It is my overwhelming pleasure to bring to you the story of the beautiful and talented Maja Aro, formerly Maja Stace-Smith. This is a true vancouverstuntgirl, born in Williams lake BC. She has worked on some big productions both in Canada and abroad. She broke into the stunt world by way of meeting some stunt performers who hung out in an establishment she worked at, Toby’s Bar And Grill right in my very own neighbourhood. See East Van sign story! http://www.vancouverstuntgirl.com/east-van/
So without further ado. here is my interview with Maja Aro,enjoy!
Q: So I know broke in to the stunt scene by way of meeting stunt performers at Toby’s bar and grill on Commercial Drive, but I am curious to know if you have always been a daredevil and adventurous? And what drew you to that sort of career?
A: Yes, I suppose you could say I’ve always been a bit of a daredevil, I was a regular in the ER as a kid as I was always pushing the limits and trying to figure stuff out, and never minded being the first one to try something new. I competed as a downhill ski racer provincially, nationally and internationally in junior decisions. Then in my late teens I picked up mountain biking and competed at that. I wanted to be a professional athlete, but especially in Canada it’s almost impossible for a female athlete to make any money, let alone a living. I actually pursued a career as a fashion designer and had my own label for a few years, showing and selling in Vancouver boutiques, and even landing a show in NY fashion week. I then discovered that stunts was a job, and decided with my athletic background that I would give it a try, as I can always come back to fashion when I’m older, but for now staying fit and active, and actually making a career as an athlete is awesome! The fact that everyone I met was fit and loved their job is what really drew me in to stunts.
Q: I know you have had a few injuries along the way like the slash on your face from a tempered glass window but what are some other challenges you have faced along the way?
A: I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had many injuries doing stunts, but it’s always challenging, and that’s what I love about it. Every day, every new job is often a new challenge, and I love that! I am constantly challenged and growing. Our local Vancouver community is very supportive, but I have been fortunate enough to work abroad a few times, and have faced some interesting challenges! Not every culture I’ve worked in has been as open and accepting of strong women in power positions, but I’ve always worked through it, and come out making lots of new friends! One of the most challenging situations I’ve ever found myself in was dealing with a poisonous spider bite eating the flesh on my arm while filming some intense action in 40 degree heat in Thailand, but I survived and, I am stronger and better for having attacked it with a positive spin!
Q: Is there anything you have yet to do stunt wise that you hope to achieve?
A: Fire burns was on my list for a while, as Ive had many been offered to me, but the script would always change and they’d go away, it was the stunt I was always hunting down, but I recently got to cross it off my list with a small body burn, so that was exciting! Every stunt is so unique, so there are always going to be new stunt things to try and perform, but as far as big career goal stunts I’ve been fortunate to have been hired for many big stunts. I would like to continue to be challenged and be hired for jobs that push me physically and mentally. That is what I hope to achieve! I really enjoy being on the creative side of stunts being part of an action design team or coordinating, so I hope to also continue to be able to grow in that area.
A: My stunt house. Well, it really is our dream house (I built it with my husband, fellow stuntman Jeff Aro). It came to be out of a funny conversation really. We always knew we wanted some land, and to build our own house, but thought it would be a few years in the future. Then I had just finished a big show, and we stumbled upon the perfect piece of land, I literally knew it was our dream property the moment I saw it. We hashed out finances that night and made an offer the next day! Then we began planning our dream home, which was going to be a nice little functional home, and we were going to build a gym warehouse beside it. One night we were joking around, and thought it would be funny if we just put the whole stunt gym in the house, the house is for us after all, and we don’t plan on selling it. It got serious really fast, and we both realized we’d be so much happier if we really just built the house for us and busted out of the conventional house mold. So glad we did! We gathered inspiration from movies, our living room is a mix of the matrix dojo and Lara Croft’s house. We can train pretty much anything we want or need to stunt wise in a safe padded facility, literally by rolling out of bed! I love it!
VSG: (Wow, I am so impressed by this, sounds like never, never land a bit.)
Q: Is there anyone you have yet to work with that you hope to in the future? Is there anyone in particular that inspired to live your dreams?
A: A bunch of people inspired me, the one person who has always been undeniably supportive and constantly pushes me to be the best version of me I can be is my husband Jeff. In the stunt industry Darryl Quon, Laura Lee Connery, Jacob Rupp and Dean Choe were very influential early on in my career. They all pointed me in the right direction in their own way.
A: Tim Burton is my absolute favourite director. I love that he has his distinct style, and he owns it, and is never swayed far from its core by studios in any of his pictures. I admire that he was into early films, and still uses his lighting style and trademark shadows from very early German expressionist films. As for writers I love Joss Whedon, mostly because he always has a rad strong female, but also because he writes interesting twists, great stories and isn’t afraid to kill of the odd main character! Julie Taymor is another favourite, as I love the way she lays out a story.
VSG: (Way cool, Tim Burton is also one of my favorites!!)
I do enjoy writing, and I have been taking courses and prepping myself as I would like to start directing and continue writing. I am of course drawn to action stories, but more so ones with strong female characters. I really enjoy good story structure and great character development, flawed tortured characters are my favourite!
VSG: (Flawed, tortured characters, thumbs up from me there and strong female leads, check, aaaannnnndddd check!)
I would love to keep working with a bunch of the people I work with often, and maybe work with a few people again!!! There’s not really any specific people I really want to work with, I just want to work on good projects!! I guess if I had to answer that it would be Tim Burton, like my elusive fire burn, working with him has bee dangled in front of me a few times but it’s never worked out due to my schedule, but I would be pretty stoked if it worked out someday!! And as a weird random one I’ve always wanted to double Kiera Knightly. Also, I would love to work with Neil Patrick Harris!
Q: And lastly do you have a message for little girls, or women out there that hope to have a career like yours? What would you say to them about working in an extreme environment?
A: I would say to any woman or girl who wants a career like mine to be sure it’s something they’re going to love, and know that it will always be a challenge, a fun challenge, but still a challenge!!! Also to grow some really thick skin!!
The environment isn’t always extreme, we are put in extreme situations daily, but in a safe controlled environment. As a stunt performer we try to minimize risk constantly so we can repeat stunts take after take. So the extreme stuff is more mental, so I would say go for it to anyone who is up for the challenge! I absolutely love my job and couldn’t be happier with where my life has taken me and is heading!
Wow, well there you have it, my interview with stunt woman Maja Aro! What a kind person, she is, to have answered my questions and allow me this interview. It gave me some great insights and really inspired me to pursue my dreams a little harder and do what I love a little more. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your graciousness! Also a huge thank you to actor and musician Donald Adams for helping me to set this up!
I would like to dedicate this story to someone who was like a father to me, who passed away this summer. With great sadness in my heart I bid farewell to:
Christopher Matiatos, loving father and a genuinely wonderful person.
Born May, 9th 1940
Entered into rest June, 25th 2014.
Forever in our hearts and always in our thoughts, Christopher you will be missed!