The cast and crew of Deadpool 2, and indeed the wider film industry at large, were left in a state of shock last week following the sudden death of stuntwoman Joi “SJ” Harris in Vancouver, Canada, who was killed when an on-set motorcycle stunt went horribly, horribly wrong.
Ryan Reynolds, a Vancouver native and the title star of David Leitch’s 2018 sequel, expressed his condolences in a heartfelt statement, stating that Joi’s passing had left him “heartbroken, shocked and devastated.” It’s believed that Joi Harris, an experienced road racer, was doubling for Domino (Zazie Beetz) at the time of the accident, and came off her motorcycle after multiple takes of the same scene. Investigations are still underway, but The Hollywood Reporter has now brought to light some pretty disturbing and concerning details on what went down, and as it turns out, this all could have been avoided.
According to the outlet, in the days leading up to the stunt, the crew was “growing increasingly agitated and nervous about the potential for something to go wrong.” As we know, Deadpool 2 was Harris’ first film and though she was a professional racer, she’d never performed stunts before. Fox was insistent on having her involved though simply because she was a “believable stand-in for Zazie Beetz” and though several crew members tried to warn the producers that she didn’t have the experience to pull off what was being asked of her, they were ignored.
“She was improving, but I was watching her and, oh my God, I thought, ‘It’s just a matter of time before she crashes into a wall or runs somebody over,’” says one of the stun performers working on the film.
Conrad Palmisano, a veteran stunt coordinator and second unit director, said that the producers were putting pressure on the crew to have Harris do the stunt and ultimately, they caved.
“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.”
What’s more is that Harris had already crashed the bike twice while rehearsing for the stunt and she also wasn’t the first person hired to perform it. Someone else was originally going to do the stunt but wasn’t able to execute it properly, which is why the studio called in Harris, despite knowing that she wasn’t experienced enough.
“I cringed every time she went out,” says one of the crew members who’d been working with Harris, “Like, when is she going to crash?”
Both Fox and director David Leitch have declined to comment on these allegations, but they paint a very worrying picture of what really went down on the set of Deadpool 2 and though the film is now back in production, it’s clear that the investigation into this accident is far from over. As always, watch this space for more.