The saying goes, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” Those who have found a way to monetize their passion and interests are considered lucky. You could say that Ebony De La Haye is one of the lucky few but that would be a complete misnomer as luck has no part in her story. While still in the early stages of grade school, Ebony began training in her lifelong love of water skiing. Countless competitions and awards later, she took a foray into performing as a stuntwoman and morphed into a new career that became very successful. There’s no denying her ability to turn her love of what she does on the water into an internationally praised body of work, just as there is no denying her incredible abilities. For anyone who feels that you establish yourself and then sit back, De La Haye serves as an example that you are best served doing the antithesis of this. She has systematically built her beginnings as a child prodigy in waterskiing into that of an acrobatic/fight trained entertainer…sometimes doing so while delivering lines in an array of different languages. Whether it’s a calculated plan or simply her ability to continually embellish her skill set, Ebony is literally and figuratively constantly in motion.
When Ken Clark of Action Horizons contacted De La Haye about the position as stunt double for actress Kiersey Clemons in the film Sweetheart, she was already interested in more film work. The fact that filming was taking place in Fiji certainly didn’t dissuade her compulsion to accept the position. Ebony served double duty, arriving two weeks prior to filming to train Clemons for the scenes which would not allow for a stunt double. In addition to being a physical match for the stunt scenes, serving as a mentor/trainer to the actress strengthened the trust bond between the two…resulting in an ease of performance in the more physical scenes of the film. Director J.D. Dillard had worked to take full advantage of De La Haye’s abilities by creating highly dynamic fight scenes that incorporated weaponry and aerial wire work. Because the filming took place on an island, the rigging set ups had to be assembled on site in an environment atypical for normal productions. The film also contains a great deal of underwater work like scuba diving. Countless opportunities for danger required immense planning and preparation to ensure the safety of the cast and crew. These environments were familiar to Ebony, as was the climate (De La Haye spent time starring as the female lead Helen in Universal Studios Singapore’s live Waterworld production). She relates, “The climate in Fiji was very similar to Singapore. The sun took a toll on everyone but we took advantage of filming on an island and took lunch dips in the ocean. It was important to stay incredibly hydrated and take electrolytes in order to do the job with energy and focus. The ocean caused some difficulties as the water conditions were unpredictable. The cast and crew would travel to and from the island we filmed on by boat every day, sometimes in very rough water conditions. This was a daring task. We also encountered some difficulties with the unpredictability of the ocean when filming underwater scenes. Natural elements such as rain or tidal movement would affect water clarity and therefore the overall quality of the shot able to be produced on that day. We very much had to work in sync with mother nature.
This same skill set and exemplary performance led Action horizons to enlist De La Haye to become a part of their stunt team for the Horror/Thriller Prey. The second (and most demanding) part of filming took place in Johor Bahru, Malaysia where an enclosed submergible set was built. For twenty days of filming, Ebony’s role as stunt double required her to be submerged in confined spaces utilizing controlled breath holding and scuba safety. While not as outwardly/visibly demanding, the risk levels were perhaps much greater. The experience of working in Malaysia presented some challenges. Due to shooting on remote islands off Langkawi, the entire production had to be loaded onto small local taxi boats before each shoot day, including all equipment. This meant preempting any stunt or safety equipment needed and preparing contingency plans for all the possible scene variations and running sequences of the day. Travel boats were small and space was limited. Some of the islands are only accessible during high tide, requiring the use of tide charts to map the tide conditions and ensure the production would be able to get on and off the islands safely. All of this served to increase the potential risk for Ebony and increased the need for someone of her skill and experience. She adds, “Prior to working on Prey I had done stunt work on two television productions, “Serangoon Road” and “Indian Summers”. Prey was the first feature film I had worked on. I was excited to be doubling the lead actress and to be on set for the full duration of the shoot. To begin with, I was nervous as it was something I had wanted to do for a while. I felt pressure to do a good job for both the production and myself. We had two weeks of prep time for stunt training with the actors. We created the fight choreography for the action scenes and worked in a pool to establish swimming skills and the underwater action scenes. By the time it came to shoot I was no longer nervous and just really excited to make a movie.”
Stunt coordinators and stunt performers are a highly proficient group requiring immense trust and respect between them. Ken Clark of Action Horizons declares, “Both these films required not only talent but also intelligence and quick thinking. While our goal is to get an amazing and thrilling take, our number one priority is safety. A lot of the time this means performing while being hyper aware of your surrounding and anticipating the potential for danger. On both the features Sweetheart and Prey Ebony was the stunt double for the lead actress, which required her to be on set for the duration of the shoot. Whilst filming Sweetheart Ebony was required to execute numerous stunts involving aerial wire work, performing fight scenes, and the use of her scuba skills to achieve deep under water scenes with a specialized scuba film crew. The filming of Prey also required these scuba skills, working in submerged sets and deep water film tanks, as well as utilizing Ebony’s stunt fighting skills in the choreography and performance of multiple fight scenes. As the stunt coordinator of Prey and Sweetheart, Ebony impressed on both of these projects. A stunt performer is the ultimate team player. They take all the risk to make the star look great. Ebony De La Haye makes her stars look incredible!”