Oscar-winning 'Skin' couple's new project: 'The Stuntwoman'
Israeli filmmaker Guy Nattiv and his wife Jaime Newman are working on a limited series about 1970s stunt performer Julie Ann Johnson.
In the early 1960s, Julie Ann Johnson was working as a production assistant for television commercials. One day on set, someone asked her to jump over an ironing board for a scene.
That benign moment marked the beginning of Johnson's career as a stuntwoman in Hollywood for the next 45 years – a career dotted by challenges, injuries and injustices, but one that cemented her as a pioneer in the stunt world and a champion for women's rights, stunt safety and equal pay.
Johnson, now 81, published a book about her life in 2013, along with co-author David Robb. It's now being adapted into a limited TV series from Keshet Studios, the Israel-based production house that brought series like "Homeland," "The Baker and the Beauty" and "Fauda" to U.S. audiences.
Writing and directing the series are Israel native Guy Nattiv and his wife, actress and producer Jaime Ray Newman, who together won the Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film in 2019 for "Skin."
Explaining why they chose to create a TV series based on Johnson's life, Newman said, "Julie was part of a movement of women in the 1970s, the first #MeToo movement that never took off."
The couple were intrigued by Johnson's story because before she broke into the industry, stunt jobs were performed predominantly by men, even when doubling for women. In 1978 Johnson took a job on the set of "Charlie's Angels," becoming the first woman to work as a stunt coordinator on a major television series.
During that job, she suffered a serious injury. The industry rejected her after that, spurring her to sue the producers of "Charlie’s Angels." She won the lawsuit, but her fight didn't end there. In 1977, Johnson became involved with the Screen Actors Guild's Stunt and Safety Committee, which created the first and only Stuntwomen's Survey in 1982. She was invited to present a report on stuntwomen and on the Survey to the Commission on the Status of Women in 1987.
From then on, Johnson became known for speaking out and taking action. At the Screen Actors Guild and in the stuntwomen's associations, she worked to stop "paint downs," where a stuntman's skin is painted to look like a different race; prevent men from doubling as women; improve stunt safety; ensure equal pay for stuntwomen; and open more high-paying positions like stunt coordinators to women.
As for Nattiv and Newman, the couple announced that they're preparing to shop "The Stuntwoman"
around to premium and streaming markets this month. Filming has not yet
begun, and a premiere date has not yet been set.
"We feel it’s high time the story was told," Newman said.
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