Pioneering stuntwoman Jeannie Epper, of ‘Surprise Lady’ and ‘Charlie’s Angels’ dies


Jeannie Epper accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award on the Taurus World Stunt Awards in 2007. M. Phillips/WireImage/Getty cover caption

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M. Phillips/WireImage/Getty

Jeannie Epper accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award on the Taurus World Stunt Awards in 2007.

M. Phillips/WireImage/Getty

Within the 1970’s, when Surprise Lady, the Bionic Lady or considered one of Charlie’s Angels outran villains, crashed via home windows, and leaped over obstacles, viewers had been actually watching Jeannie Epper, dressed up as a superhero. The groundbreaking Hollywood stuntwoman’s profession lasted extra 70 years, throughout greater than 150 movies and TV reveals. Epper handed away of pure causes at her dwelling in Simi Valley, California on Sunday. She was 83 years previous.

“As stuntwomen, all of us descend from this lineage of stuntwomen corresponding to Jeannie,” says Katie Rowe, president of the Stuntwomen’s Affiliation of Movement Photos, which Epper co-founded in 1967. “Again within the day, males used to do all of the stunts — they usually’d throw wigs on them, and attire. However after all…they do not transfer like ladies. So the ladies determined to get in on this entire racket. And right here we’re in the present day.”

Epper started her profession at age 9, within the 1951 movie Elopement. After her dad and mom despatched her to Swiss ending college, she returned to Hollywood for bit components within the John Ford film Cheyenne Autumn and the TV present The Massive Valley. However within the late 1970’s, she discovered extra alternatives, when ladies got extra action-oriented roles. She doubled for Lindsay Wagner on TV’s Bionic Lady, and for Kate Jackson on the TV collection Charlie’s Angels. Her breakthrough function was as Lynda Carter’s foremost stunt double on the TV present Surprise Lady.

“She was all the time there on this set with me, every time I had a stunt day,” Carter instructed NPR. “She did all of the laborious stuff. She set the usual for everybody else. She was the last word skilled.”

I’ve so much to say about Jeannie Epper. Most of all, I liked her. I all the time felt that we understood and appreciated each other.

In spite of everything, it was the 70s. We had been united in the best way that ladies needed to be with the intention to thrive in a person’s world, via mutual respect, mind and…

— Lynda Carter (@RealLyndaCarter) Could 6, 2024

Carter says the manufacturing initially forged a stunt man as her double. “They put a man with a bushy chest in a Surprise Lady costume — a person with a sq., chunky physique,” she remembers. “You could not get the digicam far sufficient to know that it wasn’t a girl’s physique with zero curves, simply bushy arms and bushy armpits, and it simply wasn’t gonna work.” Carter says they introduced in Jeannie Epper, “and it was good.”

Carter says her double was an skilled at horseback driving, and for different stunts, Epper skilled or helped discover different stuntwomen to do excessive falls, journey bikes, carry out martial arts or do no matter was obligatory for the scene. Again then, she says, the stunts had been sensible, with out post-production results corresponding to CGI or A.I.

Leisure Weekly as soon as known as Epper “the best stuntwoman who ever lived.” She got here from a household dynasty of stunt performers. In truth, based on The Hollywood Reporter, director Steven Spielberg known as them “Flying Wallendas of movie,” evaluating them to the well-known circus household. Her father John Epper had been a stunt double for actors Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan. Her sisters and brothers, Tony, Margo, Gary, Andy and Stephanie additionally labored in stunts. Her kids and grandchildren have continued in her footsteps.

Epper had an extended checklist of credit; She did cat fights on the cleaning soap opera Dynasty and tumbled down a mudslide for Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone. She did the stunt driving for Shirley MacLaine within the Oscar-winning 1983 movie Phrases of Endearment. She additionally did stunts in such movies as Shut Encounters of the Third Variety, Minority Report, and extra just lately, The Quick and the Livid: Tokyo Drift and The Wonderful Spider-Man.

Over time, Epper did get damage a couple of occasions on set, as she instructed Dan Fairly in 1979 on CBS Sunday Morning. She was trapped in a burning cabin for the TV present Lancer, and she or he was smashed on the top with a heavy image body within the film Cunning Brown. However for probably the most half, Epper prevented any critical accidents.

Rowe says Epper all the time regaled others on set with tales about making motion pictures, and gently supplied recommendation. And even in her later years, Epper continued working. “She’d be the grandma you noticed on TV that acquired knocked down within the grocery retailer,” says Rowe. “She had an extended and diverse profession and she or he was robust as nails…she was only a hoot. “

Carter known as Epper a real-life Surprise Lady. “Once you accomplish, with grace and honor, like she did,” she stated, “That’s the pulse issue of a Surprise Lady, somebody that reaches out to assist others, to incorporate others, to alter the world round them, in small and huge methods.”


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