I’m standing on a soundstage at Albuquerque Studios. In front of me is Gerard Butler (300). To my left is Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”). On either side stand nine of the best stuntmen in the business. I take a deep breath. This is really freaking surreal. I am working as a stuntman on Game, a futuristic action film that took over downtown Albuquerque for several weeks. I’m getting ready to do a stunt called a “deadman.” Basically, I need to run full tilt at Gerard, and the cable strapped to my harness will whip me back when he turns and kicks me. You remember those Warner Bros. cartoons when the dog chases Foghorn Leghorn only to clothesline himself on his leash? Yeah, it’s basically that. When the director calls out “action,” I bolt forward, mindful of the camera tracking alongside me. Gerard turns and kicks, I feel the pull of the cable on my back, and my feet fly into the air in front of me. Everything goes black. I awake seconds later to the applause of the other stuntmen. They ask if I am all right (I didn’t tuck my chin enough; no matter, as I will have to repeat this action about seven more times for proper coverage) and pat me on the back, welcoming me into the brotherhood of stuntmen.
Does this sound absolutely awesome? Believe me, it is. If the thrill of being thrown through windows and getting hit by cars excites you as much as it does me, I highly recommend you check out Double Dare, a great little documentary that covers the lives and careers of two legendary Hollywood stuntwomen. Splitting its time between two generations, Double Dare introduces us to Jeannie Epper and Zoe Bell, a couple of rough-and-tumble chicks who kick ass and take names.
Jeannie Epper has been a stuntwoman for nearly 50 years and hails from an established family of stunt people. Back in the day, she was famous as Lynda Carter’s stunt double on “Wonder Woman.” When we meet her, she has made the decision to get back in shape and return to the stunt game. We watch as she hustles for work, takes care of her family and struggles for stuntwoman recognition at the World Stunt Awards.
We then head to New Zealand, where Zoe Bell is working as the stunt double for Lucy Lawless on the “Xena: Warrior Princess” TV series. She takes us through her childhood, her love for doing stunts and her work on “Xena” in particular. When “Xena” is killed off after six seasons, Bell finds herself unemployed and decides to travel to the United States to look for work. The two women’s lives cross when Bell arrives in Los Angeles. With the help of Epper, she attracts the attention of the stunt coordinator for Kill Bill and gets to audition to be Uma Thurman’s double on the film. Bell is just so damn likeable you can’t help but cheer for her when she gets the phone call confirming the part is hers.
The detailed doc also provides a brief look at the history of stuntwomen (a relatively new phenomenon, as women were usually doubled by men in wigs and skirts) and the hurdles women face in the stunt profession. These ladies are badass. Especially when you consider the fact that doubling for leading ladies wearing mini-skirts and tank-tops means they have no place to wear protective padding. You try throwing yourself through a window half-naked and see how it feels. We get a close-up view of the bumps and bruises Bell gets when she performs a car hit with no protection. One of the best segments has Bell attending a Xena conference, where she signs autographs and poses for photos with her adoring fans. You can tell that she genuinely appreciates the support of her fandom.
As far as the disc goes, there’s enough bonus material included to keep you happy. The DVD extras include a director’s commentary, extra interviews, deleted scenes, trailers and biographies of the cast and crew. The cover art is a sweet-assed shot of the incredibly sexy Zoe Bell decked out in full Xena garb, throwing a mean flying sidekick. Damn, she’s smokin’. (Capital Entertainment Enterprises, $14.98)