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Meet Maxine: gymnast, stunt double

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At 11 years old, Maxine Sanders already has a career in the making that any daredevil would die for.

Sanders, an accomplished gymnast at Fantastic Gymnastics who started at the age of four, is working on her third film as a stunt double. She has worked on two An American Girl films and is now doubling in an upcoming biopic about American Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, presently titled The Gabby Douglas Story, which is being filmed in Winnipeg.

"I think it’s fun," said Maxine shyly.

Her mom, Janet, expanded on that thought, saying it’s a chance for Maxine, who is in Grade 6 at Chancellor School in Waverley Heights, to use her gymnastics skills for something.

"You train 20 hours a week," said Janet. "You do competitions, but now she’s got to do something else with it too."

The Sanders family was told about the audition by another gymnastics club in the city. Maxine and a couple of other girls from her club attended auditions for the part in late August.

"I was kind of nervous in the beginning because I didn’t know what they were looking for," said Maxine. "Then after a few times we knew what they were looking for."

Janet said she never directly spoke with the filmmakers, but was told they liked Maxine’s physical similarities to the actresses after every callback audition.

"Finally, it was only a few days before the movie was starting that they said yes, come in for a fitting, sign a contract," said Janet. "It is all very secretive. It’s not really out there I guess."

In addition to fittings, Maxine had to cut and dye her naturally dark brown hair black to match Sydney Mikayla, the actress portraying a young Douglas in the film.

"Now we’re struggling with a ponytail," said Janet.  "She had lots of hair and they really had to thin it out and made it black."

Maxine’s friends at Fantastic Gymnastics are also very encouraging.

"They think it’s pretty cool," said Maxine. "They also tried out for it but they aren’t sure if they made it. We only know one other girl who made it."

Janet said Maxine should only have to be on the set for about six days, though she had been on for a couple of days by the time she spoke with The Sou’wester last week, and Maxine said they had been fun experiences.

"They do the makeup and hair, then we wait until we’re called and they bring us over to the place where we have to do things," said Maxine, who up to that point hadn’t had to do anything exciting quite yet. "But in a little while I’ll be asked to do gymnastics."

Janet said Maxine did a rehearsal for a scene where she was asked to cartwheel into a bush, but the actress was able to do it on her own.

Despite a lot of sitting around, Maxine is paid for her time on the set. If she gets enough, Maxine is hoping for a new bed.

"She’ll get a little of it to go shopping," said Janet. "But most of it will go into an RESP."

Maxine thinks it’s a little weird to be doubling for an Olympian, but she hopes Douglas says hello when she is here for filming in October.

"She’s doing some of the Olympic scenes," said Janet. "All the kids were talking how they really hope to meet her."

Beyond working in show business, Maxine has big dreams for herself.

"To go to college and do gymnastics," said Maxine of her future plans.

In the meantime, she’s enjoying herself and is looking forward to seeing the finished project.

"Just to be able to do my gymnastics stuff," said Maxine of her favourite part of filming. "And knowing that it will be on a movie, and people will see it but they won’t know it is me."

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