Jeannie Epper, trailblazing Hollywood stuntwoman, dies at 83

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Jeannie Epper, a pioneering stuntwoman who carried out in greater than 100 movies and tv sequence, has died. She was 83.

Epper died Sunday night time of pure causes surrounded by household at her residence in Simi Valley, a spokesperson confirmed Monday.

In an extended profession spent bursting by means of doorways, kicking down partitions and falling off roofs, Epper modified the course for ladies within the trade when she turned Lynda Carter’s stunt double on the Nineteen Seventies TV sequence “Marvel Lady.” It was Epper, standing in for Kathleen Turner, who was swept down a mudslide in “Romancing the Stone” — for which she obtained a 1985 Stuntman Award for many spectacular stunt in a characteristic movie.

In a blond wig, Epper took the blows for Linda Evans in these iconic catfights with Joan Collins on the nighttime cleaning soap “Dynasty.” It’s Epper’s stunt-driving that audiences see when Shirley MacLaine throws Jack Nicholson from her Corvette within the film “Phrases of Endearment.”

Epper’s prolific profession consists of stuntwork in “The Bionic Lady,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Robocop,” “The Italian Job” and “Kill Invoice: Vol. 2.” Epper was profiled alongside fellow stuntwoman Zöe Bell within the 2004 documentary “Double Dare.”

Epper has been referred to as the “godmother of stuntwomen” and “the grand matron of Hollywood stuntwomen,” working properly previous retirement age. At age 74, she carried out stunts within the 2015 comedy “Sizzling Pursuit,” starring Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon.

“She definitely qualifies to be one of many biggest stunt coordinators,” stated director Steven Spielberg, who labored with Epper on “Catch Me If You Can” and “Minority Report.”

She was born Jean Luann Epper in 1941 to John and Frances Epper, each skilled stunt performers. Within the Nineteen Twenties, Epper’s father immigrated to the US from Switzerland and established a driving academy in Los Angeles, the place he later turned a stuntman for motion pictures, specializing in horseback stunts and doubling for actors together with Ronald Reagan and Gary Cooper.

Jeannie Epper grew up in North Hollywood with 5 brothers and sisters — all of whom labored as stuntpeople. Her three kids and grandchildren additionally went into the household enterprise.

Epper was a talented rider, and at age 9, she broke into stuntwork, driving a horse bareback down a mountain for a Nineteen Fifties TV present, turning into one of many first skilled little one stunt doubles.

“My father stated it could possibly be harmful, however he knew I used to be a wonderful rider,” she instructed The Instances in 1999. “He saved telling me to maintain my head up, however that’s about all. I believe he didn’t wish to over-concern me. There’s a wonderful line between worrying and destroying somebody’s confidence.”

The sequence marked the beginning of Epper’s game-changing profession within the male-dominated trade.

Though Epper got here from a household of stuntpeople, it was typical when she started working for males to put on wigs whereas doing stunts for feminine actors. However because of persistence and shifts in attitudes and trend, Epper modified the enterprise.

“Actresses started saying, ‘I don’t need a hairy-legged man doing this for me,’” she instructed The Instances in 1999. “And girls have been carrying much less and fewer garments in entrance of the digicam, and it was so apparent it was a person.”

Later, as a stunt coordinator, Epper recalled coping with males who resented taking orders from a lady.

Whereas engaged on the Eighties police sequence “Cagney & Lacey,” she described a visitor actor who not solely couldn’t throw a convincing punch but additionally refused to be instructed by a lady, permitting solely different stuntmen on set to point out him what to do.

“He threw the punch properly sufficient to shoot the scene,” she stated. “However he nonetheless couldn’t throw it like a person.”

In 2019, on the event of Epper’s being honored on the Artemis Girls in Motion Movie Pageant, Melanie Sensible — a producer, actor, stuntwoman and founding father of the group — stated, “Jeannie impressed a wave of ladies to get into stunts. They’re in awe of her.”

Epper was a founding member of the Stuntwomen’s Assn. of Movement Photos and an honorary member of the Stuntmen’s Assn. of Movement Photos.

She is survived by husband Tim Kimack, daughter Eurlyne Epper, son Richard Epper, 5 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in loss of life by son Kurtis Epper, who was additionally a stunt performer.

Instances employees author Nardine Saad contributed to this report.

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