There's never a dull moment when Dominika Wolski is in the picture. Last year, she battled giant, fire-breathing wasps in the jungles of Belize for the creature feature Dragon Wasps.
Yesterday, she was snatched away by a killer tornado while filming the SyFy Channel disaster movie Stonados at Saxe Point in Esquimalt.
It's been 13 years since the UVic fine arts grad was inspired to take the plunge into film and television acting after befriending Rosanna Arquette on the Victoria set of the thriller Poison. Impressed with Wolski's spunk, creativity and a clothing line she was modelling, Arquette had a small role written for her - as her film star character's Oscars stylist.
"No! All you movie people are crazy and do too many narcotics," laughs Wolski, recalling her reaction when Arquette asked if she was an actress. Arquette laughed, said "Shut up! You've gotta be in this movie" and introduced her to director Dennis Berry.
Since that fateful day, Wolski - also a screenwriter, model and fashion designer - has kept her eye on the prize. The Polish-born chameleon's exotic beauty has prompted comparisons to Uma Thurman and Nastassja Kinski and directors have cast her as socialites, Russian supermodels (Roland Joffe's You and I), a terrorist's Russian girlfriend (Jeremiah Chechik's Meltdown), a butt-kicking femme fatale in the futuristic thriller The Vanquisher and a bald Minoan priestess in Dark Angel.
An environmentalist known for her Zen-like demeanor, Wolski has also been the face of Froote, Elizabeth Moore's eco-friendly jewelry line, and is featured in ad campaigns for Azada, Tara Haggiag's bohemian chic clothing line.
The Los Angeles-based actress has many fond memories, like the time Jason Statham shared his stash of British Flake bars with her when she roller-skated in a Super Bowl commercial for Audi.
"I keep getting typecast as the La Femme Nikita action roles, it seems," says the svelte actress whose upcoming roles include playing a "hipster fashionista" in a new sci-fi flick and a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model who stages her own kidnapping opposite Ben Seton in Disarm, an action-packed gender twist on the Taken franchise.
"Taken 2 made a killing," Wolski says. "This is a girl version."
She says it was a sea change in the acting business that inspired her to start writing again and reteam with longtime collaborator Jason Bourque, another prolific UVic grad back in town as writer and director of Stonados.
The duo were an inseparable creative team here before their careers took off. They collaborated on shorts, music videos and screenplays for feature films such as Black Fly Summer and The Yearning, a supernatural western. Bourque also directed Wolski in Under the Cover, a CBC mini-series about sexual stereotyping she wrote.
Disarm, to be filmed in Belize, grew out of a recent shift - more movie stars migrating to television.
"TV is the new movie," said Wolski, who found herself competing with high-profile actors for TV roles she was up for.
"It's where the reliable paycheque is," she said, noting even Dustin Hoffman has done TV, HBO's horseracing series Luck.
"That was the big one for me. And [Phantom of the Opera's] Emmy Rossum is playing a redneck slut [in Showtime's Shameless]. She looks like a Broadway egalitarian rich girl, and she's playing a girl who has intercourse on a dryer."
Entry-level TV series roles have become harder to get, Wolski said, recalling an audition for a guest starring role on CSI.
"I went in and there was Helena Mattsson from Iron Man," she said. "Wow."
That's why she reverted to creating indie projects with low-budgets and high production values.
You can get more bang for your buck shooting in places like Belize, she says, even if there's a different price to pay as she discovered while shooting Dragon Wasps. Little things like bats flying into the frame, being layered with mosquito repellent and mud, bathrooms with no doors, scorpions "hanging out" in the mud and armadillo balls and iguana for lunch.
"It was a really cool shoot, though," laughs Wolski, who plays a machinegun-toting "girl Indiana Jones," an entomologist who accompanies a rag-tag gang of soldiers through a Belizean jungle infested with genetically altered wasps.
"That's part of why I wanted to be an actress, so I could travel, and it was like playing my parents.
They're marine biologists."
It's been a wild ride for Wolski in L.A., but her personal ethics and allegiance to friends and family have kept her grounded.
She has socialized with A-listers such as Leonardo Di Caprio, who she met while visiting the set of Blood Diamonds in Mozambique. And she's still mistaken for Paris Hilton by the paparazzi until they get close enough to see she's more athletic.
"I've been chased by teenagers and accosted by tourists who assume I'm snooty and mean," she said, laughing.
One bizarre experience was when Wolski learned she was being "uncast" from a film for being too thin and beautiful.
Two days before shooting, wardrobe said she seemed skinnier than her sizes during her fitting. It turned out the film's leading lady had gained 20 pounds and demanded "a more full-figured" actress in the supporting role.
Such surreal experiences have made Wolski appreciate her more personal endeavours, like becoming an ambassador for American astronaut Buzz Aldrin's dream project: driving a hydrogen-powered Hummer to the South Pole.
And there's nothing more down-to-earth than being back in Victoria, her beloved creative launching pad.
"My body's tingling all over," she says. "You can never lose your inner ferry. That's what has kept me sane."
Trailer for Dragon Waspshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4fFy0wgcEA
Wolski in Art History short film:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUQ3odoyYyk
Echo Echo commercial:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMdQFMnsuto
Wolski's roller-skating cameo in Jason Statham's Audi commercialhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9WjeH6VlTA