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Arizona native Tarah Paige is on her way to becoming Hollywood’s next female action star.

Tarah Paige

Don’t let the 5-foot-4 frame, sweet smile and big blue eyes fool you—Tarah Paige, 31, is tough as nails and knows how to throw a punch. Fortunately for her co-workers, those aren’t real punches, and all the altercations go down on film sets.

Action-film enthusiasts will surely appreciate Paige’s talents when Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction hits theaters June 27. For the movie, Paige performed a range of demanding stunts and doubled actress Nicola Peltz, who plays the daughter of Mark Wahlberg’s character. But Paige is no newcomer; this established Hollywood stuntwoman, stunt coordinator and actress has worked on TV shows such as House M.D., Lost (doubling Evangeline Lily), Bones and Glee, as well as blockbusters like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).

Paige’s day-to-day life didn’t always involve controlled explosions and daredevil driving maneuvers. Born and raised in Phoenix, she excelled at dance and gymnastics as a child and even moved to Oklahoma at 15 to train with Olympic legends Nadia Comaneci, Bart Conner and Steve Nunno (Shannon Miller’s coach). After competing with the women’s national team, she retired from the sport and graduated from the University of Oklahoma at 19.

“Once I got done... I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment industry,” Paige says. “So I... packed my bags, moved out to California in 2002 and hit the ground running.” After doing a reality show called All American Girl—for which she sang, danced, swam in open water and even saved someone from a burning building—she scored an agent, followed by higher-profile projects, including films like Elizabethtown (2005), Stick It (2006), Bring It On: All or Nothing (2006) and Four Christmases (2008).

“I’ve had some projects that have definitely put me through the works,” Paige admits. “One of the biggest was Alice in Wonderland (2010), doubling Alice for Mia Wasikowska, and it was one crazy stunt after another—from falling 20 feet through a ‘rabbit hole’ onto 1-inch neoprene that was painted like tile... and getting dragged across rugs in a wrap of wires that would unfurl me. It was a very intense project, but it was one of the best times in my life.”

There’s no question Paige’s career in Hollywood is on a roll—and picking up speed. Her ultimate goal? A career à la Angelina Jolie. “I’m always going to have that action mentality,” Paige says. “But I would love to be an action actress. ... I would love to do roles that combine the two.” We’re not sure what’s next for Paige, but we know she’ll stay flexible. “As a stunt performer, you get thrown into a lot of walls, and you get a lot of bruises and nicks, cuts, burns and everything,” she says. “But you kind of have to look at the big picture and say, ‘It’s really amazing that I’m helping to create a piece of history and a movie that’s going to last a lifetime.’”

Paige's Hots
Spending quality time with family, Teuscher Chocolates (Divine!), beef ribs at Banderas, love of all kinds

Paige's Nots
Mean people, rush-hour traffic, arguments