Hollywood stunt work is dangerous, and it is not unusual for stunt workers to suffer injuries and even death while performing for cameras. On July 12th, rookie stunt woman Joi “SJ” Harris was attempting a motorcycle stunt on the Vancouver set of Deadpool 2 that failed, causing her lose control of the motorcycle and crash through a plate glass window, resulting in fatal injury.
Harris was the first Black female professional road racer, and Deadpool 2 was her first film performance. A subsequent investigation by The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Harris may have been cast on the basis of her skin color, and not her experience or qualifications to perform the dangerous stunt.
The 20th Century Fox sequel’s producers had been exerting pressure to have the 40-year-old Harris, who had raced professionally but had never worked on a film, perform that day’s stunt because, as an African-American, she was a believable stand-in for Zazie Beetz, who portrays Domino in the film. But several crewmembers warned the producers that Harris wasn’t ready…
The stunt Harris was called upon to perform would not have been technically difficult to execute.
It called for a rider sitting astride a Ducati 939 Hyperstrada motorcycle to exit a building, descend a ramp over three small stairs and stop on a nearby landing. For a stunt professional, it would have been a cinch. But Harris had never even been on a film shoot before.
Hollywood films routinely work around issues of race and gender when it comes to stunt casting.
Minority actresses lives are routinely protected by qualified professionals who stand in to perform difficult stunts on their behalf.
Minority stunt workers are offered no such protection.
Featured image courtesy of Looper.com/ AJ Caufield