following year in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Take a look at the two together here, with McFarr on the right.

Aaron Toney is Falcon

Since 2003, Aaron Toney has proven himself to be one of the most versatile stuntmen in the business. He's been a stunt double for Eddie Murphy, Chris Tucker, Chiwetel Ejiofor and many more of Hollywood's top stars—and just like Tony McFarr with Chris Pratt, it seems Toney has carved out a niche serving as a double to one actor in particular: Anthony Mackie. Toney's first stint as a stunt double for Mackie came in 2012 for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and the two have worked together ever since.

Toney was Mackie's double for the role of Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and reprised his job in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and Captain America: Civil War. But flying high as Falcon isn't Toney's only superhero skill. You can also spot him doing stunts as Black Panther in Civil War, and he was both a fight coordinator and stunt double for the Blue Ranger in 2017's Power Rangers.

James Young is Winter Soldier

Much like Buster Reeves, James Young grew up in England watching action greats Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. Young started practicing the fights with his buddies in the backyard, which eventually led him to pursue a career in the stunt industry. Active in the field since 2011, Young quickly moved up the ladder, serving not only as a stunt double but also as a stunt and fight choreographer. He got a big break in 2014, when he was tapped to play the stunt double of Sebastian Stan and choreograph the fight scenes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He reprised the role in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, also doing double duty by serving as Robert Downey Jr.'s stunt double in the film, and later worked on the stunt team for 2018's Avengers: Infinity War.

Scott Leva is also Superman

Scott Leva got his start as a champion gymnast before making the transition to stunt work in the early 1980s. Since then, this prolific stuntman has been in over 200 productions as a stunt double, stunt rigger, or stunt coordinator. You can see him here alongside Dean Cain, whom Scott doubled for in the television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. His stint as the Man of Steel wouldn't be his only time portraying a superhero, however. Leva's also been the stunt double for The Toxic Avenger as well as the Red Ranger on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV series.

In an interesting "might-have-been" scenario, Leva was also tapped in 1987 to be the actor to play both Peter Parker and Spider-Man for a proposed Spider-Man film in development by Cannon Films. Leva was even used on promotional photos and a photo cover by Marvel for the ongoing comic series. Alas, it was not meant to be. The project fell into development hell until the late '90s, and by the time Sam Raimi made the movie in 2002, Tobey Maguire had stepped into the role.

Bobby Holland Hanton is Thor

Bobby Holland Hanton is one of the most in-demand stuntmen in Hollywood, having doubled for Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace, Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises, and Ryan Reynolds in The Green Lantern. But if there's one gig he's especially proud of, it's getting to bring the thunder as Thor across the MCU. From the costumes to the kick-ass stunt work, Hanton loves everything about this gig, especially star Chris Hemsworth, whom he described to Business Insider as a legend: "Chris is in the best shape of any actor I've seen. He's got huge arms and great coordination. I've never had to train so much in all my life — three hours each session, twice a day, six days a week. If Chris wasn't an actor, he'd be one of the top stuntmen around." And Hanton has had plenty of chances to show his mettle in an Asgardian breastplate, but his favorite stunt? The prison scene in The Dark Knight Rises: "I had to climb out of the prison he's in and jump, miss the landing, fall 100 feet, and slam into the opposite wall. It was one of my first ever high-falls, a 100-footer, which is quite a nice feat to achieve for a stunt performer."

Sam Hargrave is Captain America

With a name like Sam Hargrave, it's a wonder this stunt double isn't a comic book character himself. But he doesn't have an alter-ego, let alone much of a real-life ego. Hargrave told CBS News, "I exist because I am expendable. In all honesty, it's because if I get hurt, I can be replaced." While Hargrave's modesty is refreshing, this stunt team superstar is far from expendable. When he isn't acting as the man behind Captain America's mask, he's also serving as Marvel's resident stunt coordinator and choreographer, designing some of the most memorable blowouts from Captain America: The Winter Solider, Captain America: Civil War, and Avengers: Infinity War. Chances are if one of your favorite Marvel superheroes takes a knuckle to the face, Hargrave is responsible for it on some level.

