On August 14th Joi “SJ” Harris was performing a stunt on the set of Deadpool 2 when she crashed her motorcycle and was killed. She was not wearing a helmet at the time of the stunt. This is the second time someone has been killed doing a stunt in as many months and this one sounds like it could have been avoided.
Several sources spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the accident and that people thought something was going to go wrong. They wanted Harris to do the stunt because she was a black woman and she was standing in for Zazie Beetz. Harris was a professional driver but not a stuntwoman and several crew members didn’t think she was ready. One performer said:
“She was improving, but I was watching her and, oh my God, I thought, ‘It’s just a matter of time before she crashes into a wall or runs somebody over.’”
Apparently, a member of the stunt team told the film’s producers about Harris being pushed too far too fast, but they were ignored.
The crash occurred on the first take, and many members of the stunt community have been speaking out about the accident. Veteran stunt coordinator Conrad Palmisano said:
“The producers put pressure to have somebody of the same sex and ethnicity [of the actress] in a position she wasn’t qualified to be in. […] The stunt coordinators caved to the pressure. All the stunt people could do was take it to their higher-ups. They’re going to follow their chain of command.”
Harris was the second person the production had enlisted to do the stunt, and the other performer hadn’t done well on the motorcycle, according to sources.
Darnell Hunt, the dean of Social Sciences at UCLA, commented on the situation:
“If the movie’s producers had to go outside of the normal stunt community to find someone who was both qualified and resembles the actress, that speaks to a problem of lack of diversity of stunt performers.”
The lack of women of color who perform stunts forced the production to bring in someone who hadn’t worked on a movie before. This could have been avoided. One of the stunt performers who warned the film’s producers of the issue eventually left the set and told them she didn’t want to work on it anymore. She recalled:
“I cringed every time she went out. Like, when is she going to crash?”
Deadpool 2, directed by David Leitch, stars Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Josh Brolin, Brianna Hildebrand, and Zazie Beetz. It will be released on June 1st, 2018.