Marlène von Arx

Marlène von Arx covered events for her local paper in Switzerland while still in school and got her first job to write about entertainment for a Swiss TV Guide soon after graduation. At the age of 25 she moved from her native Switzerland to Los Angeles to cover film and television as a freelancer for newspapers and magazines in Switzerland. She currently works for the CH Media newspaper group, daily and weekend edition (Schweiz am Wochenende), the news platform, the Tagesanzeiger supplement Fokus, Migros Magazin and Schweizer Illustrierte – all in Switzerland

  • Interviews

Petra Sprecher, Stuntwoman – “I Am Ready to Show Who I Am”

Next level inclusion: after 20 years as a stuntwoman in Hollywood, Swiss-born Petra Sprecher hopes not only to be seen but also to be heard on screen. Accent and all.

As a kid, Petra Sprecher just could not sit still. Not much has changed since then. For twenty years, she has been jumping, falling and flying through the air as a stuntwoman in Hollywood films and TV shows such as Ad Astra, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Westworld and Loki. “It’s been quite a ride, but also a hustle,” says Sprecher, who has doubled, among others, Mariah Carey, Kimberly Elise and, most recently, Naomi Ackie in the upcoming thriller Pussy Island, directed by Zoë Kravitz.

When Sprecher is not on a set, her days are filled with different types of trainings and looking for the next job. “Networking and staying in touch with stunt coordinators is a very important part of the job, because out of sight, out of mind! “

Her career in stunts has had its challenges. In Elena Avdija’s documentary Cascadeuses (2022) about three stuntwomen, Petra Sprecher is seen in physical therapy recovering from hip surgery. “I have had a lot of injuries in the last years,” she says, showing off half a dozen scars. “Many of them not on the set but through wear and tear. After a while, not only the body but also the confidence is hurting, but finally after six years, I am fully recovered and can train and work at 100% capacity.”


For stuntwomen, the danger of being injured at work is often higher than that faced by their male colleagues. The roles written for actresses are partly to blame: “Men often play the tough guys in jeans and can hide padding underneath, while female characters fall down stairs or on concrete floors in mini-skirts and high heels with no place to hide anything.” The bread and butter work in Los Angeles comes mostly from detective shows. Stuntwomen step in when the characters get beaten, raped and murdered. Ultimately, that is not only tough on the body, but also on the mind.


That’s why Petra Sprecher started to branch out. She appeared in James Corden’s The World’s Best as one of the expert judges, choreographed and supervised safety for a parkour contestant in Little Big Shots, and is now taking acting lessons from Glenn Morshower (24). After years in the shadows she is ready to step into the limelight: “Glenn suggests I get rid of my Swiss accent in order to book a wider range of roles. It is true that most Black characters seem to be born in the US, the UK or in Africa, but I like to shine a light on the fact that not all Black people sound like that. People in Hollywood are always surprised when I tell them where I am from. They can’t believe that there are Black people in Switzerland.”

Petra Sprecher, the daughter of a Swiss mother and a Nigerian father she never met, remembers a happy childhood in the Alpine countryside: “I did feel that I was different from the other children, but only in a positive way. I was told my African heritage was a superpower, and my hair was considered beautiful and was admired for its volume, which the other girls craved.”

She found a place to work out her physical energy early on in the youth circus of her hometown, Basel. Later, she attended a theater school, but instead of working on a scene, she performed a number on the trapeze as her graduation piece. Eventually she left Switzerland for Canada when she got accepted at the renowned École Nationale de Cirque in Montréal. While studying there, she won the Bronze Lion at the International Acrobatic Festival of Wuqiao in China. Cirque du Soleil soon recruited her based on her high -flying cloudswing solo act.


While touring the US with Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam, Petra Sprecher read an article about Black stuntwomen in Hollywood, and was inspired to try something new: “I knew right away, that would be my next goal.” She moved to Los Angeles, and started right at the top alongside Tom Cruise in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. “But as a stunt person, you can never rest on your laurels. I constantly try to improve and learn new skills,” says Sprecher, who recently invested in stunt driving and weaponry classes, as well as pro-fight classes that can be attended by invitation only.

To the contrary of what people might believe, CGI has not replaced stunt people, Petra Sprecher says: “If anything, stunts are becoming more hardcore. More and more productions also look for stunt people who can act. Let’s say they are auditioning for the role of a fighter jet pilot with few lines but a jump into the water at the end: instead of hiring an actor and a stunt person, they look for a stunt performer who can do both. Transitioning into more acting roles like that, is what I am focusing on right now. As a stunt double, you are never seen. I feel ready now to show who I am.”