New details concerning the death of a stuntwoman on the set of Deadpool 2 in Vancouver, Canada, emerge, including a report on the “freak low-speed accident.”
Production on Ryan Reynolds’ superhero sequel shut down for 48 hours earlier this week for an investigation after 32-year-old Joi “SJ” Harris, a stuntwoman for Zazie Beetz (who plays Domino in the film), died Monday while performing a motorcycle stunt.
The description of the mishap, described as a “freak low-speed accident” by Deadline, came after the publication obtained a report in the investigation into the incident by the British Columbia agency WorkSafeBC, which is said the be akin to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the U.S. The report, which was dated August 15, the day after the accident, described the events that led to the tragedy:
“A temporary worksite had been setup to record a film scene for a movie production. The site had been cordoned off from general public and traffic by the Vancouver Police Department. The worker had been rehearsing a stunt scene that involved driving a motorcycle, Dictate 939 Hyperstrada, out of the open doors of a building, across a concrete pad and down a ramp that had been built over three stairs and coming to a stop on the stair landing. During the first shooting of the scene the stunt driver continued driving beyond the planned stopping spot on the stairway landing, and continued to drive down a second ramp built over the bottom stairs and across the roadway. The motorcycle struck the concrete sidewalk curb, the worker was thrown off the motorcycle and propelled through a plate glass window of a building.”
Deadline says the second unit photography was filming when the crash happened. Harris reportedly completed five takes performing the stunt, and the crash happened during the sixth take. A source close to the production told Deadline that the motorcycle maneuver was never more than “15 kilometers per hour,” which is a little less that 10 miles per hour.
Even though Harris was an experienced motorcycle rider and road racer, the maneuver was reportedly her first motorcycle stunt on a film. The source, however, dispelled rumors that the stuntwoman was unqualified for the job and landed it because she was African-American and doubling for a mixed-race actress. The source told Deadline, “To say an unqualified person was put in this position is absolutely untrue. She was the best candidate for the job.”
The death of Harris, who was reportedly an experienced motorcycle rider and road racer, has rocked the production. Reynolds issued a statement saying, “We’re heartbroken, shocked and devastated,” while Beetz said in post, “My heart has been breaking the past two days and I have been searching what to say or do.” Both Reynolds and Beetz said the inexplicable pain they’re feeling doesn’t come close, however, to that of Harris’ family and loved ones.
While Reynolds and Cable actor Josh Brolin’s reports from set prior to the accident were light and often humorous, there’s no doubt that Harris’ death will change the tone of the production for the remainder of the shoot. Harris’ death marks the second time in two months that a stunt performer has died on a major production, following the tragic loss of stuntman John Bernecker on the set of The Walking Dead in Georgia in July (which executive producer Robert Kirkman called a “freak accident”).
With two stunt deaths so close together (as well as the high-profile injury to Tom Cruise on the set of Mission: Impossible 6), expect Hollywood productions to be under intense scrutiny to ensure the safety of stunt performers going forward.
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