Meet Bonnie Campanella: devoted wife, mother, and STUNT WOMAN.
Have you seen Kong: Skull Island? Soul Surfer? Hawaii 5-0? Then you’ve seen Bonnie doing just one of the things she does best! She is an awesome industry professional and she is an incredible mother with a true zest for life. I had the honor of working out with Bonnie almost three days a week in the Stroller Strides program on Oahu. She is a true inspiration of positive energy, and always shows up with kind words to say, encouragement in abundance, and a “make it work” attitude.
Her interview will uplift and inspire you to keep going for your dreams, in and out of motherhood.
Can you give our readers a little of your backstory? What led you to becoming a stuntwoman? Is it your full time job?
For as long as I can remember, I have been a competitor and an athlete. I moved to Hawaii at 19 to finish my college degree pursue living in the Mecca of the surf world.
It was Bethany Hamilton’s movie Soul Surfer that landed me “My Big Break.”
Thanks to the amazing stunt coordinators that believed in me, I was able to get my foot in the door. Being a stunt woman in Hawaii is not a full time job, but most in-front-of-the-camera-type jobs aren’t. I guess I have been fortunate that there is enough work out here to warrant it my Career now.
I couldn’t be happier to be where I want to be, doing something I love.
What is required of a stuntwoman? Did you do attend a stunt school?
Stunt schooling is a must and practice is a must. As in any career, sharpening the saw is important in forward progression.
For me, it just happens to be that I practice high falls, crashing through windows and tumbling. I have attended some of the top stunt schools available to me in California, including the very empowering all-women Action Icon Conference in Los Angeles and Rick Seaman’s Stunt Driving School in Willow Springs, California.
What is the most physically rigorous part of your job?
Every now and then, I will show up to set, and I will have to perform the same stunt, slightly tweaked, sometimes 10+ times. Although this is not common, depending on how difficult the stunt is, it depends on what the director is trying to achieve.
There is not a big margin of error in my world. Other departments are relying on me to make everything they are doing come together perfectly.
Even when it means getting brutally dragged through a car window until my hips bruise. And I know what you’re probably thinking, “Don’t you wear pads to protect you?” Well the answer is YES, I pad up heavily when I can. But most women stunt performers (especially on Hawaii shows) are not wearing much more than a bikini top and Daisy Dukes. Skinny jeans if I’m lucky, haha!
What does a typical day look like for you?
On set, my typical day starts before the sun rises. Hair, makeup, and I ponder how I am going to pad up in today’s wardrobe. I put it on and go. Then I am off to set. Days can be long, but oh so rewarding.
On my off days, I am focusing on being a Mommy. Well, and fitness!
I attend Stoller Strides, which is a community of women (and men) that do a blend of high intensity/cardio type training. The program allows me to bring my kids. So once again, I am sharpening the saw- staying in shape and getting to teach my kids to socially interact with others in a community of families. I also try to keep up with my surfing, yoga, and just all around athleticism.
You and your husband are both working in the entertainment industry, and raising small children. How do you manage your schedules and the unpredictable hours you need to be on set?
This is always an interesting question… people think we are crazy, some days we are away from home for 16+ hours.
I have realized in this process, when you are passionate about something, and have the drive to make it work, you do.
Let’s just say, having an AMAZING safety net of nannies, friends, and family is the key. I’ll admit it is not always easy. My hubs and I were on a show last year (TBA soon, I promise) and we were BOTH working nights. Being parents, we are told “sleep when our baby’s sleep”. This was not the case!
I would get home from work around 5AM, sleep for an hour, and be up till about 1PM with my kiddos. Then my husband takes the afternoon shift while I try to get a couple more hours in. That was a trying 2 weeks, but I guess it’s the labor of love on both sides, to complete the work, but also make sure your kids know that they are the most important thing in your world. Sleep took the back seat on that one, but makeup departments do wonders on puffy eyes!
What have been some of your favorite moments and projects during your career?
I absolutely loved working on Soul Surfer. It was inspiring working with Bethany Hamilton and her family. I was also in my element, in the water, which is my specialty. I also recently doubled Goldie Hawn in some driving scenes on the movie Snatched, which was an honor because she is such an icon.
What have been some of your favorite moments as a mother?
