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August 2, 2010 ~ Darlene Ava Williams is a professional stunt woman as well as former Circus performer. She contacted me after someone referred her to my WFE film blog. After hearing about her involvement with Water for Elephants I wanted to include her story along with the other WFE ‘Crew’ that are featured on my blog. Darlene has an extensive film stunt resume and has appeared in many high profile films and TV shows! She has a special place in her heart for our beloved Tai, but I won’t spoil it for you; I’ll let Darlene tell you all about it… She writes:
“I was born and raised into a famous circus family. My father, Rex Williams, was an elephant trainer; a Circus Ring of Fame recipient and most famous elephant keeper and trainer by EEKMA-European Elephant Keeper and Manager Association. My mom, Eva Williams, comes from a famous Czech high wire family; The Coronas.
As a 5th generation circus performer, I grew up playing with elephants and performing circus aerial acts. In fact, my entire family is still performing and producing circuses. I spent my childhood traveling around the US with my family performing in various circuses. I am very proud of my circus heritage even though I always joke around that I ran away from the circus when I left to go to attend college. After graduating college, I moved to Los Angeles. My circus background lead me into a career as a stunt woman for film, commercials and TV.
Because I grew up riding, playing and climbing on elephants, I was asked to help train Reese Witherspoon for the film Water for Elephants. I worked with Gary and Kari and Tai (Rosie) of Have Trunk will Travel many times in the past on different TV shows and films. Gary & Kari were very good friend’s of my father. They are outstanding, caring trainers and Tai and their other elephants are just amazing. So when Have Trunk Will Travel began working on Water for Elephants they referred me to the stunt coordinator to help train Reese to do all of the mounts (tricks performed on an elephant) on Tai. We started training in March (2010) at the Have Trunk Will Travel ranch and right from the beginning Reese was a natural. Reese learned many old style and new elephant mounts. When it came time for her to perform with Tai in front of the entire cast, crew & background performers, she beamed like an old circus pro. I was very proud of her. She did an amazing job; I can’t wait to see the Rosie & Marlena act in the film. But then again Reese was working with another pro, Tai/Rosie. I can not tell you enough about this wonderful animal and her “parents” Gary and Kari. They help elephants worldwide with their involvement in The International Elephant Foundation and The Elephant Managers Association. These organizations will be the saviors to both the Africa and Asian elephant species and I am happy to see both these organizations and Have Trunk Will Travel featured on your blog. It was wonderful for me to step back to my roots working on Water For Elephants. I had a blast working with Tai/Rosie, Christoph Waltz and Reese Witherspoon. They were such a pleasure to work with these last several months along with the rest of this great cast and crew.”
Here is Darlene’s professional biography that she sent for me to include:
Born and raised in the circus, Darlene Williams has performed with wild animals and wild people under the Big Top since the age of four. Elephants have always played an integral part in her life because of her father, Rex Williams, the number one elephant trainer in the country (Circus Ring of Fame recipient). He kept her busy learning about not only elephants but also lions, tigers and horses. At seven, she began training for circus aerial acts. Her mother Ava Williams, a fourth-generation Czech aerialist, taught her Spanish web, trapeze, and wire walking. Darlene has performed with Ringling Brothers, Circus Vargas, and numerous other shows throughout the world. She continued to work in the circus until she came off the road to pursue a college degree and later moved on to work as a stunt woman in television, feature films, and commercials. Besides her circus and aerial skills, she has worked with some of Hollywood’s finest stunt men and directors including Tim Burton, Michael Mann, Ang Lee, Ron Howard to name a few. Darlene’s love of live performing continues with her resent contributions to live shows such as Las Vegas’ The Sirens Of TI, where she trained and choreographed the aerial and bull whip portions of the show. Darlene helped train the young and adult actors for the wire work stunts in the Cat in the Hat and was one of the circus advisors to Big Fish. Darlene completed 67 episodes as Pamela Anderson’s stunt double in VIP and has coordinated projects such as The John Henson Project (Nun Fights); LIT -music video; and episodes of The Big Moment. She is a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and also served on the Academy’s very first Stunt Peer Group Executive Committee. She is a board member of the Stuntwomen’s Foundation (charity) and is one of the founding members of V10 Women Stunt Professionals an elite organization of professional stunt women.
Written by: J. Batchler
I sincerely appreciate Darlene’s interest in wanting to be a part of my WFE film blog and I am thrilled to feature her story as well as her beautiful images! Thank you, Darlene, for sharing!
Check out her demo reel video after the photos!