I’ve always been impressed by the people who do stunts in movies, from fight scenes to car crashes to jumping onto moving trains to being lit ablaze. That’s why I was drawn to “Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story.”
The documentary traces the history of women doing stunts, from the earliest days of moviemaking to more recent films, and tracks the obstacles that got in their way. For decades, producers and directors preferred putting wigs on men and having them double for actresses, and even when that practice stopped (although never entirely), performers of color had to contend with racism, too.
The movie shows another challenge women face doing stunts — wearing less clothing. While their male counterparts put padding under their characters’ long sleeves and pants, stuntwomen have to dress like the actresses they play, which usually means short skirts and no sleeves, leaving their unpadded skin exposed.
Instead of director April Wright doing all the interviews, she has contemporary stuntwomen talking with each other and their heroes — including Jadie David, who doubled Pam Grier in “Get Christie Love” — about their craft. Of course, there are lots of clips, including an amazing piece of high-speed motorcycle driving through Los Angeles traffic by Debbie Evans in one of the “Matrix” movies.
There are also scenes from recent superhero movies (e.g. “The Avengers”) and action franchises like “Fast and the Furious” (whose co-star Michelle Rodriguez offers commentary, written by Nell Scovell). We also get to see stuntwomen learning how to control a car in a chase, working out in gyms to perfect their spins and kicks, and practicing high falls from a tower into a giant airbag. Some of the best parts of the doc include conversations with the women who have done stunts as “Wonder Woman,” from the legendary Jeannie Epper (who doubled Lynda Carter on the TV series) to Christiaan Bettridge (who doubles Gal Gadot in the DC movies).
“Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story” is an exhilarating look at a dangerous profession that’s supposed to be hidden, but becomes even more impressive when you see how the work is done — and the women who do it.
I give it an 8.5 out of 10. It is available on demand from Prime Video and other streaming platforms.