She celebrates her sixtieth birthday this September, but her strength and energy is often unrivaled even among people in their 20s. The oldest Czech stuntwoman Hanka Dvorská still does sports. All the time. When not jumping out of a plane, cycling or rock climbing, she teaches classes at fitness centers and "tortures" a group of volunteers at her Bootcamp three times a week. And, of course, she still shoots actively and doubles for the most famous names that you can think of, such as Angelina Jolie. Even though this mom of two and these days even grandma of two granddaughters has taken a few tumbles in life, whether it be related to love or health, she still laughs a lot. She says there's no other way, you can't take life so seriously, because one day we will all die. In her interview with LP-life.com, Hanka opened up about her beginnings in movies and even how she'd like to live to her death in full health.
What do you do every day?
I do sports, because that's my lifestyle. I don't pretend to be any kind of lead athlete though. I like moving and I enjoy being with people. 13 years ago I started my Hana Dvorská's Bootcamp and that's what I live for. Many people come there and three times a week I put together a nice morning for them. For about 30 people I come up with where we'll run and what I'll show them so they can take some sort of added value from the running. I call it running-cultural-sightseeing activities.
The next thing I do is lead group lessons in fitness centers Form Factory, Factory Pro and Xplore in Příkopy, because I couldn't make ends meet with just the running. I teach exercise lessons, which include strength training, cardio elements, I did spinning, now I also do yoga.
How many hours a week do you spend doing sports?
I have at least four hours as an instructor every day, and I have to do those 100% perfectly, because people train according to what I show them. And I want their efforts to be 100%, too. Besides that, my partner and I run various races, we do kayaking, cycling, cross-country skiing in winter, and sometimes we do skydiving in summer. I kind of sport through life. But I'm not overexerting myself anymore, I'm happy I can just move.
To have such a great figure at the age of sixty, women at the gym must hate you…
I don't want to brag, but I think the opposite, that I could inspire them. If I keep going at the same pace all my life and I have such a lifestyle, one can do just fine until sixty.
You said running wouldn't support you. How long do you intend to work? Aren't you already entitled to a pension under the law?
I don't know, I'll have to go ask somewhere. (laughs) But I still think I'll have such a small pension that it's not worth it. (laughs) But this is how I want to always live, even in retirement.
Do you give in to vices? Do you drink alcohol from time to time, for example?
No, I don't drink alcohol. I have barely drunk half a liter of beer in my life, and if I've ever had a shot, those could be counted on the fingers of one hand. I don't like alcohol, and drunk women look ugly to me. (laughs) As a girl, I did skydiving at the extreme sport center in the national team, and when you jump off a plane, you can't be drunk. Most athletes can have a drink in the evening, for example, but not the skydivers, we still had to be sober. Our parents never drank, my brother never drank either. When I could finally drink in adulthood, I wondered why I should. I'm happy even without alcohol. Alcohol does not give you anything extra.
Do you have any other addictions besides sports? Something you can't imagine your life without? Maybe chocolate every Sunday?
I eat chocolate normally, but I'm not addicted. I'm modest, all I need is bread with butter. For me, food is not a priority, I do not give it too much attention and I barely think about it at all.
You're branded the oldest Czech stuntwoman. What was the last thing you filmed?
Carnival Row, starring Orlando Bloom. Then we'll be shooting Wheels of Time, it's a big series, there are monsters, big animals and everyone's killing each other. I played a devoured woman in that, I was dragged on the ground by a pterodactyl, and other monsters were pouncing on me. I had a special costume with disemboweled intestines. Tomorrow I'm going to another costume check, there I play an old lady who will be trampled by a crowd of some kind of vampires when a plane crashes. Some sci-fi again.
Will anybody really be stepping on you?
They might. Of course they won't trample me there, I have pads, but someone will probably have to step on me to make it look real.
You doubled for many famous people...
Yes, such as Dáša Havlová, Markéta Hrubešová or even Jiřina Bohdalová. Instead of them I'd thrown myself under the car, drowned, fell down the stairs, rode a motorcycle... The most famous woman I doubled for was Angelina Jolie, probably.
I've met many famous people, including Brad Pitt, Liam Neeson, Dolph Lundgren, Jackie Chan, Vin Diesel, or now, Orlando Bloom. But they are still people just like us. They talk to us stunt doubles like normal, it's our job. I used to go to the gym with Brad and Orlando, with Mrs. Jana Štěpánková, whom I often doubled for, we were actually friends, she always asked me how my children are coming along and what's new. Sometimes I'd get a present from foreign actresses for getting killed in their stead, I always learned something interesting from older Czech actors who are no longer with us, how things used to be. (laughs)
What is it like when someone slams you to the ground and drags you?
That's why I'm a stuntwoman, otherwise anyone could do this. I have to be able to endure a little pain. My body must be muscular, if I were made of cottage cheese, my arm or leg could break. When I have a strong core and I am fully supported, I have confidence in myself and my body is also less fragile. My muscles are my padding of sorts. When it's possible and it's not visible under the costume, I also have real padding. But when I play a lady in a skirt and blouse, it's harder because the padding would be visible.
You said you're even jumping out of windows or doing scenes with explosions. I know you're not scared, but is there anything that really scares you?
I'm not scared. It used to be rougher in the film industry than it is today. When I'd be falling out of a window, there'd be boxes below me on the sidewalk, and I'd have to disperse my weight over as large an area as possible and sink into the boxes after the fall. Now movies still do falling out of windows, of course, but if possible, the fall is slowed by a fall arrest wire and it's stopped just above the ground. Only the fall can be seen in the film, the impact is then filmed by the actor or their double.
