It was on the set of the original The Fast and the Furious 20 years ago that actress Michelle Rodriguez met stunt performer Debbie Evans. Evans was hired to do all of the stunt driving for Rodriguez’s perhaps most popular character, Letty Ortiz—a street racer, mechanic and member of a professional carjacking crew.
“Michelle was awesome to work with right off the bat,” Evans tells Remezcla. “She came up and introduced herself to me and we talked about stunts and how cool they are. She’s amazing when she portrays the action and makes it look like she’s the one that’s handling it all.”
Evans burned plenty of rubber during the production of that movie but never got the opportunity to share any of those heart-pounding experiences on the road with Rodriguez—even when they reunited for a couple of sequels years later.
In the documentary Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story, we see Rodriguez take the passenger’s seat with Evans behind the wheel for the very first time. Holding on tight, Rodriguez smiles as they speed down Evans’ neighborhood streets in her 1991 Nissan 240SX. The Dominican/Puerto Rican actress gives her stuntwoman a round of applause when the sportscar finally comes to a screeching halt.
“When I was in the car with her, I thought ‘What would my life have been like if I had motorcycle training when I was six years old like she did?’” Rodriguez says. “I trust her with my life. It’s her skill set and determination that I admire.”
There is no shortage of skill and determination in any of the stunt performers featured in Stuntwomen. Narrated by Rodriguez, the film introduces viewers to some of the stuntwomen in Hollywood who put their lives on the line to create electrifying scenes in TV shows like DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as blockbusters like Captain Marvel, Speed and Kill Bill.
This includes Evans, who is considered one of the best stunt performers in the industry. During her 43-year-long career, she has worked on nearly 400 film and TV projects.
She compares Rodriguez to actresses she has worked with in the past. Specifically Stephanie Zimbalist in the 1980s TV series Remington Steele and actress Linda Hamilton in the 1991 action sci-fi movie Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Both of those actresses, Evans says, are able to meet a lot of the physical demands of a role on their own.
“I think if [Michelle] had put her mind to being a stunt person, she would’ve made a really good one.” Evans said. “She has that go-for-it attitude, but she also thinks things through. [The stunt industry] doesn’t want people who are crazy and don’t prepare and self-destruct. We need people that we can rely on and put our faith in.”
Rodriguez said she, too, can imagine herself as that person. Since making her film debut as a boxer in the 2000 sports drama Girlfight, the 42-year-old actress has built a strong reputation for herself by taking on physically demanding roles in movies like S.W.A.T., Machete and Avatar.
“I just think it’s more fun,” Rodriguez said. “That’s just my personal taste. I prefer to be active than do the psychological and political stuff you do as an actress.”
Aside from Evans, the Latina actress also worked with Heidi Moneymaker on Fast & Furious films, Megan Abubo in Blue Crush, Lisa Holye in Battle Los Angeles and Olivia Bird in Widows and many others.
“All I do are action movies, so every single one I’ve done has had stuntwomen,” Rodriguez said. “The team is huge.”
Rodriguez adds that the women’s empowerment movement that has continued across the nation over the last four years has also impacted the stunt industry in Hollywood. After the success of Wonder Woman in 2017, everyone seemed to start taking notice. Rodriguez considers it a “wake-up call.”
“It was like, ‘Wait a minute. Half of the world is made up of women and they like action movies, too! Let’s start making movies for them as well!’” she said. “It’s like, ‘C’mon guys. McFly, your shoe’s untied!’”
Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story hits VOD platforms on September 22.