Jeff Pruitt & Sophia Crawford : The Interview

We promised you goods and beautiful surprises in November. Today we have the great honor to present our interview with Jeff Pruitt and Sophia Crawford, whom you know to have been respectively Buffy stunt coordinator (season 2-4) and the stunt double of Sarah Michelle Gellar (seasons 1 to 4). Interviewed November 5 by the team Buffy Angel Show, Jeff and Sophia have accepted to show their gratitude to the French fans on a cameo, and share with us 24 rare stills or totally unpublished.

In our turn, we take this official release to tell them a big thank you for accepting this interview for the time we spent, for their kindness and for shared memories and photos.

Interview

Sophia Crawford & Jeff Pruitt Sophia Crawford & Jeff Pruitt

What’s your best memory on Buffy set ?

          « There are many, but asking Sophia to marry me stands out in my mind. »

Have you some never told before stories about Buffy behind the scenes ?

           « Probably a million of them. I don’t know which ones you’ve heard though. One that I told fans before was about David Boreanaz… I’d met him years before when I was directing the action for Power Rangers. He was trying to get into acting and talked to me about it. I put him in touch with some casting people. Then when I joined BUFFY he was there playing this character called, “Angel.” I soon found that during first season Angel was usually being saved by Buffy. He wasn’t as great a fighter as her. So I asked Joss and David Greenwalt if I could start adding more fighting skills for his character and make him equal to Buffy. They agreed and in second season you see his character really take off.

I was very happy for David and he was great to work with. We laughed a lot. In fact, some of the shots of Buffy in bed with him are actually shots of him with Sophia Crawford. That was Sophia “kicking the bucket” when Buffy and Angel finally made love for the first time. He thought it was hilarious that I had to stand there while he was in bed with my wife.

Most of the actors were very conservative about how much skin they showed, but not David. When Angel had to return from hell the script said he was naked and out of his mind. So instead of wearing the little skin-colored briefs that wardrobe provided for him, he just walked out onto the set totally nude and said, “I’m ready!” Probably a good thing that I didn’t have my behind-the-scene camera running at that moment.« 

And behind the scenes of « 3×01 Anne » ?

          The season 3 opener was called « Anne ».  Joss was directing and he told me not to choreograph or make any plans for the « Hellfight’ finale » scene until he and I could sit down and discuss it.   He showed me the sickle weapon called the « Hunga Munga » and told me he wanted a shot of Buffy holding it during the fight.  He said he wanted this for his own credit during the new opening title sequence.
          I asked them to build a platform because I figured that I could put crash pads on the floor below so the stuntmen could be thrown or kicked off the platform and I wouldn’t have to worry about where their bodies were during the fight.  Also, it would be easy to keep reusing the same stuntmen as if they were some other demon hopping up on the platform to try and grab Buffy.
          I kept trying to meet with Joss in the days leading up to the scene, but he was too busy.  Finally the day came and he was behind in the shooting schedule and running out of time.   He was shooting an acting scene in a room next to the area we were to shoot the Hellfight and there was no way to finish in time to make a big fight scene afterwards.  He took me aside and said for me to go ahead and try to come up with something we could shoot in the little time we had left.  He just said, « It’s up to you bro.  See what you can make happen. »
           Now instead of choreographing the action and talking to Sophia and the stunt people as I normally would, I had to tip-toe and whisper to them.  I couldn’t let them actually practice full speed or hit the floor as it made too much noise and interfered with the scene Joss was currently making in the room next to us.  So I would wait until they called « cut » and then quietly walk through the action as silently as possible.  This is how I choreographed and rehearsed the entire scene by standing still while Joss was rolling film and then slowly and quietly moving between takes.
          When Joss came out I told him that I’d choreographed a big battle that would be what he wanted.  The first a.d. and our producer told us there was no way we could do it as there wasn’t enough time left.  So Joss and I decided there was only one way to get it all.  We had to ask Sophia to sprint across the entire stage area, leap onto the platform, and perform the entire fight without cutting the camera.  Usually a fight this size we could break up into smaller bits and do the running part separately, but there was no way to get our shots of Sarah and do the entire fight scene UNLESS Sophia could do it all at once.  It was like a long wind sprint with fighting.
          I had just done a scene with Sophia the night before ramming her with a truck.  She was already sore and tired, but she said she would try.  She ran about 100 yards or so, bounced off a mini-tramp and rolled onto the platform.  She then did the entire long fight without pause.  We even kept rolling when she kicked the Hunga Munga out of a demon’s hand.  We had the prop man rush in and place the weapon in her hand as if she’d just caught it, knowing we’d use a close up of Sarah there, and Sophia then kept on fighting for the rest of the scene until she pole-vaulted off the platform.
          Sophia felt she was sloppy because she was so tired, but it looked good to us.   She had to do it several times and then we brought Sarah in for her shots.  We wrapped right on time.  Joss was so happy that he attempted to bounce off the mini-tramp and roll onto the platform like Sophia.  When he did, he knocked the breath out of himself.  He turned to me and said, « Wow.  Stunts hurt. »  It was another good day for us thanks to Sophia.

