Keshet Studios is prepping The Stuntwoman, a limited series based on the book of the same name by Julie Ann Johnson and Deadline’s David Robb. The project, about Johnson, a pioneer for women stunt performers and one of Hollywood’s first whistle-blowers, hails from Israeli writer-producer Guy Nattiv and his actress-producer wife Jaime Ray Newman who won the Live Action Short Film Oscar earlier this year for Skin, directed and co-written by Nattiv.
Nattiv is writing and set to direct The Stuntwoman limited series, which tells the true story of Johnson who in the ‘70’s became one of the first female stunt coordinators in Hollywood. Johnson battled Hollywood’s ‘glass ceiling’; she took on the stunt community’s ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ and she fought the most powerful and vindictive man in the television industry –Aaron Spelling. It wasn’t David vs Goliath; it was David vs three Goliaths.
Nattiv and Newman executive produce the project, which Keshet Studios will be taking out to the premium/streaming market this month.
Newman has been part of the #MeToo movement — she was among the women who publicly accused director Brett Ratner of sexual harassment. She and Nattiv had been interested in exploring the general premise behind #MeToo when they came across the story of Johnson.
“Julie was part of a movement of women in the 1970s, the first #MeToo movement that never took off,” Newman said.
Added Nattiv, “This is Julie’s story as she comes to Hollywood, which is a boys town. She is bringing with her eight women — one is good with horses, one is a biker, one drives fast cars. It was a wolf pack of amazing women who took over Hollywood and tried to make a change. They struggled, there was a huge backlash, they were blacklisted, they were threatened, some were physically hurt.”
The project came out of a general meeting Nattiv had with Keshet Studios President Peter Traugott, during which Nativ mentioned that he and Newman were intrigued by Johnson’s story as the first female stuntwoman in Hollywood in the 1970s.
“This is a topical and important story, not just top notch entertainment,” Traugott said.
Added Newman, “We are not interested in entertainment per se. There is a lot of bombastic angles with a lot of fun and energy but it’s also an important story,” Newman said, noting that before Johnson and the group around her broke through, film and TV employed only male stunt performers who were wearing dresses when doubling for an actress. We feel it’s high time the story was told.”
Nattiv called Johnson “a hero,” “an amazing woman and a big inspiration for us.” She is not creatively involved but is a consultant on the project.
Johnson was one of the co-founders of the Stuntwomen’s Association7 and co-founded the Society of Professional Stuntwomen. She also served as a member of the Screen Actors Guild’s Stunt and Safety Committee and chaired the SAG Stuntwomen’s Subcommittee.
Johnson became known for speaking out and taking action. At the Screen Actors Guild and in the stuntwomen’s associations, she worked to stop “paint downs,” prevent men from doubling women, improve stunt safety issues, ensure equal pay for stuntwomen, and open the high paying positions of stunt coordinator to women.
Johnson put her career on the line in 1980 to speak out about sex discrimination – and against the rampant abuse of cocaine by Hollywood’s stunt community. She was one of Hollywood’s highest-paid stunt women, and one of the first women to work as a stunt coordinator on a major television series. The show was Charlie’s Angels.
During her time on Charlie’s Angels, she suffered a horrific injury and was subsequently blackballed from the industry. She filed a lawsuit against the producers of Charlie’s Angels, part of her efforts to improve working and safety conditions for women and minorities who are stunt people.
Nattiv also turned Skin into a full-length feature.
US-based Keshet Studios is behind two midseason broadcast series, NBC’s, Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector and ABC’s Baker and the Beauty.
Nattiv and Newman are repped by ICM Partners, attorney Jonathan Gardner and manager Hadas Mozes in Israel. Newman also is managed by Joannie Burstein and Nattiv by Matt Luber.