The daughter of world kickboxing champion David Johnston, Amy has been involved in martial arts her entire life. She is a Martial artist, actress and stunt performer who is known for her work on Iron Man 3 (2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), and Deadpool (2016).
Who is Amy Johnston?
Amy was born in Van Nuys, California on February 5, 1990, but raised in the wild west of Wyoming. She began her serious training when she was 6 years old; her father taught her a blend of kenpo, taekwondo, kung fu, kickboxing and arnis. Later Amy would also train in wushu, wing Chun and jiu jitsu.
As the daughter of her instructor, she felt pressured to be the best, and although she did not compete on the kickboxing circuit, she did compete in tournaments. She has won numerous first place and Grand Champion awards in forms and fighting around the country, and was invited to perform at the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame Extravaganza for Kung Fu Magazine.
Along with a wide variety of martial arts styles, she has studied dance and gymnastics. At age 13, Amy starred in Karate Kids Workout with Emmy Award winning Director, Lee Stanley. Thus began her passion to inspire and show girls that they can be beautiful and strong at the same time. Unlike others, Amy Johnston was already a martial artist when she was impressed by actions stars like Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, but it was the powerful, yet graceful, Michelle Yeoh who inspired her to get involved in films.
At the age of 18, she ventured on her own to Hollywood to pursue a career in martial arts film. Now in Los Angeles, Amy’s abundance of talent has overflown into acting and stunt performance, with Amy already having several professional appearances under her belt in films like Lady Bloodfight, the full on Female Fight Club, and the awesome Accident Man with Scott Adkins. We at WoMA.TV caught up with Amy to get an exclusive up-close and personal interview with the new princess of Martial arts movies.
And you guessed it… you can feast your eyes on Female Fight Club as it’s out now on DVD. So go out grab one or download it whatever, just watch it right now.
How were you introduced to the martial arts and what age were you when you started to train?
I have been practicing martial arts as long as I can remember. I am told my father started training me to kick in my crib before I could even walk. I remember running around in his martial arts school and always having a blast. I started taking classes more seriously at the age of 6 when I could pay better attention.
What was the first main system you trained in and what other arts have you studied since?
The first martial arts I studied were under my dad’s karate school. The martial art is called “The Progressive System” and it blends several styles together such as; Kenpo, Kung Fu, Kickboxing, Arnis and Jiu Jitsu.
Once I began a career in film I branched out to more dynamic looking arts such as; Wushu, Taekwondo, Wing Chun, XMA, and general screen fighting. One of the great things about my career is that there are so many talented martial artists and performers around me and we can all learn from one another. I am inspired daily by the talent surrounding me and that’s just how I like it. The better the people are around you, the better you can become!
You’ve mentioned Jeet Kune Do, what do you like about Bruce Lee’s method of fighting and has Bruce Lee influenced you?
Bruce Lee has always been a huge inspiration to me, as I know he is to so many others. What made Bruce special to me was his passion and confidence in everything he did with his arts. His philosophy was so strong and expressed the importance of being in harmony with oneself, as well as the world. Most importantly, what I took from Bruce is the idea that I should find the style or blend of styles that work best for me and my body, because everyone is different. Then make it my own.
Your father was a five-time world champion kickboxer, how much has he helped you in your career?
Yes, I can absolutely say that I would not be where I am without my father’s background and love for the Martial Arts.
You have won major Martial Arts competitions, what have been the rewards for you in entering these tournaments?
I believe competition is healthy and helps you grow as a person and performer. It helped me to feel comfortable performing my art in front of crowds, which translates well to what I do now.
How did you get involved in the movie industry?
I grew up watching kung fu and martial arts films. I remember as a child, so often my friends would be watching an episode of the TV show “Friends” or a dramatic award winning film such as “Titanic” and I would be watching “Enter The Dragon” or even “Kung Pow”. I had a lot of catching up to do on non-action films!
Martial Arts was always such a big part of who I was and still am and I did not want to lose that. There are only so many career paths you can take in Martial Arts and when I saw Michelle Yeoh in “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”, at that moment, it hit me. I want to do that, and I will do that! I never let that idea go, it just kept growing and I made the leap from a small town in Wyoming to Hollywood to start learning everything I needed to get my foot in the door!
It took several years for me to grow as a person, an actress, a businesswoman, and mainly to adapt to the unknown before I gained any success. However, I am so grateful for every struggle that brought me to where I am today. A big factor in what helped me get into the industry was YouTube because that is where I could show my action and be seen across the world.
Your credits as a stuntwoman include the films Iron Man 3, Suicide Squad, Deadpool and Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. Can you reflect on stunting in these films and shows and share your experiences on set?
I am so grateful for the stunt work I have done and have met some incredible people throughout. Deadpool was special to me because that job opened a new world to me of motion capture. I was brought in for motion capture on Deadpool from a stunt coordinator by the name of Philip Silvera who I always love working with. I had done motion capture before but this was a bit more intricate. I was the cg double for the character “Angel Dust” so I was getting tossed around and doing fight work. Since then I have built success in the motion capture world and really love the process. I have worked on video games such as Spiderman and the Uncharted franchise.
You have also been fight choreographer. Can you tell us how a fight choreographer is different from being a stunt performer?
I haven’t done much fight choreography but plan to do more soon. A fight choreographer breaks down the fight scene in the script and works with the talent he or she has to create a fight scene that fits the story. The best choreographers understand the characters and their motivation in the story to best create their movements, it’s physical acting. The stunt performer then performs the choreography given to them by the choreographer. A stunt performer does much more than just fight scenes however. There are specialty stunt performers but there are also performers who can do anything you ask of them.