Sarah Michele Gellar& Sophia Crawford Sophia Crawford & James Marsters

Sarah Michele Gellar, Sophia Crawford, Jeff Pruitt & David Boreanaz Sophia Crawford, Jeff Pruitt & David Boreanaz

Jeff Pruitt & David Boreanaz Sophia Crawford & David Boreanaz

Sophia Crawford , Jeff Pruitt & Sarah Michelle Gellar

Sophia Crawford , Jeff Pruitt & autres cascadeurs

Sophia Crawford & Sarah Michelle Gellar

Sophia Crawford Sophia Crawford & Jeff Pruitt

Sophia Crawford & Mike Massa Jeff Pruitt & David Greenwalt

How many time did you need to elaborate all the stunts of an episode (from the idea to the conception and realisation) ?

         « It varied. Usually I would meet with the next episode’s director while filming the current episode and we’d talk. Then I’d go to a production meeting with all the department heads and go over the entire script. And finally I’d try to meet privately with Joss to make sure we were all on the same page. Sometimes there was no time to do these things and I’d just wing it on the spot.

           In fact, although I choreographed the bigger fights in advance, most of the time I’d have to wait until the night of the fight and then choreograph because there were always so many changes being made to the scripts and sets. I knew what both Sophia and Sarah could do physically and I knew what stunt people I’d be using in the scene so it was easy for me to create something an hour before the crew appeared and be ready to film.« 

When the TV serie was aired, did you watch it ? Have you a favorite episode ?

          « Oh yes. I would have watched it whether I worked on it or not. The writing was excellent. My habit was to watch the show and then go online to get feedback from BUFFY fans so I could use that in making future decisions about the action scenes.

It’s hard to pick a favorite episode though. I like “Lie to Me” because it reminded me of certain people I knew in real life – even though it had little action in it. I loved all of the action-packed episodes I got to do with Faith and Angel and Spike.

Those relationships really pulled you into the story and that made the fights important when they happened because the audience cared about the characters.« 

Jeff Pruitt Andy Cheng, Sophia Crawford & Jeff Pruitt

Sophia & Jeff Pruitt Sophia Crawford & Lisa Rae

 

 

What do you think of the HD remastering of Buffy ? Do you think this can affect the quality of your stunts ?

          Back when I made those fights I originally choreographed them to fit Sophia and put in some things I knew Sarah could do.  I would always plan it so that Sophia’s face would not be seen.  However, many of the directors would forget that Sophia wasn’t « the face » of Buffy and would do shots aimed right at her face – sometimes close up.  
          This happened, I think, because often Sarah would do her shots in an acting scene and then leave Sophia to act with the rest of the Scooby Gang while she went off to do some other work.  A lot of the time the other actors are talking to « Buffy » but it’s really Sophia.  The editors would then splice in the shots of Sarah and it was pretty seamless.  No one could tell Sarah was off working on something else and wasn’t really there.   
          So yes, I do worry a little about the HD thing being too clear for some of the shots during the fights that were too much on Sophia’s face.  However, it’s funny because I noticed that someone had posted on YouTube a compilation of Buffy action which they said showed only Sarah performing the fights and no stunt doubles.   When I watched it I noticed that a third of everything there was actually Sophia and occasionally the other two stunt doubles.   This was made by a Sarah fan who carefully picked out what he or she thought were only Sarah’s shots.  Yet they were not.  So that tells me that it all must have worked pretty well for the show.

 

 

 

Mission of Justice

Sophia & Jeff Pruitt

  Which project you were involved makes you proud of being part of it ?

          « I think I’m most proud of three things: I was the first American stunt coordinator to introduce fast combinations and falls similar to what was going on in Hong Kong at the time in films like “Mission of Justice” with Jeff Wincott.

I’m also proud of the fact that when I started shooting the action for Power Rangers the show became a huge success.

And I’m proud that I got to make Buffy with my wife Sophia Crawford. We got to introduce a style of action for female characters that has now become the norm.« 

Which martial art/fighting style do you prefer ?

          « I began as a child practicing hard styles. I got my black belt in Tang Soo Do at an early age and I liked applying some of the kicking to stunt scenes.

