If your mother saw you standing on the edge of a roof, what would she do? Tell you to come down? Cry? Call 911? Matt Epper’s mother did none of those things. She yelled, “Just jump, Matt! Come on! . . . Just kick your legs out and fly!”
Ten-year-old Matt Epper fl ew. He sped toward the ground, landed on a giant airbag, and got up with a big
smile on his face. His mother, Eurlyne Epper, smiled too. Matt was now part of a family of stunt workers.
The Eppers have been doing stunts in movies for more than 80 years. Matt’s great-grandfather did horse stunts in silent movies. His grandmother, Jeannie Epper, won awards for her movie stunts. His mother, Eurlyne, has done stunts in more than 40 movies. Matt’s older sister and brother are already stunt workers. In one scene in the 2007 movie Transformers, a bus is ripped apart. Matt’s uncle Richard was driving that bus.
People go into stunt work for many different reasons. For the Eppers, stunt work is a family tradition. Other
people use special skills they have learned to get into the exciting business of making movies.
Cowboys, Athletes, and Soldiers
Some of the fi rst stunt workers were cowboys and rodeo riders. Movie studios hired them to train and care for horses. Eventually, the cowboys started doing stunts. They roped cattle, rode horses down cliffs, and jumped from one horse to another. It was a lot like their regular work.
No Room for Fear
Stunt worker Hal Needham was once asked if he was afraid while doing stunts. “Is there fear? No, there isn’t,” he said. “Now, I’ve made mistakes. I’ve broken 56 bones in my body, and each one was a mistake. But when we do stunts, there’s just no room for fear.”
Other people use their athletic skills to get a job in the movie business. Michele Waitman was a gymnast
when she was in college. She says, “I got into stunts by auditioning for the Indiana Jones Stunt Show at Disney . . . Studios. I received incredible training there.” Since then, Waitman has done stunts for Spider-Man 3 and the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Jason Gray spent four years in the U.S Air Force. He was a security specialist, so he learned a lot about weapons. Since moving to Hollywood, he has done stunts in TV shows and movies including The Mist and The Patriot.
Stunt worker Debbie Evans turned childhood fun into a job. “I was a tomboy,” she says, “the best at riding
skateboards and bikes. Now I like riding motorcycles, riding them fast.” Evans has done motorcycle stunts in more than 200 movies and TV shows. She has won four Taurus World Stunt Awards.
Dangers of Piracy
Tony Angelotti was the stunt double for Johnny Depp in all three Pirates of the Caribbean movies. In the second fi lm, Dead Man’s Chest, he was badly injured doing a stunt fall. He nearly died. After three surgeries, Angelotti recovered. He came back to do stunts for the third movie.
A League of Their Own
The movie A League of Their Own is about the women’s professional baseball league that was formed in 1943. The league began play during World War II. At that time, many men, including professional baseball players, were in the armed forces. Some people then thought that women could not play high-quality baseball, but the
players proved them wrong. The league was very popular with fans and continued for a number of years after World War II ended in 1945.
Some actors want to do their own stunts. Geena Davis did her own sword fi ghts and underwater work for the pirate movie Cutthroat Island. Davis also played all her own baseball scenes in A League of Their Own.
Harrison Ford was 65 years old when he starred in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Ford
did nearly all of his own stunts. He calls it “physical acting.” Ford says, “I have picked up plenty of bumps,
bruises, and cuts over the years.” Why does he do it? “I think it’s very important that the audience be able to see expressions,” Ford says. They can’t see an actor’s face if he is using a stunt double.