Susan Purkhiser has a word of caution for those who bowl near her: Watch out!
“I love bowling,” said Purkhiser, “but when I get tired, I sometimes drop the ball behind me. I have small fingers or something. I tell people ‘don’t stand behind me.’ ’’
Purkhiser doesn't have to fret that she's not a pro-caliber bowler. She's a celebrated stuntwoman whose specialty is driving scenes. She has filled many high-profile roles, including being the driving double for Charlize Theron in the 2003 film, “Italian Job.”
Purkhiser also served as the driving double for Reese Witherspoon in the 2012 movie, “This Means War.”
“She’s awesome in driving. She’s the bomb,” said fellow stuntwoman Elle Alexander.
Alexander and Purkhiser were part of the organizing committee for the 15th annual bowling tournament of the Stuntwomen’s Assn. of Motion Pictures, which was held Saturday night. More than 200 stunt people took part in the festivities at AMF Woodlake Lanes in Woodland Hills.
Looking back, Purkhiser laughs when she says her role “probably died 10 times” during her portrayals. But Purkhiser indicated it was no laughing matter when she took on some non-driving, water-related roles.
“I’ve almost drowned a couple times,” she said. “I’ve jumped off a 40-foot bridge into the water and done all kinds of stunts.”
She makes it clear that her specialty is driving stunts – a skill she developed as she “grew up doing all that stuff for fun,” such as motorcycle and bicycle tricks.
What’s interesting is that Purkhiser stands 4-foot-10, but she said that’s no hindrance to her driving stunts. “In a car, it [height] doesn’t matter doing stunts,” she said.
Purkhiser, an Agoura Hills resident, worked as a dental assistant for 12 years before becoming a stuntwoman.
Eighteen years later, Purkhiser has no plans to get out of the business.
“You do it for as long as they’ll have you,” she said. “I love it. Absolutely!”