Or when there would be fire, I'd have to layer on more clothes to keep the fire from burning me. They poured gasoline on my back, struck a match, and I was on fire. But it was a moment, maybe six seconds, before it started to burn me, I had to have wind in my face for the flames to burn behind me. When it started to burn, I dropped onto the ground and the guys were there ready with a fire extinguisher, tubs of water and rags and put me out. Today it's the same, but we have special gels and suits under the costume. I started out in 1978, then there was nothing, no tweaks, we did everything for real.
Do you have any marks on your body, any injuries?
My worst injury was when I tore the anterior and posterior ligaments in my knee. We were shooting an explosion in Turkey, but this happened during training. I underwent two surgeries, they gave me ligaments from a corpse, I missed a year. Now it still swells under stress, but I pretend it's nothing, I have to learn to live with it. (laughs)
Is it hard to get back into shape after a year?
You have to have some motivation. I told myself, "I just have to." Of course, when it happened to me, I thought I couldn't live without exercise. Then I found out that you get lazy terribly fast. After two months, I was suddenly content, I didn't do anything, I studied, I read, I didn't do sports.
But then I felt that it wasn't really me, and at that moment I thought that that's enough. When you overdo it with the break, then you may not be able to jump back into it, especially if you're not twenty anymore. It was hard, but two months after the surgery I started swimming, then I started spinning lessons and gradually got back in shape.
What is it like to train a man? How do they look at it when a 60-year-old woman gives them hell?
I think they accept me. Five years ago, I wanted to be the best. I could still keep up with them and give them a run for their money. I'm sixty now, you can't stop age. And young boys are better, of course. I chose another form of training, I make the boys work hard, but I don't do all the exercises with them anymore, I just show them how to do them, and let them do it! I started training with older people or young girls who are not so athletic so I can still keep setting an example for them. Everyone is improving a lot and I'm very happy about it.
What do you want for your 60th birthday?
To be healthy and keep going like this.
I want to jump all the way into the coffin, I want to die healthy. (laughs) It's working so far, but I'm not doing the crazy stuff anymore that I used to.
I don't know. I did training in Sokol, which was very rough, so that we all ended up wanting to throw up. I tried various somersaults onto mats, into water, rode a bike on crazy terrain, I didn't care if I did something to myself. I probably wouldn't do that now.
Now I might think when I'm home and I'm cooking that I have to do push-ups. I'll put the wooden spoon down and I'll do forty push-ups. One has to keep up the maintenance, it doesn't happen on its own. I'm at my cottage and I don't want to go jogging when the girls are sitting on the porch drinking coffee. I don't want to, but I go, I run back, and I'm happy. I do it for that feeling after.
What about your kids and grandkids? Do they also do sports?
They do, they're both stunt performers. They did it from childhood, because child doubles are needed too. Then they started to double for adults. Martin is a paramedic by profession though, he's got an undergraduate degree and he's a great climber, he's mostly doing bouldering. His morale is high too, he probably gets it from me.
My daughter Míša has her fitness, she's an instructor. She has two kids, but somehow she magically manages everything. Both kids have a talent for sports, they're nice and adept. I love them.
You have a double bass and a drumkit here. Do you play?
I got that from my dad for my eighteenth birthday, so I learned to play. Long ago, when there were no cell phones, people met in person, chatted and it was always fun. We all played a musical instrument and it was almost normal. Those who did not play learned at least a few guitar chords on the go. Now everyone is staring at their phones, but back then everyone wanted to do something and not just look at the wall.
That's why I think our generation is full of skilled people. I learned guitar chords from the age of ten, then I wanted a bass. My friends and I later formed a band, so on top of that I learned to play the mandolin. I really like to sing. You always kept learning something.
When I had children, I signed up for a class and learned to sew. This came in handy when sewing clothes for children and sewing sports equipment for friends. I bought powerful sewing machines and sewed harnesses for climbing, paragliding, backpacks and the like. I was always exercising and I wanted to keep my brain busy, so after the revolution I signed up to learn English, which I still speak so I don't forget it.
When I was 55, I signed up for Spanish. And I was the only one there among the young people who are learning faster than I am now. It doesn't get into my head so well anymore and I didn't have much motivation, so after two years I quit. Now I'm learning the drums. It engages the brain more than languages. (laughs)
You really don't know how to be idle. What about love, do you have somebody?
Life wouldn't be possible without love, of course! I had a husband for thirty-five years, but he decided to replace me with a younger model after all those years. That, of course, brought me to my knees, but as the saying goes, time heals everything. Today I have a partner Emil and I'm happy. He's the kind of guy I can count on, he's also big on sports and he loves me. I think everyone has a counterpart somewhere. Everyone. I see it at my Bootcamps, it also works like such a dating spot, when someone gets together with somebody there, I'm very happy about it.
How come you're always so cheerful? I know you have been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor…
I have, it's true. This happened to me after my husband left me. I probably cried my way into it. But look, what am I supposed to do about it? It's just there and it won't go away. It can't be operated on, it's in the wrong spot. So I ignore it, I pretend it's not there. I can't do anything about it anyway, so what.
I keep living life the way I want and the way I enjoy it. And as long as I can, I'll live like this. You can't take all these things too seriously, you'd go nuts. Yes, sometimes something hurts, the body is not perpetuum mobile, but I don't let pain defeat me. I will do everything I enjoy as long as I can. I want to only surround myself with good people and to make someone happy even every day, even if just a bit. Then I can feel good about not living life in vain.