Because I’m a Woman, An Actor Nearly Died

Some years ago, I was doing second unit work (as a 1st AD) on a Bruce Willis film– lots of stunts and action. We took 15 LAPD officers with us to Oxnard because they couldn’t supply enough police for what we needed to block off.

I had cars, trains, even a ten-car car carrier which we were throwing cars off of. We had 160 extras, Bill Young drivers, and about 15 stunt puppies!

Lots of heavy action.

One day, the 2nd unit director called me in a panic because they were prepping to shoot again, and I wasn’t there. I called the production manager and told him that I’d gotten the panicked call wondering why I wasn’t there.

He replied, “Well, the producer wants a man.”

I actually taped that phone conversation and still have it. The DGA did nothing.

I called the “Qualification List” people and asked how many days (of experience) my male replacement had as a 1st AD. The answer was zero.

So, this is what happened:

It was a light unit, just two people riding bikes in Malibu, but still they managed to drop one of the bicyclists over the edge of the cliff. He must have grabbed a tree or root or something about half way down and was hanging there for quite a while.

No one noticed that one of their two actors was missing.

A teamster happened to see him dangling and radioed that there was someone hanging off the cliff and was that supposed to happen? So the actor was rescued. Finally…

I’m not sure how a male AD with NO experience was a better choice for that job than an experienced woman.

Whenever you do stunt work, no matter how mundane, there is the possibility of someone being injured or killed.

Experience counts in those situations.

By Tommie O’Sullivan