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"People are afraid to speak out": mother of stuntman killed while filming says Hollywood covers up safety problems like it does sexual harassment

Susan Bernecker says the same culture of silence that allowed the Harvey Weinstein scandal to happen exists in the world of stunt safety

Published: Wednesday, 10th January 2018 at 11:41 am

The mother of a stunt performer killed on the set of US TV drama The Walking Dead says Hollywood covers up unsafe working conditions like it did sexual harassment.


Susan Bernecker, whose son John Bernecker died filming a stunt for the zombie series last July, says such performers are subject to the same code of silence as victims of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

“If you take out the word ‘sex’ and put in ‘safety,’ it’s the same thing,” Bernecker told Deadline. “This is parallel in my mind. There are the same pressures and the same risks. People are afraid to speak out because they’re afraid they’ll never work again or that they’ll be looked down upon.

“I’m friends with 50 or 60 stunt people […] They’re like my adopted children, and I heard this all the time.”

Bernecker claims female stunt performers were also the victims of harassment too: “Stunt women have told me about being put in sexual harassment positions to get a job. I had two girls tell me about that in the last year.”

Stalwart films, the production company behind The Walking Dead, was fined $12,675 for failing to protect its stunt performer, but Bernecker has said this is too small a figure for Hollywood to take seriously.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” she said. “I mean, they spend that much on food for the crew for two days. If this was half a million dollars, it would get their attention. But $12,000 isn’t going to get anyone’s attention.”

Speaking about her son's death, she said: “There’s nothing worse than having your child die. You lose your future, especially if you have only one child. I’m not going to be a grandmother now. You lose your future. It’s not a natural progression of life. I go through this every day.”


John Bernecker, who was 33 when he died, completed 93 stunts in major productions during his career, including Logan, Get Out and the upcoming Black Panther movie.


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