But I am open and use something from every style. It’s just that for film we have to adapt the movements for camera and acting purposes.

If we did it the way we do in real life or competition it would be very boring on film.

You can be great at performing techniques and lousy to watch. It’s the same with acting. Just because a person can read out loud from a script doesn’t mean you will enjoy watching them do that on screen.

Stunt fighting is really acting with your body more than anything else and that’s what we do. As Bruce Lee said, it’s “the art of expressing the human body.”

David Boreanaz, Sophia Crawford, Jeff Pruitt & Mike Massa

Sophia Crawford & Mike Massa David Boreanaz & Sophia Crawford

Sophia & Jeff

What’s your next/future projects ? Have you some in common ?

         « Lately I’ve been doing a bunch of commercials. One of the producers I worked for told me he is trying to get a new pilot off the ground and wants me to direct second unit on it, but who knows? All of our jobs in this business are temp jobs anyway. It may be a day or it may last for years. You just never know for sure what will happen next. »

 Jeff also whished to speak on this topic : 
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            I keep seeing a few of Sarah’s fans saying things like I was « furious » at Sarah because I didn’t think Sophia was getting the credit she deserved or that I was mean to Sarah, yelled at her, and we hated each other.  None of that is true.  Sarah and I had a great relationship and I thought of her as my little sister in what we called « the dysfunctional Buffy family ».   LOL   I never once yelled at her, nor did she yell at me.    
          I always told Joss and the producers that I would tell the truth about the action I made for the show and give full credit to all of the stunt people by saying their names and bragging about what they did.  I also made sure that Sophia Crawford was the very first stuntwoman to get her own chair and onscreen credit for being the fighting side of the Buffy character.  They agreed to this and everyone was happy with the method I used to make the action – especially Sarah.
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          The truth is that Sarah was one of the greatest actors I’d ever known, but physically she was pretty frail.  My job was to keep her safe and create things she felt comfortable doing.  She did as much or as little as she wanted.  It all depended on how she felt or how much time we had to shoot.
          For some time Sarah had  gotten into the habit of telling the directors how to block the acting scenes and how it should be done.  They would always play along because by then she had become a star and the show (and their jobs) depended on her.  Whenever she’d get mad about something she would simply refuse to come out of her trailer and everything would grind to a halt.  
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          Sarah had, however,  always been happy leaving the fights to me.  She knew I’d make it look good and she wouldn’t have to break a sweat.  Most of the time she read her fashion magazines while we shot the fights with Sophia and then she’d do whatever movement I needed for her close ups.  
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          She only got angry at me once during our years of working together.  This was during a scene with « Buffy » and « Riley » fighting in season 4.  She had decided it was mainly an acting scene and began to tell the director her ideas as to where her character would stand and where she wanted Riley to be.  
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          The problem was that there was a fight scene going on.  You have to know where all these other characters are in the background and foreground.  You can’t just arbitrarily decide that your character is alone having a moment with another one.  What happens then is that continuity goes out the window as monsters seem to appear up, then down, then behind you, then not there at all.  It makes editing a nightmare.  The director and I had worked all of this out for the past hour, but now Sarah shows up and decides that she is going to do something completely different that throws things all out of kilter.  
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          All I said to her was, « Okay then.  Will you show me how you’d like to do the fight? »  This was the worst thing I could have done because she knew that I knew she couldn’t do martial arts at all.  There was no way she could just step out onto the graveyard set and start punching and kicking like Buffy.  Usually when she gets mad she will rip you to ribbons verbally.  She is extremely bright and quick-witted and she can put a crew member in his place in a heartbeat.  But our relationship was different.  With me she instantly teared up and stormed off without saying a word.  
          The director was one of the ones she always disliked.  But he ran after her and whatever he said to her in her trailer won her over.  I refused to chase after her.  I’d grown so weary of tip-toeing around her mood swings that I just didn’t care.  That was the one and ONLY time she ever got angry at me personally.  Prior to that we always had a great time together.
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          Another bit of misinfo that I keep seeing is when people say anyone was ever jealous of Sarah.  That was never true.  The reality was that Sarah grew up in the acting world.  She had come to view other girls as competition.  She and Sophia became friends during season 1 and they made a great team.  The jealousy thing reared its ugly head during season 3 with Sarah getting jealous of Sophia.  
          Two things happened then.  A magazine was doing a « Women of Buffy » segment with photos of the actresses and writer Marti Noxen.  When they found out that Sophia Crawford (who they knew from Hong Kong movies) was the Buffy fighting/stunt double, they asked her to participate in a photo shoot.  Next thing we knew the magazine was out and they had dedicated an entire article just to Sophia – along with a sexy centerfold pic.  Sarah had refused to participate and when she saw the article she went ballistic.  The producers called Sophia to the office and told her about this and that the crew would be ordered not to clap for Sophia after a fight scene anymore because it upset Sarah.
