Kids can't do stunts in Hollywood, so other means are required when the script calls for putting a child in danger's way. Jane Oshita, a tiny gymnast, White Lotus Kung Fu expert and contortionist, has appeared in dozens of films, a woman-child who takes on the violent work that child actors cannot.
She met her stuntman husband, Christopher "Critter" Antonucci, in a trampoline class. He tricked the 4-foot-9 (and a half!) beauty into a date by telling her that "all the trampoline trainees were going out for coffee."
Their welcoming home in Reseda is a kind of training center, its vast backyard containing a tower for 40-foot "practice falls," a sunken, in-ground trampoline and a storage trailer jammed with mattresslike stunt pads.
Oshita's parents "thought stunt work was a phase" for their daughter, a former Disneyland dancer so limber her high school friends dubbed her Gumby. She grins, helplessly throws her hands wide: "Falling backwards off buildings is so much more fun."
As a stuntwoman, she's doubled for two little boys in The Pink Panther 2 (Steve Martin is "a really nice guy"), and worked with Tom Cruise on Collateral.
She's appeared in 40 movies and TV shows, but certain moments are vivid, such as in 24, when agent Jack Bauer fiercely shouts at her character: "Are you hurt?"
"You try to be versatile," Oshita says as she carries on a soft patter with one of the family's four big, goofy dogs. She can achieve hyperextension — dislocation — of her shoulder without effort, but her acupuncturist no longer lets her. She bends her elbows backward without effort. "But how on earth do you know if you can actually do a car hit?" she asks. "You don't — until you let a car hit you again and again and get it right."
Oshita's first car hit involved a female actor who gets mowed down. When asked if she could handle it, "I said, 'I honestly don't know.' So my husband and I called a buddy to drive the car. The car and I came together again and again. I learned to stick with my mark, I learned that one way hurts my knee. I called the stunt coordinator back and said, 'I can do this!' I did the stunt in one take — a week before my wedding."
But you know Hollywood — when she finally saw the film, they'd cut her scene. "My whole family was watching! But you get that a lot in Hollywood. You hear, 'That was great, Jane, but I don't want an audience seeing a woman hurt like that.' "
Such tender sensibilities are lost on Oshita's small daughter, Vailana. After all, Mommy is always dying.
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Oshita played several roles in HBO's WWII miniseries The Pacific, and every one of her characters was slain. "My daughter saw me dragged through the mud by my hair and said in her high voice, 'That's you? You died! You died a lot!' She knows it's fake. But she still believes in Santa Claus."