Please tell us of a typical work out for you that keeps you in shape for movies and Stunt work?
For me, eating properly is the best way to remain healthy and in shape for life and work. I avoid sugars and processed foods.
I keep an active lifestyle so that working out is not a chore or a burden. I love to hike, train martial arts, dance, and practice yoga. If I need a specific body type or skill for a film then I will adjust and focus more on what is needed.
Do you do special training techniques that bring out the best in you?
One of the most important things for me is balance and that always brings out the best in me. Balance in life, career and relationships. To help with balance I practice meditation. Meditation helps to regulate my breathing and reduce stress.
What is the most dangerous stunt you have done to date, and have you had any bad accidents in doing these stunts?
Fortunately, I have not had any serious accidents in my stunt career but I do know many that have. It does happen. I would say the most dangerous stunt jobs were the smaller jobs before I started working the bigger shows. The smaller jobs can sometimes be more dangerous because there may not be as many safety precautions taken, but it comes down to you as the performer. You need to know when to say yes and when to say no. You need to trust in your team of course but know your limits!
To other female film fighters what training do you recommend for this type of demanding lifestyle?
I would suggest branching out to as many different ways of training as possible. Build a network of people around you that you can share and learn from. Learn as much as possible and never stop. I would also recommend studying behind the scenes on films to see how things are put together. Study not just fights and acting but the overall film making process. This will help propel you forward much quicker if you understand more than just your job. Last but definitely not least, create by yourself or with some friends. This will teach you so much you need to know.
In training equipment, is there any that you absolutely love using and would recommend to others?
I love using what’s called a “rumble roller”. This helps to relieve sore muscles and helps circulate blood and oxygen for faster muscle recovery. I also highly recommend acupuncture! Recovery is just as important as training!
The first major film that caught the public’s eye was “Lady Bloodfight”, what was it like working on the film?
Lady Bloodfight was my very first lead role in a film and I was nervous. More than nervous though, I was thrilled to be cast! I was happy to work with Voltage Pictures and really enjoyed the experience. This film was a lot of hard work but I’m really proud of what we accomplished. The cast and crew really put their all into the film. The action team and stunt performers were all wonderful and helmed by Hung Yan-yan who was such a delight. I really loved working with the director Chris Nahon who was so passionate and a true artist.
The Film you made around the same time was Female Fight Club with Dolph Lundgren and Cortney Palm. How did you get involved in this film and did you make this before or after Lady Bloodfight?
I got involved with Female Fight Club after Lady Bloodfight. Lady Bloodfight actually helped to get me the role in Female Fight Club. I absolutely loved working with Cortney Palm, she is amazing! It was great to work with Dolph as I had looked up to him for a while. The director Miguel Ferrer was so wonderful to work with and really knows how to bring out the best in people. The whole team was absolutely amazing to work with!
The fighting in this film looks brutal and dirty how did you feel about the choreography to this movie?
Yes, Johnny Yang and Malay Kim did a great job with the choreography. It needed to be brutal and dirty as a fight club would be.
As a Karate black belt what was Dolph Like to work with?
I really only had a few scenes with Dolph so I didn’t get to work with him much but he was great! It was very cool to have him hold pads for me in one of the scenes!
Were you happy with this movie or were there things you would like to have improved?
There are always going to be things that I would like to improve on personally and also with the film as a whole. Filmmaking involves multiple people working together to create what they think works best. Sometimes it comes together incredibly and sometimes there are issues. With that said, I am really happy with how Female Fight Club turned out and it was a fun challenge for me as an actress to really play with some emotions. I am so grateful to have been in that film! I learned so much!
Your next film we see you in Is Scott Adkins Accident Man. How did feel about working with another comic book Anti -Hero?
I loved working on Accident Man with Scott Adkins! It was such an honour to work with so many incredible actors and performers! Playing “Jane the Ripper” was such a blast and I enjoyed every second of it. The director Jesse Johnson is so easy to work with and really allows the actor to play.
You have some hard fights in this movie; did you do extra MMA Training for it?
I didn’t have much prep time so thankfully I was already training and didn’t need to do anything crazy.
The fight with Scott is terrific did you and Scott choreograph the fight or did someone else put it together?
Tim Man choreographed the fight scenes for Accident Man, as he often works with Scott Adkins. Tim is so talented and really has an eye for what looks dynamic on camera!
Were you happy with your character or would you rather play the hero?
Playing a villain or antihero can be much more fun to play than a hero because the antihero usually tends to have a few things off about them which is fuel for me as an actor. I love playing both, apples and oranges!
Which film have you been happiest with to date and why so far?
I am so happy with a short film titled “The Gate” which is currently being prepped for a feature film. Kellie Madison is the incredible director and creator. This project to me has such a beautiful blend of awesome action with great characters and story telling! Also, I got to fight Cecep Arif Rahman from the Raid 2 who is an absolute master in his craft of the Indonesian martial art called Pencak Silat. It also involves a great stunt coordinator by the name of Chris Carnel who is just wonderful! I really believe this feature film is going to show female driven action storytelling in a different light!
What film would you like to star in next?
There are several films in the works right now and it’s just a matter of which one takes off first! I just want to keep pursuing my dreams and enjoying the process. I love what I do and am so excited for what the future brings more so what I bring to my future!
What kind of advice would, you give any aspiring Female martial arts fighter, who is looking to use their skills in the media?
As I mentioned before, the Internet is a powerful tool. I would absolutely start creating your own content by yourself or with friends to release online. This will not only teach you so much but it can help strengthen your network of people and get you seen by possibly millions!