It is being reported that producers on the set of Deadpool 2 ignored concerns from the stunt coordinators about Joi Harris’ abilities. The stunt was relatively straight forward and would have been incredibly easy for a trained professional. It has also been reported that the accident was a “low-speed freak accident” after the investigation by WorkSafeBC was concluded. So could it have been avoided? According to sources close to the set, it very much should have been.
Production sources told The Hollywood Reporter that the producers of Deadpool 2 exerted pressure to have Harris complete the stunt. Harris had raced motorcycles professionally, but this was her first time on a movie set. It is believed that the pressure surrounding the stunt was because she was African American and closely resembled Zazie Beetz, who plays Domino. In other words, it seems like it was convenient to get the stunt done that specific day. A member of the stunt team who was training Harris explained the situation in more detail, emphasizing that Harris was improving with training, but clearly wasn’t ready at the time.
The accident has sparked outrage by many in the stunt community, including 47-year veteran, Conrad Palmisano. Palmisano echoes the sentiment of the stunt coordinators on set. He had this to say.
“The producers put pressure to have somebody of the same sex and ethnicity in a position she wasn’t qualified to be in. The stunt coordinators caved to the pressure. All the stunt people could do was take it to their higher-ups. They’re going to follow their chain of command.”
But the most telling bit of information comes from the stunt coordinator who was training Harris on that day. The stunt coordinator explains.
“I cringed every time she went out. Like, when is she going to crash?”
Harris’ death is the second fatal on-set accident in less than a month. In July, stuntman John Bernecker was killed when he fell off a warehouse balcony on the Georgia set of The Walking Dead when he missed his safety cushion by mere inches. Before that, the last on set death occurred in spring 2014 during production of Midnight Rider, when camerawoman, Sarah Jones, was killed by a train on a bridge trestle, which was also in Georgia. If the reports are to be believed, it sure looks like the accident could have been prevented, too.
It had been previously reported that the stunt had been performed successfully 5 times and that the 6th take was when the accident occurred, which is true, but the accident occurred on the first live take. So far, Fox and Deadpool 2 director David Leitch (who ironically was a stunt coordinator) have declined to comment about the new reports. As it turns out, the stunt coordinator who was training Joi Harris quit the project after the accident, telling producers that she didn’t want anything to do with the movie any longer.