The girl was 4 and tumbled out of the top bunk, deciding not to take the ladder. “I heard the crash,” her mother said. “She probably saw double.” The girl hit the bridge of her nose. Hit it pretty hard. Her parents freaked. She has so much energy, she gives off sparks. She needs an outlet. Let’s throw her into gymnastics. Let’s see what happens.
Thirty years later Heidi Moneymaker, 39, is Scarlett Johansson’s stunt double in all the “Avenger” movies.
Seven years ago, at Heidi’s request, her sister Renae went to Hollywood as well. Go ahead, sis, I think you’d be good at it. Give it a shot.
Renae Moneymaker, 30, now is Jennifer Lawrence’s stunt double in all the “Hunger Games” movies.
The Moneymaker sisters have added a new dimension to Robert Frost’s poem. They indeed have taken a road less traveled. They are professional athletes in the very real, physical and competitive sense. The “A List” movie star needs an “A List” stunt double, otherwise serious action comes off as slapstick and Johansson and Lawrence don’t want to be thought of as two of the Three Stooges.
“Heidi truly is,” stunt coordinator Thomas Robinson once was quoted as saying, “one of the best stunt women in the world.”
Both Moneymaker women — yes, that’s their given name — tip their proverbial cap to the sport of gymnastics. It was there they found their bodies enjoyed being airborne, the pretzel twists and those perfect landings that had all sound impact of a hammer pounding a nail.
“Heidi was magic,” said Ben Corr, a gymnastics coach who worked with both women when they were teenagers. “You’d stand and watch and think to yourself, ‘I wonder how a human being could make something so difficult look so effortless.’”
Dennis and Linda Moneymaker raised six children, five of them girls, five of them taking up the sport. Santa Rosa residents, four Moneymaker girls and the one son first began the sport at a Santa Rosa gym no longer in existence. They moved over to Rohnert Park Gymnastics, excelled and, more important, learned the value of hard work and commitment.
“Our monthly gymnastics tuition was more than our house payment,” Linda said.
What to do? Money wasn’t flying through the door, even if their name was Moneymaker. But Dennis saw the value of the sport. To reduce tuition cost, he cleaned the gym every Sunday. Took seven hours each time. From their dad, the Moneymaker kids learned hard work and integrity.
“The kids might be competing on a Sunday,” Corr said, “and I’d tell Dennis, ‘Go ahead. Leave. Watch your kids.’ Dennis wouldn’t do it. He had made a promise to me to clean the gym. When his kids weren’t competing Dennis would bring in his kids on Sunday to help him clean the place. He wanted them to appreciate what was being done for them.”
With no hesitation Corr was quick to add Dennis was not a stage father.
“The only thing he ever pushed was church,” said Corr, a Rohnert Park resident who now coaches gymnasts in the East Bay. “If the kids were going out of town for a Sunday competition he’d call a priest in that city and ask them what time Mass was the next Sunday. Dennis was always conscious of setting a good example.”