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          Sophia tried to lay low, but the studio PR people kept including her in things and that upset Sarah as she had begun telling interviewers that she was a real martial artist who did her own fights.  Then a television reporter from Chicago arrived to do an interview with Sarah and David about making action scenes.  Sarah changed her mind and said she didn’t have time for the reporter.  The reporter was so angry that she decided to make the story all about what she called, « the real slayer – Sophia Crawford ».   You can find this news report on my YouTube channel and you’ll see what I mean.  
          Sophia and I always simply cooperated with the PR being done for the show – whatever it was.  And I always answered question online honestly without the usual Hollywood fakery and lying – just as I said I would from the start. 
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          Today I believe both Sarah and I have grown up a lot.  She’s dedicated herself to being the world’s greatest Mommy and I just know she is.  She also has the kind of relationship I always wanted for her with Freddy.  If we were making Buffy today things would be different because we are different now.  We’ve been through it all and come out the other side.  I’ll bet that many of the silly reactions we both had to things would not occur.  
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          I’m very proud of the person she seems to have become, but I’ll never see her again I’m sure.  If I did she’d probably turn and walk the other way or ignore me.  I would never get a chance to apologize to her for my going on a drinking binge after I left the show and writing things I shouldn’t have.  We were both hurt at the time and I lashed out based on everything that people were telling me.  She probably did the same thing for the same reasons.
          I was never able to think of her as a kid back in the early days of the show.  To me she was so brilliant that I only thought of her as being the same age as me.  She was very mature in many areas, but was actually an immature kid in others.  I just couldn’t see then that she was still in the process of growing up in the middle of all of the mind-warping show biz hype.  The real truth is that, although I was older, I was just as immature as she was.
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          In fact, early on I fixed her up on a date with a friend of mine she thought was really cute.  The next day I asked him how it went and he said, « She only knows how to talk about one thing and that’s herself.  I can be friends with her, but I can’t seriously consider dating her.  She’s really just a kid with no understanding of anything outside of her own little world.  It’s like dating a high school freshman. »  I sort of laid into him and told him he was nuts.  I told him that she could speak about any subject on earth and was extremely intelligent.  I told him I thought he was too dimwitted for her.  LOL.    Only looking back now do I realize what he meant.  In my eyes she was simply a genius about everything and I couldn’t think of her as being as young as she really was back then.
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          Only years afterwards did I learn that there were some people out there at the time posting things online pretending to be me.  I even had my emails spoofed and I had no idea such a thing existed.  I was totally naive about the internet and what people did with tidbits of info.  I didn’t even have an anti-virus.  I naively thought that the only people who would care what the stunt coordinator said about stunts were those people interested in how action scenes were made.  I had never experienced insane people who thought they were actually married to the star of the show, or people who took any story and changed it into something else or had some other agenda.  After I left the show and let off some steam, I stayed away from anything to do with the show online.  It’s only in the past few years that I’ve begun to talk online again.
          Most of my memories from the show are wonderful, but there are those things I would change if I could.  There were some sneaky people around us trying to manipulate things back then for their own purposes. They were doing things that even now I find hard to believe.   I would be much more prepared for this kind of thing today and I would react differently.  Whatever shyness I had back then is now all gone and I have no problem communicating clearly before things get out of hand and feelings start getting hurt.  
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          Sarah and I were under tremendous pressure after the show became a hit and at times didn’t act like ourselves and said and did hurtful things that were way out of character for us.  I just wanted to clear that up for people who have the wrong impression of what went on before I left.   I always appreciated her.  I just never stopped to think of what it must have been like for her and her mother going through the things they did when she was a child and how she might have come to view the world as a place of competition.  I only saw things from my point of view – never hers.
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          I always felt it was my duty to protect her from everything.  But near the end I forgot to protect her from one thing.  That one thing was me.
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          All the Best,
Jeff

You can find below our special page about Jeff Pruitt and Sophia Crawford, and also in the gallery many behind the scenes pictures.

Gallery

 

Page about Jeff Pruitt and Sophia Crawford

Interview with Jeff Pruitt by Buffy Angel Show. Any reproduction of the text or pictures without permission is strictly prohibited. If you wish to republish text or certain quotes thank you to contact us: contact.buffyangelshow@gmail.com