Jeannie Epper, Stunt Double to the Stars, Is Dead at 83


“Jeannie was bad-ass and a sweetheart,” Ms. Bell said. “A lady and one of the boys. A cowgirl and a finishing school graduate. A Christian and one of my favorite people to crack filthy jokes with.”

Jean Luann Epper was born on Jan. 27, 1941, in Glendale, Calif., and grew up in North Hollywood. Her father served in the cavalry in his native Switzerland and moved in the 1920s to Hollywood, where he opened a riding academy and trained actors who were appearing in westerns, and also where he married Frances Robertson. He got into the stunt business when he was delivering a horse to a set and ended up doing the stunt himself — the scene involved jumping the animal over a car. He taught his three girls and three boys how to ride, how to jump and, most important, how to roll and how to fall.

As a young teenager, Jeannie was sent to finishing school for a few years in Switzerland — she hated it — and when she returned, she married at just 16, became a mother and went to work.

Her marriages to Wes Fuller, Richard Spaethe and Lee Sanders ended in divorce. In addition to her daughter, who is also a stuntwoman, Ms. Epper is survived by her husband, Tim Kimack; her son, Richard; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Among her many other credits, Ms. Epper appeared in eight films produced or directed by Steven Spielberg, including “1941,” the 1979 slapstick comedy that imagines an alternate reality to what happened in the days after Pearl Harbor. Most of her family was cast in that film, too. In Ms. Micheli’s documentary, Mr. Spielberg called the Eppers “the Flying Wallendas of film” and added that in a bar fight scene in “1941,” “there were Eppers flying all over the place.”

Ms. Epper’s last role was not a stunt, exactly. In 2019, at 78, she was cast as a hostage in an episode of the ABC series “The Rookie” that involved being bound, gagged and duct-taped to a chair with a shotgun strapped to her shoulder and pointed at her head.

Debbie Evans, a much-lauded stuntwoman who said she considered Ms. Epper her “stunt mom,” drove her to the set. “It was a special day,” Ms. Evans recalled. “She was so high and happy.”



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