A Life Full Of Crazy Stunts

A Small Woman Can Be Extremely Tough

She wrecks cars, handles explosives, takes flying leaps off high cliffs and generally gets knocked around.

It's just another day at work for Cindy Folkerson, one of Hollywood's top stuntwomen. At 5 foot 3 inches tall and 105 pounds, she doesn't look very tough.

48 Hours Correspondent Susan Spencer visited her on location, first during the filming of action movie Broken Arrow in 1995 and then again in July for Drowning Mona.

Folkerson has a wide repertoire: "Full burns, partial burns, car stunts, horses, fights, stair falls," she says, in the tone that someone else might use to describe bookkeeping skills.

It has become old hat to Folkerson. But it is not easy. "I go home at the end of the day back to my hotel, and I go to the ice machine and fill up freezer bags and ice whatever I need to."

She thinks of it as training. "I consider myself a professional athlete. I train, and then I - I play the game. I do my job, and then I do the maintenance that I need to do to make sure I can come back and play tomorrow."

Folkerson may seem relaxed, but her high-pressure job is to do the things too dangerous or terrifying for the stars. In Broken Arrow she doubles for actress Samantha Mathis. Folkerson plays a huge role in the film.

"Whenever you shoot an action scenario like Broken Arrow, you need, not only a good actress to say the words, but you need a great stunt double," says assistant director Josh McGlagen.

Folkerson was trained well; stunt work runs in the family. Her father also worked as a stuntman. Her husband, Jeff Ramsey, is the stunt boss on the TV show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. At first she wanted to be a clothes designer, but she ended up as a stuntwoman.

Sometimes there is really no way to rehearse a stunt; she just has to do it.

For example, one day, when Folkerson has to jump off a cliff in a rather difficult maneuver, she says, "Running to the edge, you couldn't see where you were going."

"You were just blindly jumping off," she says. "All you were seeing is the other side of this mesa and this 100-foot drop." Despite her evident concern, Folkerson does the 20-foot jump and does it perfectly.

Folkerson eventually wants to become a stunt coordinator. She doesn't want to be 50 and relying upon jumping off cliffs for a living.

In July Folkerson doubled for Bette Midler in a comedy called Drowning Mona and performed a risky car stunt.

"The car can get out of control," she says. "On the second tire that we blew, some of the rubber and debris actually blew inside the car and hit me in the shoulder. For those reasons you don't want an actor in the car."

Folkerson has become more selective about her assignments since the days when she'd take on any stunt. She won't do high falls anymore. And she's spending more time working as a stunt coordinator not easy in Hollywood's male-dominated culture.

"It's been a men's field," she says. "And there is only a few women that have managed to break into that field, and I was fortunate to be one of them."

Produced by David Kohn;