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What It's Really Like Working As Jennifer Lawrence's Stunt Double - Exclusive

When Jennifer Lawrence first donned the full-body blue makeup required to play Mystique in 2011's X-Men: First Class, few could have predicted that within a few short years, she'd be one of the biggest action stars in the movie world. That's exactly what happened, though, thanks to her casting as the tragically heroic Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise. With that series of mega-blockbuster movies in her quiver, followed by three more turns as the X-Men universe's shape-shifting mutant bombshell, Lawrence conquered the box office in a way that few action stars ever have.

As is the case any time a star takes off in the genre, credit must be given where it's due: to the team that brings the actor's thrilling stunts to life. In Lawrence's case, much of that falls to Renae Moneymaker, the stunt performer who caught on with the Hollywood star during the Hunger Games films and has gone on to serve as her double across multiple feature projects. Basically, if you've seen Lawrence in an action-infused movie over the past ten years, you've likely seen Moneymaker take part in bringing it all to life.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Moneymaker told us what it's been like being linked to one of Hollywood's most familiar faces.

Renae Moneymaker caught fire with The Hunger Games

According to Moneymaker, her initial connection with Lawrence was purely a matter of practicality. 

"The start with me and Jennifer — I got hired to double her on the first Hunger Games, and we got along really well. We were close in age. I was a really good match for her," she tells us. "The same action team was on Catching Fire, so they brought me back along. That again continued a good relationship with Jen."

From there, however, it seemed Lawrence started to take matters into her own hands, and that Moneymaker's background in gymnastics was key to her continued work with the star. 

"Then, she had X-Men: Days of Future Past coming up after that film," says Moneymaker. "And she was like, 'Hey, You're a gymnast, right?' I'm like, 'Yeah.' She's like, 'I want you to come do X-Men with me. Do you think you can?' I was like, 'Yeah, absolutely. Dream come true! Are you kidding me?'"

At that point, the bond had been formed, and Lawrence was in the Renae Moneymaker business. 

"I think at one point, she was like, 'Yeah, I think we do everything together now,'" Moneymaker shares. "Even when I tried to get on X-Men, it was a Canadian production. I talked to the coordinator and he's like, 'Well, are you dual citizenship?' I was like, 'No.' He's like, 'Well, then, I hope Jen will fight for you because I can't get you on unless,' yada, yada. Then, she wrote a bunch of letters and basically really fought for me to get on that."

From Hunger Games to the X-Men universe, Renae Moneymaker put in work

It's true that a stunt performer's work involves a lot of cool moments of action: big falls, intricate fight scenes, and more. When it comes to doubling a well-known star, however, there's more involved — especially since the goal from an audience standpoint is to erase the line between actor and double. Mimicry in motion was an important part of Moneymaker's work in doubling Lawrence. As she tells Looper, "It absolutely plays a role. And I think the more that you can become the character or adopt certain mannerisms, the closer of a match you're going to be with the other person, so you can essentially trick the audience into being one person."

Okay, but what about those cool action moments? Moneymaker says the Hunger Games movies were pretty varied in terms of the physical demands. "It wasn't any kind of specialized stunt work," she shares. "We did a bunch of wire work, a lot of falling down the hills [...] that well-rounded group kind of thing. Lots of tree climbing." 

On X-Men, Mystique's moves proved quite demanding, but perhaps not as much as the time spent in the makeup chair to create the character's distinctive azure appearance. Says Moneymaker, "I think it was three hours in [the makeup chair], if I remember correctly." This led to some long shooting days, including a record-breaker. "My longest day was a 21-hour day and it was on X-Men: Days of Future Past," says Moneymaker. "If I got out at 12 hours, it felt like an early day."

Renae Moneymaker and Jennifer Lawrence's bond transcends individual movies

While Moneymaker's most well-known work with Lawrence has been in these franchise films, she's continued to double the actress in other projects — including the sci-fi saga Passengers, Darren Aronofsky's bonkers parable Mother!, and the spy thriller Red Sparrow. Given how much time the two have spent together, one would imagine a certain personal bond forming. According to Moneymaker, that's the kind of thing that can happen, but only after an actress and her double have spent a significant amount of time together. 

"Coming up [with] my sister as my mentor, she told me that, 'Keep your relationship professional. Don't blur your lines too much,'" Moneymaker says. "At the beginning, I would say for the first several years, I was very friendly and had a connection, but also tried to stay very professional. I do think that Jen respected that about me because I think it made both of us let our guards down a little bit. Again, me and Jen have done eight films together. After a while, we're like, 'Okay.'"

The conclusion of the original Hunger Games series (a prequel focusing on Donald Sutherland's President Snow is in the works), Mystique's death in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and Disney's acquisition of Fox may mean Lawrence's peak time as an on-screen action hero could be fading a bit in the rearview. Given she has several major film projects in various stages of pre-production, however, there's no doubt we'll be catching her on screen again ... and that means the door is wide open for Jennifer Lawrence and Renae Moneymaker to continue their long and productive cinematic collaboration.