Friday, November 04, 2011

Jeannie Epper had the inside track on those "Dynasty" catfights

For our recently released BRBTV Report on the '70s TV show "Wonder Woman," we got the chance to talk via phone to esteemed Hollywood stuntwoman Jeannie Epper, who was the primary double for Lynda Carter in that series and who was even one of the two subjects of the 2004 documentary flick "Double Dare" for that same "WW" work.

Epper comes from a big family of Hollywood actors and stunt doubles spanning four generations, and her resume certainly extends far beyond "Wonder Woman." Take "Charlie's Angels," for instance, or "The Bionic Woman," "Logan's Run," "The Rockford Files," "Beverly Hills Cop III," "Con Air," "Blade," and a ton more. And this gal, just turning 70 this year, shows no signs of slowing down. On the day we talked to her this past July, she had just done an explosion scene for CBS' "Criminal Minds." But what we talked about with  her this day was the aforementioned "Wonder Woman" ... as well as another little show that we happen to like ...

Those popular "Dynasty" catfights featuring Linda Evans as Krystle Carrington and Joan Collins as Alexis Colby were a tad more dangerous than they might have looked, you see. And Epper just happens to be the one who stepped in and spared Evans from injury. Epper tells us she got that "Dynasty" gig from having doubled for Evans on "Big Valley." Evans then asked for her in her "Dynasty" days.

Epper was with the show from the beginning and says that she handled not only the catfights but a few other things along the way.

"I did the horseback riding. Remember Rock Hudson, before they knew he had AIDS? He looked like a really old man. We were doing that horse chase. My brother Andy stunt-doubled him in the horse chase, and I was doubling her (Evans). And she rolls down the hill,and he comes down and scoops her up and kisses her. And …” Epper pauses.

“I shouldn’t really say it because it’s not my story to tell, but yes, I was there that day. She was a little worried.”

The concern was downplayed, of course, for fear of a hysteria in this just-discovered disease. “That was before they knew about saliva," Epper says. "They didn’t know so much as they know now about that disease.”

She continues, "I also did stair falls for her. You remember the episode where she fell down the stairs? I did that. But the catfights were the best. You know of all the episodes, I have in its entirety the one where Linda was fighting herself in the attic.” (Catfight No. 4, in “The Vigil,” January 22, 1986)

“That was a rough fight. That was a really really rough fight. The pond one was fun.”

So in the attic scene with the real Krystle and fake Krystle fighting, we had to ask, who was the other stuntwoman? “Donna Evans was able to come in and be the twin," Epper says. "She dated my son way, way back, in the ‘80s. She’s married now and has a family. She doubles for Anne Hathaway. We worked on ‘Princess Diaries’ together, and I doubled Julie Andrews, and she doubled Anne. She used to double Sharon Stone and lots of others. Back then, there were a lot of big actresses who were doing action stuff. Her sister Debbie does all the car work for Angelina Jolie.”

Did Epper do all of the “Dynasty” catfights involving Krystle? “I didn’t do the pillow fight." (the studio fight) "My sister did. I was on another show. I wasn’t under contract to them yet. They’d bring me in and use me when they needed me. Later they put me under contract, because they wanted the same people to double the same actresses. But in the pillow fight, it was her and a girl named Regina Parton.”



What was Linda Evans like to work with? “Just great," Epper says. "We’ve known each other since we were 19 years old because of ‘Big Valley.’ I rode horses for her on that.”

What about Joan Collins?

“I loved working with her," Epper says. "I loved to watch her because she was so amazingly old Hollywood, and to get to see that, to see that she was old Hollywood, was great. She was demanding. Linda would always calm her down. But a lot of times she was right about things too.”

She says, “There was a certain thing that went on in that period. Joan wasn’t that old. She liked me because I understood her as a woman. Things would get rough and they’d make you do what you didn’t want to do,and I didn’t do that with her. She’d be like, ‘Oh thank God, it’s Jeannie.’”

What was the biggest challenge Epper faced on “Dynasty”?

“We did a lot of fire stuff. Do you remember the one where they didn’t know which one got burned to death? He carried both of us out.”  (“The Cabin” season-ending cliffhanger, April 20, 1983) “Thank God my brother was the one doubling whoever the guy was.” (Mark Jennings) “You always have to trust people in a situation like that. Anytime you do fire, other people are there to take care of you. I never got burnt, either. ... I like to critique my own work, and I’ll sometimes think, could I have done it better. I think we did a really good job on that episode. They were trying to get it in one take. By the time it was over with, we were like, ‘Please say print!’ Then they would kinda punch in and get some little pieces. That was probably the hardest one.”

And the attic catfight, we add. Which was when George Hamilton was on the show. “Yes," she says. "He and I had to go through a plate glass window. I loved him. He was the brownest man I ever saw, and he was the nicest man. He’s just one of the old toughies, you know. But he kept his looks. Some of them, they change. They don’t look like themselves when they were younger.”

And the clothes? What about those fabulous clothes?

"All of the clothes were made by Nolan Miller. He made my clothes and her clothes, and we weren’t allowed to take them. There was one outfit where I said, ‘Can I just wear this out Saturday night,’ because I knew they were going to rip it off me the next week. And it was a no. … But boy, could he fit clothes to your body. Because they fitted me just like they fitted Linda. For somebody like me who could never afford to have someone make them outfits like that, it was something. All those clothes fitted to me. You wonder where they ended up. Probably auctioned off somewhere.”

Indeed.

You can read the full text of our interview with Jeannie Epper in the upcoming Kindle edition of the BRBTV reference guide, "Dynasty High."

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