Well, now, this is the most rewarding job of all. Of course, it’s the first steps, the first words and watching them grow into their own personalities. My almost 4 year old son learned how to swim this week. My almost 2 year old daughter is trying to swim just like brother. She may be they next big Stuntwoman one day!
It is beautiful experiencing these milestones with them. I love that every day is a new development in their lives; I could just watch them learn all day. And when work is slow, I am home with them everyday.
I always found you had amazing energy in the fitness class we attended together, even at 8:30 am on a blazing hot Hawaiian day- even if you had worked all night. Where do you find your zeal? Your spunk and spirit for life?
Every morning, we wake up with a choice. That choice is to make the most out of your day, or frankly: not to.
Of course, life hands you bad days, but I try to wake up every morning (drink a strong cup of coffee) and make the most out of the day. I truly believe the saying “Give them (your kids) something great to imitate”. I know that how I act, interact, and react to people and situations is constantly being examined by my little ones. I want to raise them to know that they can make the choice to live a full and happy, adventurous life. I try to model the behavior I would like to see in them. So far it is working on most days!
How would you encourage other mothers to pursue their passions whilst also leaning into the motherhood season of their lives?
Don’t let being a mom stop you from pursuing your dreams, but also, don’t let pursuing your dreams stop you from being a Mom.
I cannot tell you all how many times people tried to convince me that motherhood could be a career ender for me. Well, I’m proof that it isn’t. I just had to be creative: on how I stay in top shape and on how I train for shows. Also, remember that our country, as crazy as it seems right now, still embraces family values.
The people you work for, and choose to work for, will respect a hard working family woman. If they don’t, you’re hanging around the wrong crowd. Your village should be full of encouragers.
What do you believe is your greatest strength as a mother and as a wife?
My husband. Haha. But really, I have a ton of positive support in my world, and a lot of that comes from Him.
If you could tell new mothers one thing, what would it be?
I may make it sound all whimsical, and amazing, but letting go of the fear of leaving my kids at home was real. So many thoughts, questions, emotions will run through your head. Feel them, cry on your way to work… it is so normal.
But remember, do what feels right to you. I knew I was meant to go back to work after having kids, even if it is part time. I need that “me” time. But, every mom is different, and doing what makes you the best mom, wife, and person. That’s most important.
You had the unique opportunity to travel to Vietnam for the filming of Kong: Skull Island. You also got to bring your family. What were the highs and lows of that adventure? What are your other world traveling hopes and dreams?
I recently took the whole family to Northern Vietnam, to work on Kong: Skull Island. I was doubling Brie Larson who played Mason Weaver in the movie. My husband and I both worked, so we brought the babies. (I know, back to the crazy part!) We took my Mother in Law, and she was our live in-nanny for 3.5 weeks while we filmed exotic locals like the Trang An River and the beautiful HaLong Bay.
My kids were 3 years old and 9 months old at the time, and although they may not remember it all, we have some amazing memories to share with them. It was definitely trying at times, my daughter was still nursing, and if you only knew the places I had to pump. Let’s just say, nursing mothers laws don’t apply in other countries. Thankfully, everyone stayed healthy, which was my biggest worry.
I remember one day, the town we were in was so excited to have us there they threw us an insane 10 course Vietnamese meal, with dancing and music, It was a real cultural treat for a family from Hawaii. I think after that, any and every location is on my wish list. I think that being able to pick up the family and share a new adventure while they are young is enriching for their lives. I mean, how cool is it that a 3 year old reminisces to strangers by saying, “This one time, in Vietnam…?” The more exotic the better, I say!
I love watching you and your kids together! What are the special small moments that you enjoy sharing with your kids?
I enjoy the hugs, snuggles, and the “I love yous”. I love the fact that I have to force them to sleep in their own bed. They would try to sleep with us every night if we let them! I love comforting them when they are hurt or sad.
I know this job does not last long. Soon they will grow up and not need me as much… so I smother them with all of it, every chance I get.
What is the best part of parenting in Hawaii?
Hands down, the single best thing about parenting in Hawaii is the fact that we have the beach as a playground. My kids are so enriched in ocean life here, it is magical.
Finally, just for fun: wine or beer? You have only one snack you can eat forever: what is it?
I’m a beer girl, through and through. And then to balance it out, I could never live without fruit, especially Mangoes.
Get Social with Bonnie: