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Jeannie Epper, epic stuntwoman behind feats of TV's 'Wonder Woman,' dies at 83

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jeannie Epper, a groundbreaking performer who did stunts for many of the most important women of film and television action of the 1970s and '80s, including star Lynda Carter on TV's “Wonder Woman,” has died. She was 83.

Epper died of natural causes Sunday at her home in Simi Valley, California, family spokesperson Amanda Micheli told The Associated Press.

Considered one of the greatest at her craft — Entertainment Weekly in 2007 called her “the greatest stuntwoman who ever lived” — Epper came from a family dynasty of stunt performers that included both her parents, John and Frances Epper. Her 70-year career as a stuntwoman and stunt coordinator began when she was 9.

“It’s all I really know, outside of being a mom or a grandma,” Epper said in a 2004 documentary, “Double Dare,” directed by Micheli.

Her siblings, Tony, Margo, Gary, Andy and Stephanie, all also worked in stunts. Steven Spielberg called them “The Flying Wallendas of Film,” according to The Hollywood Reporter, which first reported Epper’s death.

Her children Eurlyne, Richard and Kurtis, and her grandson Christopher followed her into the stunt business.

She found it difficult to get much stunt work as a woman early on but saw a major surge in opportunity as women got more action-oriented roles in the late 1970s.

Her breakthrough role — and the one she would always be most associated with — was on “Wonder Woman.” Epper crashed through windows, kicked down doors and deflected bullets while doubling Carter on the series that ran for three seasons from 1976 to 1979 on ABC and CBS.

In the same era, she doubled Lindsay Wagner on “Bionic Woman” and Kate Jackson on the original “Charlie’s Angels.”

In the 1980s, Epper took a famous tumble down a mudslide for Kathleen Turner in “Romancing the Stone” and fought for Linda Evans in her tangles with Joan Collins on TV’s “Dynasty.”

Epper also appeared in more highbrow fare, doing the stunt driving for Shirley MacLaine when she threw Jack Nicholson from a Corvette in the 1984 best picture Oscar winner “Terms of Endearment.”

And she was a constant presence on films directed or produced by Spielberg, including 1977's “Close Encounters of the Third Kind," 1982's “Poltergeist” and 2002's “Minority Report.”

“She certainly qualifies to be one of the great stunt coordinators,” Spielberg said in “Double Dare.”

More recently, her work appeared in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” and ”The Amazing Spider-Man 2."

In 2007, she became the first woman to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Taurus World Stunt Awards.

She was the last survivor among her stunt-performer siblings. Son Kurtis also died before her.

Her survivors include husband Tim, kids Eurlyne and Richard, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.


This story has been corrected to show that “Wonder Woman” ran for only one season on ABC, and on CBS for the other two.

Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press

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