Double Dare Documentary - Lucy Lawless and Zoe Bell
In the early days of cinema, stuntmen in wigs and dresses commonly doubled for female stars. But even before they could vote, a few pioneering stuntwomen walked the wings of mid-flight airplanes and rode the plains of early Westerns. Contrary to the cliche of the damsel in distress on the railroad tracks, the heroines of early action serials were actually not helpless at all. The Perils of Pauline and The Hazards of Helen showcased female protagonists in constant action, and--while much of the doubling was done by men--this is how the first stuntwomen got their start. These were Jeannie Epper's mentors.
In 1968, Jeannie and twenty other women formed the Stuntwomen's Association of Motion Pictures (SWAMP), unifying the top women in the industry to improve hiring and working conditions in Hollywood. At that time, men outnumbered women in the stunt world at about 5 to 1, and stuntmen still doubled for female actresses. SWAMP fought to improve their image as capable and talented stuntees that deserved the respect and consideration of stunt coordinators. Because hiring in the stunt world has always been done by a close network of male coordinators, the women need to be "one of the guys" to have a fighting chance. On the other end of the spectrum, some women have experienced unwanted sexual advances or expectations from those doing the hiring. In a profession where a single personal relationship can make or break you, fighting sexual harassment is a risk many women are not willing to take. In addition, middle-aged stuntmen can often make the transition to stunt coordinating to stay in the field without "taking the hits", but few experienced stuntwomen get this opportunity. They must continue to hit the ground, competing with younger women for the few jobs available.
Twenty years after the success of Wonder Woman, Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi developed the concept for Xena: Warrior Princess despite the inevitable challenge of convincing the studios to gamble on a new female action hero. The most powerful influence on Xena was Hong Kong cinema, with its impressive martial arts stunts and strong female characters. Tapert was a fan of one film in particular, The Bride with White Hair, starring Brigitte Lin. Lin portrayed a fierce and powerful warrior-witch, embodying a complexity rare in Hollywood's "female" stories. Although Hong Kong audiences wouldn't bat an eye, Xena was a risky character by American standards -- not only powerful, but bad. She had to redeem herself for the audience, and constantly struggle with her evil past. Casting Lucy Lawless was another risky decision. Lawless was an unknown New Zealand actress, and -- towering at almost 6 feet tall -- not your classic beauty. She was physical, intense, and possibly threatening to male viewers. But she succeeded beyond expectations; within two years she was the hero of a top-rated action show in America. After six seasons on the air, Xena wrapped for good in the Spring of 2001, which leaves her fans in misery and her stunt double, Zoe, without a job.
Many thanks to the Official Double Dare Site for the above information