Action movies are a thrill to watch, but the on-screen stunts can take a toll on performers.
A survey by the Union of B.C. Performers says most stunt performers have had at least one job-related concussion, but they seldom report the injury.
Vancouver stunt performer Lori Stewart, health and safety performer advocate for the union, says that needs to change.
Stewart works on shows like Supergirl and has performed in movies like X2: X-Men United and I-Robot.
While she was working on X-Men 2, she did a stunt where she needed to be launched off a porch on a wire and tumble down some stairs. Things went wrong and she missed the stairs, landing on both her head and neck on concrete.
“We try and plan for that not to happen, but sometimes in the moment things can change,” Stewart told Stephen Quinn, host of The Early Edition.
Tough it out
Stewart went to the on-set paramedics, but didn’t want to go to the hospital to get checked out.
“There’s this sort of ingrained culture in stunt performers to maintain that tough persona and that you can shake things off. That having an injury is like a weakness. And really that’s not the truth,” she said.
The 2012 survey conducted by the Union of B.C. Performers found a lot of stunt performers didn’t report having concussions specifically because they didn’t want to lose their jobs. Stewart says many producers and directors do not pay enough attention to performer injuries.
Stewart says performers are under a great deal of pressure to keep doing stunts for a scene, even after suffering an injury.
“We’ve had directors come up to the performer and go, ‘We didn’t get it … you have to go again,’ ” she said.
“Throughout my career we’ve lost a lot of really fantastic, talented performers because of head injuries. I have way too many friends on permanent disability with brain damage and that’s not okay.”
Stewart says a lot of these injuries could have been prevented by not trying another stunt after getting injured, or wearing a helmet. Concussions can have both serious physical and mental side effects.
“You see really good friends of yours lose their ability to work, lose their house, lose their marriage, have impulse control issues, anger issues and it all starts to crumble.”
Stewart wants to see changes on sets, including more reporting of injuries and increased education about the dangers of both not reporting and concussions.
The union has teamed up with Concussion Awareness Training Tool to create a concussion protocol tool for stunt performers and employers.
“I don’t think anybody signed up to lose everything during a stunt. We’re making movies, we’re making entertainment. It’s not worth anybody’s life.”
Listen to the full interview here:
With files by The Early Edition.