Candi Orsini, a star of the U.S. women's rugby team, has a pain
threshold that would make a sadist cringe. Once, in the middle
of a match, Orsini separated her shoulder. No problem. Like Mel
Gibson in Lethal Weapon, she popped it back into place and
Orsini's tolerance for pain comes in handy. When she's not
fending off would-be tacklers and sprinting toward the try
line, Orsini doubles--literally--as a movie stuntwoman. Since
obtaining her Screen Actors Guild card in 1984, Orsini, 39, has
played the fall gal in more than 50 movies, television shows and
commercials. Her most recent cinematic work was in the
action-packed Eraser, in which she helped stage an explosion in
a scene with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vanessa Williams.
"A lot of people, even my teammates, say I'm crazy, and they ask
me when I'm going to get a real job," says Orsini. "But stunt
work is a great way to make a living. I like constant excitement."
That trait drew Orsini to rugby when she was a student at
Florida State in the 1970s, and it has kept her in mud-caked
cleats ever since. Earlier this summer she was selected for the
15th time to be a member of the USA Eagles, the women's
international rugby team. The Eagles will play in the Canada Cup
on Sept. 8-14 in Edmonton.
August 11, 1996
"When I got to college, I intended to play softball and
volleyball, but I also joined the rugby club," Orsini says. "By
the time I graduated, I knew that if I wanted to continue
playing rugby, I would have to support myself somehow." That
"somehow" presented itself when a friend in common introduced
her to the seminal Seminole, Burt Reynolds, who was in Atlanta
shooting Sharky's Machine. "I hung out on the set with the stunt
guys," Orsini says. "They taught me some tricks, and I started
thinking, Hey, I could really get into this."
One of Orsini's earlier films was one of her more
difficult--which, in stunt parlance, means painful. "I was
doubling for Jessica Tandy in Cocoon: The Return, and there was
a scene that called for me to get hit by a moving car. I had
been taught how to minimize the impact, but I still took my
knocks on that one."
Orsini has a steady flow of work. The athleticism and water
skills she honed as a child have helped her land jobs in Money
Train, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Sister Island and The Cowboy
Way. Orsini also attended stunt-driving school, where she
learned to maneuver cars at speeds that would otherwise warrant
jail time. She also knows karate and is an expert water- and
But most of all she takes falls. Off cliffs. Off horses. Through
glass. All so that the heroines for whom she doubles--who have
included Mimi Rogers, Kirstie Alley and Ellen Burstyn--can look
tough without taking the tumble.
Orsini, whose brother, Bill, is also a professional stunt
worker, has never suffered a serious injury. And she finds that
rugby is the ideal complement to her day job. "They both take
toughness and mental fortitude, and you even bleed about the
same amount," Orsini says. "Also, learning how to relax your
body when you get hit [in rugby] comes in handy when you flop
over the hood of a car."
For now Orsini is consumed with preparing for the Canada Cup.
She's also trying to make the select U.S. team that will travel
next March to Hong Kong for an international "seven-a-side"
rugby tournament. Franck Boivert, who coaches the Eagles, says,
"Candi adds stability to our back line, partially because of her
athletic ability and partially because her experience makes her
one of the best at reading the game."
Does he get nervous seeing one of his star players career off
cliffs and dive off motorcycles on the screen? "As long as she
doesn't hurt herself, I think it's great," Boivert says.
"Candi's amazing. They ought to make a movie about her."
Responds Orsini, "I'd like that because it would be nice for
women's rugby to get more exposure. They could hire me as a
consultant, but I think I'll let someone else take the bumps and