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Imagine standing on the edge of a 70-foot building in the middle of the Windy City. Now visualize yourself jumping and there is no wire holding you up and no inflatable mattress to catch your fall.
That is what stunt double Alicia Vela-Bailey did in Chicago for the upcoming movie “Divergent,” starring Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Theo James and Shailene Woodley.
“I remember standing there, thinking I was going to fall over before I was supposed to because of the wind,” she told Fox News Latino.
Vela-Bailey, who was standing in for Woodley, said once she completed the free fall jump she felt a great sense of accomplishment and could check it off the long list of stunts she has done in her nearly decade-long career.
“You just trust your gut and remember your training,” she said. “It was not my favorite, but it was like facing a fear.”
Vela-Bailey, who would not give her age but is in her late 20s, is one of the most sought-after stunt doubles in Hollywood and has appeared in more than 30 films. But growing up, it was not a career she dreamed of pursuing.
“I never thought about doing stunts – I used to be a gymnast and a dancer,” she said.
But when she was 21, a friend suggested she audition as a stunt woman for the 2006 film “Ultraviolet” with Milla Jovovich.
“I thought: ‘Oh, right, actors need people to do stunts.’”
Vela-Bailey, who grew up in Hawaii with a Salvadoran father, got the part, learned the tricks of the trade and it all “snowballed from there,” she said.
Since that film, Vela-Bailey has appeared in films like “Ender’s Game,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and “Avatar” as stunt double to Zoe Saldaña. She has jumped onto moving trains, off of tall buildings and even jumped through flames.
“We are so like little kids though it gets dangerous sometimes,” she said.
Vela-Bailey said working on “Avatar,” which took several years to film in New Zealand, was the film that made her really focus on performing stunts. It also reminded her of her hometown of Kailua in the Big Island.
She said daring stunts are exhilarating, even when she falls from tall trees and lands on her feet. In “Divergent,” Vela-Bailey said she did it all.
“There was a lot. It was always hectic,” she said. “It all looks easy, but it was definitely hard and super fun.”
The film, out in theaters March 21, is based on the novel by Veronica Roth about a futuristic dystopia where society is divided into five factions that represent a different virtue.
Along with "Divergent," Vela-Bailey will also appear in the upcoming Anne Hathaway film "Interstellar."