The magnificent musical numbers in The Greatest Showman weren’t the only thing about the 2017 musical drama that was breathtaking. The movie also got to show off some incredible trapeze work, courtesy of the character Anne Wheeler, played by actress and singer Zendaya.
Zendaya did as much of the trapeze work and stunts as she was able in The Greatest Showman. She has given a number of interviews where she details the work and the training that went into learning trapeze.
It turns out that Zendaya is quite the multi-talented star, not only doing her own acting and singing in The Greatest Showman but also the death-defying trapeze work. The work paid off for the actress, as she gave an absolutely soaring performance in the movie, her commitment to the role demonstrated for all to see.
Not that it needs to be said, but you couldn’t just hop off the couch and jump straight onto a trapeze. It’s a beautiful, incredible skill, but it’s also hard work.
The director of the movie, Michael Gracey, was well aware of this, and immediately let his trapezing duo know exactly what was going to be required of them. Zendaya says that she immediately had to set to training.
Part of that training was building the kind of upper body strength required to support your own weight, and even though she only maintained it for the movie, it would seem that the actress still really enjoyed doing her own stunt work.
Thankfully the singing portions of the movie wouldn’t need the same kind of preparation put into them, as Zendaya was already a singer with released studio albums and singles prior to filming the movie.
Learning to Trapeze
I’m sure that many of us wouldn’t relish the thought of being suspended high in the air, no matter what safety precautions there were in place to prevent the unthinkable from happening.
Almost a third of people have some form of intolerance or fear of heights, with the only varying factor being how high they need to be to trigger it. Even without that fear, the idea of doing trapeze work is still a daunting prospect, one that even Zendaya herself was beginning to feel when she saw the trapeze rig she would have to work with.
She had done some training for the role, cutting her teeth in the world of the trapeze artist with some practice on a special rig, complete with a safety net below her. When she finally arrived on set, however, she was greeted with a far different setup.
Not only was the new trapeze rig for the movie a dizzying 20 feet higher than the practice rig that she had become accustomed to, but there was also no safety net beneath her. In her own words, that’s a lot to get over!
Too much heart to be deterred by heights, Zendaya soldiered on, still determined to do the trapeze work. Any fears that may have been lingering around inside her were assuaged by her fellow actor and co-star Hugh Jackson, who reassuringly told her “you’re a badass.”
A Dangerous Profession
Thankfully due to it being a movie production and not a circus, and also having all of the correct safety equipment in place to prevent any potential injuries, flying around high above the ground on ropes or wires is still just as dangerous.
Zendaya and her trapezing cohort in the movie, Zac Efron, weren’t able to completely avoid any bumps or knocks of their own as they glided magically across the movie set.
Apparently, there are a ton of painful-looking outtakes of the two crashing into and colliding against each other, totally taking the grace out of the act but also showing just how difficult it is, even with the required training.
Thankfully nobody was badly hurt, other than what was presumably more than their fair share of bruises and lumps over the course of the production. The fact they managed to avoid injury seems like quite the feat, especially watching the behind the scenes and rehearsals of the stunts that took place.
You’ve got to take your hat off for the work that they all put in, not only managing to bring the story to life, but also giving the art of trapeze the respect that it deserved.