Clay Fontenot is Iron Man

Samuel L. Jackson was the first to let the world in on a little secret, tweeting back in 2012, "For all you ladies that need a reason to see #Avengers, here's the Brutha IN the Ironman suit. Clay Fontenot!" In fact, Robert Downey Jr. barely ever wears the suit anymore. Between CGI and stuntmen, he doesn't often have a reason to. That left Fontenot as the only guy who still has to suit up when the cameras are rolling. With a long line of hits under his belt, like Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, Unstoppable, and the Blade movies, Fontenot isn't lacking work, so you have to assume he likes his gig playing the body to Downey Jr.'s mouth.

Renae Moneymaker is Mystique

In the Moneymaker family, stunts must run in the blood. Meet Renae, Heidi Moneymaker's younger sister. After some words of encouragement from big sis, Renae auditioned as a stunt double for the show Make it or Break It. She got the part, which opened the door to a stunt career of her very own. Renae ended up joining the legendary 87 Eleven stunt team thanks to her sister's recommendation, and she soon began piling up gigs in hits like John Wick and The Wolverine. But it was while doubling for Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games that Renae found her superstar doppelganger, and she's been working with the Oscar-winner ever since.

Heidi Moneymaker is Black Widow

Heidi Moneymaker landed in the stunt world after she started picking up side gigs while attending UCLA on an athletic scholarship. Playing an ape on an episode of The Amanda Show led to bigger and better roles, and Moneymaker was soon doubling for stars such as Drew Barrymore, Keri Russell, and Emily Browning. But nothing has topped her work helping to bring super spy Natasha Romanova to life in the Marvel movies. Considering her willingness to do anything to get the shot, there isn't much that separates her from the fearless comic book character she helps portray. Still, no matter how skilled you may be, things do go wrong. Moneymaker separated a joint in her collarbone after diving through a window during a stunt for Captain America: The Winter Solider.

Jeannie Epper is Wonder Woman

When Jeannie Epper broke through the glass ceiling, she really broke through a glass ceiling. Back in the 1970s, she was one of the few female stunt doubles regularly working in the field, most famously as Lynda Carter's double on Wonder Woman. Leaping over tall buildings, dodging crashing cars, and fighting off leering men, Epper spent the better part of a decade putting the "Wonder" in Wonder Woman, and all for just $250 a day. She's gone on to have a long and varied career, most recently appearing alongside Reese Witherspoon and Sofía Vergara in 2015's Hot Pursuit at 74 years young. And, as she told CBS News, she's still looking for a good gig, saying, "I know it's not just for the money. I mean, we do make good money, but I love it. It's where I'm the most alive."

Damien Walters is Kick-Ass

Yet another YouTube sensation moonlighting as a stuntman, Damien Walters may earn his paycheck doing stunt work and bringing James Bond and Kick-Ass to life, but his real passion has always been freerunning, or as the former gymnast describes it, "gymnastics, outside." Whether he's flipping over buildings, lighting himself on fire, or riding on the roof of a drifting sports car, Walters is living proof that you don't need a million-dollar budget to perform kick-ass stunts all on your own.

Kelly Richardson is Nebula

As a child growing up in Berkeley, California, Kelly Richardson spent her time competing in gymnastics and performing in theater and dance. Later, Richardson immersed herself in travel and sports, working as a Divemaster on scuba boats, and as a ski/snowboard instructor, before joining a circus in Brazil as an aerialist and acrobat. In 2012, with the support of a Fulbright scholarship, she wrote and directed Without a Net, a documentary about Brazilian youth who train at the circus to get out of the cycle of drugs and crime, which won several awards at U.S. film festivals. Following the release of her film, Richardson moved back to California to pursue a career as a stunt performer, and has since compiled a considerable stunt and acting résumé. Most recently, Richardson appeared as the stunt double for Karen Gillan as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Rob de Groot is Drax

Since 2001, Dutch performer and stuntman Rob de Groot has been making a name for himself while appearing in some of Hollywood's biggest hits. He primarily worked in Dutch and Belgian movies and television shows until 2014, when de Groot received a big break by landing the role of Dave Bautista's stunt double as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy. Since then, he's been the motion-capture performer for Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron, worked as a stuntman for Game of Thrones, and has doubled for Bautista in several more films, including Spectre, Enter the Warriors Gate, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Due to Bautista's current popularity, de Groot has plenty of stuntwork lined up in 2017 and 2018: he's slated to appear in the upcoming movies Final Score, Blade Runner 2049, Avengers: Infinity War, and Escape Plan 2: Hades.