UPDATED with SAG-AFTRA statement: SAG-AFTRA has closed its investigation into the “wigging” of a stuntman on MGM’s The Domestics and concluded that “wigging a male stunt performer to double for a female performer is not acceptable and that this should not happen again.” The union, however, did not fine the film’s production company for not doing more to find a qualified stuntwoman to do the job, though it says it “will remain committed to doing what it can to eliminate this practice.”
The incident, which highlights the age-old practice of stuntmen donning wigs and women’s clothes to double for actresses, is currently the subject of a sex discrimination complaint filed with the EEOC by stuntwoman Deven MacNair against the film’s production company, Hollywood Gang, and against the union, which she has accused of “not assisting me in this matter.”
“SAG-AFTRA adamantly opposes the practice of wigging men to double for a role that is identifiable as female,” a union spokeswoman said in a statement. “Our decades-long efforts to eliminate this practice have effected positive change and reduced it dramatically, and our continued work will make it even less likely that it will happen again. As to the particulars of the currently pending claim, we cannot further comment as this matter is in active litigation.”
MacNair’s complaint stems from an incident on the film’s set in New Orleans on November 22, 2016, when the film’s British stunt coordinator, Nick Gillard, decided that a stunt – doubling for actress Kate Bosworth – was too dangerous for her to do and did it himself in a wig and woman’s clothes.
MacNair, who has more than 70 stunt credits over the past 10 years, says she called in a complaint to the union’s hotline on the night of the incident and then confronted Gillard about an Instagram photo that surfaced of him in the wig and woman’s clothes.
He responded to her via email in January 2017, saying that “as far as acting effeminate in the photo that was somehow demeaning to women. Jeez. I have six sisters. I probably know more about women than you do.”
“If it happened again I would do the same thing,” Gillard told Deadline. “In the stunt business, if it comes down to hurting somebody’s feelings versus hurting somebody physically, then feelings are going to get hurt every time. This isn’t about putting wigs on; it’s about something else, but only Deven knows what that is.” In any case, he added, “We did have a double but she couldn’t get there in time; she was paid anyway.” He also said that “Even if Deven we’re capable of doing the stunt, we wouldn’t have been able to use her as she is three-times the size of Kate Bosworth.”
MacNair, who is larger than Bosworth but not “three-times” larger, said that her complaint all along has not been that she should have done the stunt — although she says she was willing and able to do it — but that the job, which she said was not dangerous, should have gone to a woman: to any qualified stuntwoman, other than to a man. For her, it was never about the job, she says, but the principle — and about the union’s contract requiring the company and the coordinator to “endeavor” to find a qualified woman to do it.
The union, meanwhile, applauded her for bringing the matter to its attention.
“As you know, employers under the SAG-AFTRA agreement shall ‘endeavor’ to cast qualified stunt performers of the same sex for a role which is identifiable as female,” Adam Moore, the union’s national director of EEO & Diversity, wrote in an email to MacNair on Friday. “Based on the explanation we received from the employer and the information we received from you, it is certainly possible that the employer could have done better in seeking a qualified stunt performer of the same sex in this situation. However, that did not happen here. As result of initiating this process, SAG-AFTRA put the employer on notice that this very well could have been a situation where the producer could have done better.
“In response to SAG-AFTRA’s concerns, MGM Labor Relations agreed to set up a meeting between the union and production staff to discuss this matter. The meeting took place on December 18, 2017. SAG-AFTRA made clear that wigging a male stunt performer to double for a female performer is not acceptable and that this should not happen again. Upon the conclusion of this meeting, SAG-AFTRA has closed this particular matter.”
“SAG-AFTRA’s process,” Moore wrote, “has advanced what it is designed to do; namely, shine a light on these types of circumstances, raise awareness with employers, and effect positive change. Without a doubt, SAG-AFTRA effectively raised awareness of this issue with MGM and the production staff involved in the meeting and made it less likely that it will happen again. Thank you for shining a light on this situation. I applaud your passion for opposing the wigging of men and increasing work opportunities for women stunt performers. SAG-AFTRA will remain committed doing what it can to eliminate this practice as well.”
MacNair, however, feels the union should be doing more than “shining a light on this situation,” and wants to know why she wasn’t invited to the December meeting between of the union and company reps, and why no disciplinary action was taken against the stunt coordinator, who is required by the union’s contract to “endeavor to identify and recruit” qualified female stunt performers.
“Thank you for having a meeting with my employer,” she said today in an email to SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and the union’s diversity department. “As always stated, I have chosen to not be anonymous so I wish there was thought to inviting me to this meeting. Unfortunately I was not aware. My question remains: what were the actions SAG-AFTRA took against the SAG-AFTRA stunt coordinator?
“Also, in all due respect, there have been multiple requests from the media what your response is in this matter. In every publication, media new source, they all have been give the same response of ‘SAG-AFTRA could not be reached for a comment.’ What phone number should any news outlet call to get a response, since of course, you want to shine a light on this matter? Shine a light??? Is that what we pay dues for? A light?!!! A LIGHT?!”
“Women and people of color,” she told the guild, “are afraid to come forward but they are all around us and you know why they aren’t coming forward. You can only give them light!!!! You won’t even give a comment. SAG-AFTRA, our guild, is literally a communication/performance-based guild and we can’t be reached for comment? Yet you are shining light – where is this light? What kind of light? Where!?
“So I asked again, that in writing, as a paid up dues member that you please respond to this question: What discipline measures happened to the stunt coordinator in my matter that did not endeavor to hire a stuntwoman to double Kate Bosworth that day? This is something that SAG-AFTRA is in 100% control of.
“Thank you for your response, and at the next SAG-AFTRA meeting I will bring my own flashlight so there will be no need for you to shine a light on me. Just please instead work for our rights and make our sets safe from discrimination.”
SAG-AFTRA’s offices are closed today, but a spokesperson, contacted by Deadline, did not respond to MacNair’s latest comments.