EXCLUSIVE: Four Saturdays ago, the Bumblebee stunt team showed up for rehearsals in downtown Los Angeles for work on the latest in the Transformers movie franchise. It was late afternoon, and they were preparing to film the stunt the next Wednesday, November 1. The rehearsal that day involved 11 stunt drivers and three passengers – all men. One of the drivers was even told to wear a wig to double for a woman.
Seven of the driving jobs listed on the call sheet were described as “ND” – for nondescript – meaning that the gender of the driver wasn’t specified because they wouldn’t be doubling for one of the cast members. But on that day, all the ND jobs were being rehearsed by men.
Four days later, when it came time to film the stunt, an eighth ND driver was added to the mix, and again, the job went to a man. Of the 12 stunt drivers that day, only one was female, hired to double for the lead actress in a driving scene.
Hollywood’s stuntwomen have been complaining about this type of discrimination for decades. They say they’re given stunt-driving jobs when doubling for actresses, but when a driving job is nondescript, it almost always goes to a man. And as was the case with the recent rehearsal for Bumblebee, sometimes men even put on wigs to double for women.
The Bumblebee call sheet, obtained by Deadline, notes that one of the male stunt drivers was to report to work “Dressed in black with wig.”
Veteran stuntwoman Julie Johnson, who has long been the most outspoken critic of the male-dominated stunt community, got wind of the wig incident and filed a complaint with Jane Austin, president of SAG-AFTRA’s Los Angeles local and a stuntwoman herself.
Austin sent an email to Cedric Jackson, the union’s director of stunts and safety, and told him: “I would please like a report on this incident.” A union rep was then dispatched to the set.
“I haven’t heard back anything on it,” Johnson told Deadline.
A SAG-AFTRA spokesperson declined to discuss this specific incident, but said: “The union takes any and all allegations of contract violations seriously, including possible violations of the non-discrimination and diversity provisions. Once notified of potential problems, we mobilize to look into the concerns and take any necessary action in a timely manner.”
This same pattern can be seen in many other action films including all of the films in the Transformers franchise. In last year’s Transformers: The Last Knight, for instance, there were 13 credited stunt drivers, but only one was a woman. In 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, only two of the 25 credited stunt drivers were women. And in the original Transformers movie, all 13 of the credited stunt drivers were men.
On last year’s The Fate of the Furious, there were 27 stunt drivers, but only two were women. On this year’s Baby Driver, there were 41 stunt drivers, but only five were women. On the 2011 film Drive, all nine stunt drivers were men.
While these and other films like them generally have male-centric themes and male actors portraying the hard-driving protagonists, there are usually many nondescript stunt driving opportunities – drivers of cars swerving out of the way of the hero’s car or being crashed into by the villain’s – that tend to go almost exclusively to men.
“This has been going on for years,” said a veteran stuntwoman, who recalled confronting a male stunt coordinator about the lack of women stunt drivers on a show that was shooting downtown a few years ago. “There were six or eight cop cars and they were all driven by men,” she recalled. “I said, ‘You do know that there are female police officers, right?’ And he just kind of laughed and walked away.”
SAG-AFTRA’s contract states that stunt coordinators should try to find qualified female and minority stunt performers “of the same sex and/or race” as the person being doubled, but it doesn’t require coordinators to give women equal shots at nondescript stunt work.
The non-discrimination clause of the union’s contract states that “When the stunt performer doubles for a role which is identifiable as female and/or black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific or Native American, and the race and/or sex of the double is also identifiable, stunt coordinator shall endeavor to cast qualified persons of the same sex and/or race involved.”
And when the race or gender of the stunt performer is not identifiable, as is the case with nondescript stunts, the contract states that the stunt coordinator “shall endeavor to increase the employment of qualified women and minorities for such stunts.”
“To achieve these objectives,” the contract says, the stunt coordinator “should endeavor to identify and recruit qualified minority and female stunt persons…prior to the commencement of production.”
The union also recognizes that sexual harassment has been a longstanding problem in the stunt community, and for the first time, its new contract requires that all stunt coordinators take part in online “sexual harassment prevention training.”