Recently, tragedy struck the set of the upcoming action-comedy movie Deadpool 2 when stunt driver Joi "SJ" Harris lost her life following an on-set accident. Harris, the stunt double of Domino actress Zazie Beets, was performing a high-speed motorcycle stunt that ultimately cost her her life. Now, more information about the failed stunt has emerged, and it could shine a light on the events that led up to Harris' untimely death.
The Hollywood Reporter has recently reported that #Deadpool2 producers may have been warned about a potential crash prior to Harris' fatal accident. This was revealed by some of the film's other stunt performers, who claim that those representing 20th Century Fox demanded that the first-time stunt driver perform action scenes that she might not have been ready for. As an unidentified stuntman said,
"She [Joi "SJ" Harris] 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."
The stunt in question - which called for #Domino to exit a building on a motorcycle, go down a ramp placed on some stairs and stop at a predesignated spot - is a relatively easy maneuver for veteran drivers, but Deadpool 2 was Harris' official debut as a film stunt performer. She previously practiced the stunt five times before the cameras rolled, but her first time doing the stunt on film ended with a fatal crash.
Veteran stunt coordinator and second unit director Conrad Palmisano expounded on these revelations. Though not a part of the Deadpool 2 production, Palmisano got wind from those working on the sequel that the producers' publicity concerns apparently outweighed safety precautions.
"The producers put pressure to have somebody of the same sex and ethnicity 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.”
Palmisano's statements about the lack of diversity in the stunt community are not far fetched. As UCLA dean of Social Sciences Darnell Hunt told The Hollywood Reporter, the fact that Fox had to look for a female African American bike rider who resembled #ZazieBeetz outside of the stunt-performing community within Hollywood "speaks to a problem of lack of diversity of stunt performers."
It has yet to be seen how this update will affect the production of Deadpool 2, which has recently returned to shooting after a 48-hour shut down that was meant to allow the authorities to investigate while the filmmakers mourned the recent loss.
Our thoughts and condolences go out to the Deadpool 2 cast and crew, and to Joi "SJ" Harris's loved ones.