The Deuce

A lot of critics have noted an uptick in rape scenes in movies and TV recently to the point that it’s become gratuitous — is this something you have noticed in your work and has it affected your work?

No. I agree with this and did a piece on it for radio. That being said, when I’m on set, production has already gone the extra mile to make sure everything is kosher because they’ve already hired the intimacy coordinator and the stunt coordinator. So I haven’t seen gratuitous scenes that I’m working on. Yet, are we showing violence for violence’s sake — maybe? I don’t know how to judge that. I will just say they are being much more respectful on sets.

Can you tell me what goes into setting up and choreographing a rape scene?

I would say the most important part is weeks before the scene. The first thing I do is break down a scene, talk to a director and explain to a director that I want to sit down privately with the two actors in the scene. I’ll talk about their comfort, and what’s their goal in all of this, and get them mentally prepped. Many actors want to stay in the moment, meaning they don’t want to be interrupted. They’re literally sobbing and yet we have to say cut because we got to do the scene again to change camera lenses or something like that. And they don’t want to be approached by people because they want to stay in character. And I’m okay with that, but the thing is you’re yelling out, “No, no, no, please stop.” When we say cut,and I see any problem, I’m going to check in with you. And I will do it really discretely, I will make sure no one else checks in with you.

In fact, at one point this summer there was an actor and he was very upset that his character was sexually assaulting somebody. And in one of the takes, he goes, “Can I please go up to her and tell her I’m sorry?” And I said, “Nope, remember again prep. She didn’t want that. I’m the only one who’s going to speak to her, and we’re okay with this because that’s what we decided in prep.” It’s about just keeping everything kosher.

Right, establishing the rules beforehand.

Yeah, and don’t get me wrong, if we need to, I’ll break all the rules if something goes wrong.

Does choreographing these scenes not only take a toll on these actors but on you as well?

I feel I’m doing a service so I do like being there for the fact that I’m doing a service. But yeah, they’re not my favorite.

How do you hope Hollywood will shift practices in relation to rape scenes?

I think they already are, it’s starting. HBO is here having an intimacy coordinator for any scene. And don’t get me wrong, they’re also doing it to protect themselves. By having an intimacy coordinator there, not just the actors and actresses are being protected, but producers are being protected. Because then actresses can’t come weeks later and say, “You know what, I was groped in that scene.” It’s like, “No, no, no, we talked about it weeks before, where you were going to be touched, where you weren’t.” Plus, after every take the intimacy coordinator should check in with the actor and if there was a problem it would’ve been stopped right then and there.

You said before that you’ve ended up specializing in rape scenes because you’re a female stunt coordinator. Do you think your gender has affected you in this community?

I mean, the best way to say it is, by being female I’m not going to get the same opportunities. And in fairness — let’s just say with… Pirates of the Caribbean, they flew in 300 stuntmen to be pirates. There was no female pirates, there’s no female military people. And you know, work begets work. And that alone is one of the reasons why there’s so few women [because] the need is so few.

Then the other issue, to me the real sick issue: Although statistically women are the ones getting beaten up at home, nobody wants to see that. Therefore the man gets punched or the man gets hit. And actors can punch, but when you’re punching somebody that’s when a nose could get broken and that’s when you want somebody doubled. So once again, women aren’t getting hit onscreen, they’re just getting hit in real life. So I’m always just like, if women are getting hit in real life, can I at least get paid then as stunt people?

You’ve recently shaken up the stunt community with your lawsuit against “wigging.” Can you tell me what this practice is and why you think it’s so harmful?

Well it’s harmful because first and foremost it takes the job away from a woman immediately. And it also shows precedent to the crew that this is normal. Because here’s the interesting thing: when they’re wigging a man to do a woman’s job, possibly there’s no stuntwoman on set to even protest. We can’t protest what we don’t know about. So editors have come forward to me saying it happens quite commonly enough that they see it, and more importantly as editors, when they see it, they can’t use it because they can literally see it’s a man doubling for a woman and the footage is no good.

This practice is not commonplace but it [has] happened enough. And everyone thinks it’s just funny: Oh look at that man in a dress, how funny! And they would take pictures. At least now, yes it might still be happening, but the men and crew at least know to be embarrassed by it and not put the pictures up on social media.

So I know that the frequent explanation for wigging is “safety concerns.” I think you’ve talked about this in the Deadline piece, how you feel that rings false?

In this day and age, with the women athletes out there [this is just an excuse]. Unfortunately, they could probably say that in the ’60s and ‘70s because gosh, girls were actually encouraged not to do P.E. I mean there were rules in basketball that girls could only go 20 feet and then they’d have to pass the ball. If in this day and age if it’s too unsafe — and this is where I’ve been able to work with film insurance companies — would it be unsafe for a man to do?

Right, it’s a double standard.

Yeah, if that’s their excuse then no one should be doing it. But to me, that’s not the real reason: it’s laziness, it’s hiring your buddies, and it’s convenience.

I do want to note that the stunt industry has come under more scrutiny in the wake of deaths on the sets of Deadpool 2 and The Walking Dead due to lax safety regulations. Do you think that safety regulations are in need of an overhaul of some sort?

You might find this fascinating but there’s no qualifications to be a stuntperson or stunt coordinator in America. Zero. If you have a SAG card, you can be considered a stuntperson. There are zero qualifications to being a stunt coordinator.

Do other countries have more qualifications?

Yes, in Australia and England there’s tests you have to take. Let’s just put it this way: the caterer on set has more licensing than the stunt coordinator.

So do you think that with having all the conversation happening around the stunt community these days — a lot of which you’re at the forefront of with rape choreography, with safety regulations — that there is change coming for the stunt industry?

Oh yeah. In 2020, SAG is trying to put in place the slightest of qualifications to be a stunt coordinator. So that is good.

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