The death of stuntwoman Joi "SJ" Harris on the set of Deadpool 2 is tragic. It's even more heartbreaking as we've learned that the that crew members on the set consider her death to have been preventable.
"She 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," a source tells The Hollywood Reporter. This source had been training Harris to perform the stunt, and noted that another member of the stunt staff had spoken to producers about their safety concerns. Harris had endured two previous crashes during the practice stunts.
"I cringed every time she went out. Like, when is she going to crash?”, said the source, who later quit working on the film.
It appears that the producers did not take the stunt team's worries seriously, and were adamant that the stunt be performed by an Afrian-American woman in order to more closely resemble the character Domino, played by actress Zazie Beetz. Joi Harris had previously never performed motorcycle stunts on film, and was primarily a road racer. According to Deadline, Harris was not wearing a helmet during the take, because Domino wasn't wearing one in the scene.
"The producers put pressure to have somebody of the same sex and ethnicity in a position she wasn’t qualified to be in," stunt coordinator Conrad Palmisano told THR. "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 did not work on Deadpool 2, but noted that he'd been in contact with other stunt professionals who witnessed the accident on the set of the movie.
"If the movie’s producers had to go outside of the normal stunt community to find someone who was both qualified and resembles the actress, that speaks to a problem of lack of diversity of stunt performers," said UCLA dean of Social Sciences Darnell Hunt, who works on the Hollywood Diversity Report.
"We are deeply saddened by the accident that occurred on the set of Deadpool 2 this morning. Our hearts and prayers are with the family, friends and colleagues of our crew member during this difficult time," Fox told Deadline in a statement, after the death of Harris was publicized.
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