Her Need For Speed: The Secrets of The World’s Top Female Stunt Driver
In the driver’s seat with top female stunt driver Debbie Evans.
It takes a lot to grab our attention in this overstimulated world. You Auto Know: Ideas That Move Us, our drivetastic new editorial series sponsored by Autotrader, celebrates those fun and fascinating stories worth stopping for.
She was in the driver’s seat for actress Angelina Jolie in Wanted. She immaculately executed the award-winning driving sequences for Michelle Rodriguez and multiple stunt roles in the Fast and the Furious franchise. She was the ultimate speed demon for Carrie Ann Moss in the Matrix Reloaded. When it comes to speed and stunts, there is one award-winning woman behind it all: female stunt driver Debbie Evans.
Clocking in at just around 5’4”, you wouldn’t assume that this lithe, petite woman is the muscle and artistry behind some of the most challenging stunt driving sequences in history. With her calm and down to earth energy, Debbie is a unique blend of athlete, mathematician, and adrenaline junkie. This is a woman who simply lives to be in the driver’s seat. Her face breaks into a smile and her eyes light up when she admits that, “There’s nothing like that moment where you’re in the car and the police officers are holding traffic and you come flying around the corner, speeding, chasing cars.” She is so respected and admired as a Hollywood stunt driver that regardless of gender, she’s never stopped being in demand. Joel Kramer, stunt coordinator of the box office franchise smash Fast and the Furious, reflects this view of Evan’s incredible stunt driving skills when he says that “I wouldn’t bet any man, woman, or beast against Debbie. She is simply the best of the best.”
Evans got her first taste of the speed demon life when she began riding motorcycles at the age of 9, sponsored by Yamaha at 15, and broke into stunt car driving at 20 beating out top male stunt drivers in a competition at CBS. She quickly began speeding her way through one feature film and television series after another. Evans reveals that no matter what the challenge or the role, it all comes back to her true love of driving and cars. “Driving just hits that happy spot right in the center of my being. Yes, stunt driving is intense and there’s a lot of pressure, but it’s an adventure and since the day I got my license, I was always off in whatever car I had and en route to my next adventure.”
With her unmatchable experience in the entertainment industry as a female stunt driver (the only woman who comes close is her sister Donna who is considered to be the second top female stunt driver around), Debbie acknowledges that the recipe to great stunt driving starts in having a “seat”. She reveals that the secret to stunt driving success lies in that, “You have to have a seat because this is about sitting in a car and feeling the car underneath your seat and what it’s going to do. This is what is so cool about stunt driving- you become one with the vehicle and then you’re able to get the stunts done.” She also always breaks down stunt driving sequences into segments and says, “I base what I can do with what I’ve done in the past. I’ve flipped so many cars and driven every kind of car vehicle. It’s truly about wrapping your brain around what you need to get the stunt done.”
As an eternal speed demon and stunt driver, Evans shares her top favorite scenes that she’s executed and the cars she can’t stop thinking about. Just remember, it’s taken her years of experience to pull off these car stunts, or as she likes to say it, “This isn’t CGI. What you’re seeing is really happening.”
A Car Scene To Remember
“This was the scene when the aircraft carrier is over Azerbaijan and the cars and Furious family are dropped out of a plane. They had a crane setup with a traveler and I did the landing shot. So they brought us 200 feet up into the air with the car angled forward. They let us go and we come flying down. At a certain point, I had to hit my safety release, keep the tires from moving, and the engine running. As soon as I felt the car start to drop, I gassed it like crazy and the effect guys hit the quick release button. The dirt’s flying everywhere and I had a teeny tiny path to land in and I thought, how I’m going to get out of there when I had to do a hard left, and then a hard cure up a hill around a huge boulder and made a hard right on the road? But then the adrenaline gets you going and everything happens and it went flawlessly.”
Fast and Furious
“I doubled for Michelle Rodriguez in her race car and the Civic. I went underneath the semi truck while the windows blew out and I pulled up and slid underneath the truck and then the semi bumped me and I flipped the car. This stunt sequence won me the Taurus World Stunt Award for Best Driving and Best Female Stunt Driver."
Fast and Furious 6
“In the Fast and Furious 6, I doubled every single girl in the film and at times in the film, I was chasing myself! The scene I’ll never forget is that I was in the NavStar, a big old military car, and I had the Rock in the car with me. He’s massive and I had to side drive while he was getting ready to jump out of the car. So much fun.”
It’s All About The Cars
“I love the Red Viper. I’ve driven it a few times. I doubled Angelina Jolie and we had two weeks of rehearsal. It was one of the best times of my life as a stunt driver. The Viper is fantastic because there is no computer crap constraining it. It’s so hard to drive a car when it’s computerized. The car computers are then constantly cutting power because it doesn’t understand what you’re doing as a stunt driver. The Viper is just great.”
“I got to drive the heck out of this amazing car for the film The Red Line. You just look at it and it’s an incredibly fun car to drive. It’s super fast. I got to come in and downshift, drift, and while the transportation captain said I couldn’t do a reverse 180, it’s exactly what I did the minute I got into it. My son who was 13 at the time was in the car during my test run and it got him hooked-now he drives a Ferrari!”
“I drove the Cadillac CTS in The Matrix Reloaded before it came out and they had made 12 prototypes so every single one was different. I loved the balance and the CTS really just handled well.”
“This car has rails and it is so wild to drive. I loved driving it in Fast and Furious 6. It has hydraulic steering the back so you can crab it right to left. The horsepower is unbelievable and you would light it up at 550.”