DOUBLE DARE (2004) is a double-barreled, action-packed documentary about two Hollywood stuntwomen in male-dominated Tinseltown who struggle to stay working, stay thin, and stay sane.
As the stuntwomen for Wonder Woman and Xena: Warrior Princess, Jeannie Epper and Zoë Bell are Hollywood’s anonymous heroes, taking the hits that make actors into stars. DOUBLE DARE (2004) explores the lives of Epper and Bell as they face the challenges of a dangerous and male-dominated profession. The real women behind these two world-famous icons are at drastically different crossroads in their lives: Epper, a grandmother, struggles with the aging process and Hollywood’s dearth of older female roles as Bell, a young woman, is unaware of the feminist history that has preceded her in the notoriously macho stunt industry.
Hollywood remains one of America’s oldest boy’s clubs. Today, women direct only four percent of major Hollywood releases, while actresses over the age of 30 are considered “over the hill” and must maintain supermodel-type bodies in order to stay competitive for roles. The stunt community is perhaps the most macho of all the Hollywood industries, with the highest unemployment rate to boot. Director Amanda Micheli was inspired to make DOUBLE DARE (2004) after meeting several stuntwomen and hearing about their challenges in working in the stunt industry: having to prove themselves to directors, struggling with near-impossible beauty standards and fighting to be promoted to the higher position of stunt coordinator.
In Hollywood’s early days, stuntmen in wigs and dresses commonly doubled for female stars. But 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 cliché of the damsel in distress on the railroad tracks, the heroines of early action serials were not helpless. The Perils of Pauline and The Hazards of Helen showcased female protagonists in constant action, and—while men did much of the doubling—this is how the first stuntwomen got their start.
When Epper becomes a mentor for Bell, these two women from opposite sides of the world and opposite ends of their careers find a way to survive in the industry together. DOUBLE DARE (2004) is a portrait of these doubles for Wonder Woman and Xena, doubles for each other, and doubles for the average American woman struggling against the race of time.