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Isabel Pearson has been learning daring tricks and feats at the New Zealand Stunt School. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Hauraki stunt student ‘so gutsy’

Being hit by a moving car, getting her hands set alight, and seeking thrills on the backs of horses is all in a day’s work for stunt student Isabel Pearson.
The Year 11 Hauraki Plains College pupil has been learning the ropes at the New Zealand Stunt School, run by international stunt actress and co-ordinator Dayna Grant and her husband Pai Pai.
The school, which operates from bases in Hunua and Otara, provides stunt training to new and existing stunt performers of all ages, as well as actors and actresses keen to sharpen up their physical performance skills.
For three years, Isabel has done everything from high falls to stage combat, and professional stunt actress Dayna Grant told The Profile the 15-year-old was “so gusty”.
“She’s always been an incredible [horse] rider, so she picked up all the horse stuff simple as, but she just has no fear,” she said. “She started off with the kids but pursued the whole thing herself, being really motivated to get better and better and be at every workshop and now she’s as good as most of the adults.
“She’s really persistent and she really wants it, and that’s where it comes from. If you want anything badly enough, you’ll get there.”
Dayna said there were opportunities for stunt jobs and action doubles in New Zealand as well as overseas, and it’s a career Isabel wants to chase.
Dayna herself has stunted in high-profile films such as Wonder Woman 1984, where she was a superhuman Amazon and body doubled for lead actress Gal Gadot.
She’s also doubled twice for Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, first in Snow White and the Huntsman and then in the “stunt-heavy” Mad Max: Fury Road.
She said stunt artists were starting to get more acknowledgement for their unique and high-adrenaline line of work.
“We have always been the unsung heroes, but that’s quite nice, in a way.”
Isabel keeps her stunt training close to her chest, but said she doesn’t let fear get in the way.
“I quite enjoy the adrenaline of it all,” she said, “and I’m surrounded by people I really trust.”
The only thing yet to be crossed off her list is setting mum Jody’s hands on fire.
DETAILS: For more details about the NZ Stunt School, visit