Stuntwomen and Actresses in Cinema Action

Imagine slamming into a windshield, falling down the stairs, or jumping out of a car in heels and limited clothing. It sounds hard right? Yet, that is the life of many stuntwomen in today’s movie industry. In fact, stuntwomen are at more risk than stuntmen because of their lack of protective clothing. It’s a lot easier to slip in five-inch heels than tennis shoes. 

Stuntwoman Dayna Grant who doubled for Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road says she slipped in her costume shoes and was impaled through the head by a dagger. The dagger pierced her cheek slipping through her nasal cavities and fracturing her left eye. Don’t freak out, she didn’t die, but if she hadn’t been wearing “slippery, feminine shoes,” as she said, perhaps she wouldn’t have been stabbed through the face? Her experience shines a light on the levels of danger stuntwomen face from mere costume restrictions. Stuntwomen have to be thin, perfect, and muscular and strong enough to perform risky stunts.

What we see in today’s movie scene is a lot more men performing stunts than women. This little fact might add an enormous amount of pressure on a stuntwoman to perform well. Not only is she representing the female majority and our ability to be amazing, but she’s also performing as an actress which is imaginably stressful within itself. 

A couple female superhero actresses have spoken about their costumes, including Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman in the DC 2017 movie, and Evangeline Lilly, who played The Wasp in the 2018 Ant-Man and The Wasp Marvel movie. 

Gal Gadot tells Jimmy Kimmel how tight her suit was in the beginning. She says the costume was “so tight,” and that she “literally couldn’t breathe.” Jimmy Kimmel and Gal Gadot go on to compare Wonder Woman’s costume with those of Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman, who are covered from head to toe. Gadot jokes that she wasn’t sure who's idea it was to film Wonder Woman in the cold English winter, and that she was freezing in her small costume. If you can wear a little dress and heels while fighting out in the cold winter, you are literally a wonder. Stuntwomen aren’t the only uncomfortable ones, while actresses aren’t taking the dangerous risks we think they are, there is a level of discomfort when it comes to costumes and women in action. Of course, we all want to see more heroines, more beautiful women saving humanity, but even when we try to make that come about, it can be hard. 

In a similar interview, Evangeline Lilly mentions her thoughts on the Wasp's costume. She said she’d heard a bunch of male superhero actors complain about their suits and how uncomfortable they are. At one point she thought to herself, “It’s just not that bad, I just… do I have the most comfortable suit in the MCU? Or, have men not had the life experience [holds up the heels she is wearing] of being uncomfortable for the sake of looking good?” She goes on to say how women tune out discomfort after becoming so accustomed to it. 

Heels are essentially squeezing the life out of our feet, so why do we wear them? For the sake of looking good, just as Lilly said. She makes an important and relevant point. Women have a history of being uncomfortable. 

If you think about women in movies, you can easily conclude that women are still transformed by the male gaze, even when doing something wonderful and empowering. However, we do see very powerful images of women in today’s films, and we should applaud these actresses and stuntwomen for putting up with tight costumes and uncomfortable shoes for the sake of representation. Our ability to represent despite these circumstances is what makes us strong and wonderful and super. From this point on, women should keep doing what they do. Speak up, and speak loud ladies.