THE PONY EXCESS; How amazing stuntwoman Camilla turned our Samantha into a true pro in an afternoon - just like she did for star Angelina Jolie.(News)
Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland); 2/9/2006
Byline: By Samantha Booth
ANGELINA Jolie looks like the perfect horsewoman in blockbuster sequel Tomb Raider 2.
The stunning actress never looked sexier than when she was riding side saddle in tight jodhpurs and knee-high boots. And when she had to spin her rifle while riding at a full gallop through a thick forest, she looked like a true pro.
As did Orlando Bloom during the chariot races in Troy and 28 Days Later actor Cillian Murphy when his character, The Scarecrow, rampaged through Gotham City on horseback in Batman Begins.
But in reality, no matter how comfortable in the saddle these movie stars are, they all need a little help when it comes to the dangerous stunts.
That's something 19-year-old Camilla Naprous knows all about.
Since she was eight years-old she has been helping her dad advise stars on riding scenes for movies, TV shows and adverts and, on occasion, she even doubles for them.
She said: "It is great fun working on big films like Tomb Raider and Troy.
"I spent a month going to Angelina's house in England every day to help her train for the role. She is a lovely woman and a great rider, who is not scared to try anything.
But she had never ridden side saddle before, which can be a little tricky, so I helped her with that. And I doubled for her when she had to spin the gun while riding at full gallop because that is really difficult.
"Still, it was great just to hang out with her. Her son Maddox was there a lot of the time too. He is incredibly cute and just loved the horses."
Camilla added: "Quite a lot of the time the stars we work with do get attached to them and come back to see us to take them out for a ride."
In 2004 Camilla spent three months in Luxembourg with Patrick Swayze and Piper Perabo filming a movie called George and the Dragon in which she once again stood in for a horseback chase, this time in place of Piper.
And for Troy she spent weeks helping Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana and the rest of the cast learn how to chariot race and fight on horseback so the battle scenes would look as real as possible.
Camilla said: "Sadly Brad Pitt couldn't make it because he was still filming in America at the time but the rest of the guys were lovely. They were all really friendly and would always chat to you when they were hanging about.
"But my favourite so far has been Heath Ledger. We were working with him on a film called Four Feathers and he was really cute."
Camilla has been riding since she was able to walk. By the time she was born her dad Gerard was established as Europe's foremost horse stuntman and as she was growing up he worked on a range of films, from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to Braveheart and several Bond films.
And Camilla was happy to follow in his footsteps. By the time she was eight she was doing trick stunts in front of a packed Wembley Arena and she even doubled for a child actor in a BBC drama when they couldn't find an adult stuntwoman small enough to fall from a Shetland pony.
Now, as well as helping her dad train stars on film sets, she is a fully fledged member of her dad's hand-picked team of trick riders. During the summer months when there is less film work on offer, they tour Europe, performing as The Devil's Horsemen, thrilling audiences with the frenzied pace of Cossack riding, the dignified elegance of classical high school and the high drama of a Wild West showdown.
I went along to meet Camilla to see if I could learn a trick or two. Sure, she can make stunt riders out of multi-talented movie stars like Angelina, but I am a different proposition altogether.
Having only been on a horse twice before in my life, staying in the saddle seemed like the highest priority to me but Camilla and her colleagues had altogether other ideas.
Throwing themselves about on horseback is obviously second nature to them. Their blank looks as I struggled to mount the monstrous stallion that stood before me spoke volumes. "Can't everyone leap astride a huge horse like John Wayne?" their eyes seemed to say.
"That's Fantastico," said Camilla "He's the one all the celebrities ride because he is so calm. Angelina has ridden him and Orlando Bloom and Heath Ledger."
And I bet they are all at least five inches taller than me with built-in springs in their feet.
Still with a leg-up I managed to swing myself up on to Fantastico's back with amazing ease. A squeeze of my thighs and we were off for a gentle trot up and down the meadow, with me trying to keep the beast headed in a straight line.
"Hold the reins with one hand, cowboy style." Camilla instructed.
"You need your right hand free to wield a sword."
Silly me, of course I do.
A turn or two about the meadow trying to keep my back straight and right hand relaxing on my thigh "cowboy style", and I was told I was ready to try the first trick.
First I had to swap Fantastico for the more experienced Bolero, the horse Sean Bean rode in the hit series Sharpe.
"We're doing Cossack riding today," Camilla advised, "so all you have to do is swing your right leg over the front of the horse, keeping your toes pointed and then lie on the small of your back on the saddle."
It all sounded so straightforward in theory but I was certain putting it into practice would be far harder.
But within seconds I was actually lying across Bolero's back, while clutching to the pommel for dear life.
"And for trick number two, just swing out of the saddle altogether to lie vertically along the horse's side," said Camilla.
No problem, as long as somebody keeps a tight hold of the horse's reigns and someone else hovers next to me just in case I show any sign of falling.
"Why not try the next one while moving?" suggested Camilla.
All I had to do was put all of my weight on to my right foot then hang backwards across the saddle, letting my hands trail dangerously near to the ground as Bolero went for a little trot.
I was on my own this time and, though it was quite easy to get into position, dangling by one foot across the back of a moving horse just did not feel natural.
I am sure Bolero was going no faster than a lazy snail but from my unique perspective, with my head dangling far too closely to the animal's moving limbs, I felt like a race jockey accidentally upended from my saddle during the Grand National. Panic began to set in but to get back into the saddle I had to employ every single one of my redundant stomach muscles while Bolero patiently trotted on.
"In the show," Camilla told me matter of factly, "we do that at a full gallop and pick our hats up from the ground as we ride past."
Which is why it is Camilla and her dad's team of stunt riders who wow audiences on a weekly basis with their breathtakingly daring stunts and not me.
'Angelina is lovely. She's not afraid to try anything. I had to stunt double for her during one take'
GOOD RIDER: Camilla spent a lot of time teaching Angelina Jolie to ride for her daredevil horseback stunts for the movie Tomb Raider' PALE RIDER: Despite her initial fears, brave Samantha proved she could master the stunts under the watchful eyes of Camilla and Tom Cox
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