SAG-AFTRA presidential candidate and veteran stuntman Pete Antico has blasted union leadership for failure to provide protection to the stunt community.
Antico issued a blistering statement to Variety on Tuesday, a day after the death of stuntwoman Joi “SJ” Harris on the set of “Deadpool 2” and a month after John Bernecker’s death on “The Walking Dead” set. Antico said both deaths are tragic.
“The stunt coordinators on those sets have vast experience tenure and are at the top of their game,” he said. “We have not received much information regarding the details of the incidents; however, I do know that the stunt community is not protected in our collective bargaining agreement and has not been for years. There are no qualifications for a stunt coordinator in our collective bargaining agreement. There never was. That is unconscionable. A producer can hire anyone who says they are a coordinator and most of the time you get what you pay for.”
Antico noted that there are no ambulances required on a set when action is being performed — a provision that he contends should be mandatory. And he has been alleging that changes in travel provisions in the recently ratified contract are problematic, pointing to president Gabrielle Carteris and national exec director David White.
“I can’t believe our current leadership under Gabrielle Carteris and David White gutted all safety out of our contract and actually pushed ratifying a deal that is a recipe for many more accidents and future deaths,” Antico said. “The rest periods given away in the travel provisions of our contract that was in full force for over 50 years have been given away. This means they can bring actors and stunt people in with a 10-hour rest period instead of a 12-hour rest period and coordinators who generally work 14- to 15-hour days on film and TV will not get the rest they need to ensure safety on the set.”
Antico said that coordinators are often prepping action in advance, many times with complex rigging involved in film, or with multiple TV shows in advance, resulting in turnaround times as short as nine hours.
“This practice is unsafe,” Antico said. “This lack of rest affects actors and the crew alike and is unacceptable and I am asking the labor commissioner to get involved.”
SAG-AFTRA issued a statement Monday in response to Harris’ death: “We are all grieving the tragic death of a stunt performer on the ‘Deadpool 2’ set today. Our hearts and prayers are with her family, friends and fellow cast and crew members. The safety of our members and other production professionals on set is a core concern and top priority for SAG-AFTRA. Accordingly, we are sending a field representative to Vancouver and are investigating the incident.”
Antico has received endorsements from Sylvester Stallone, Cuba Gooding Jr., Mickey Rourke, and Andrew Dice Clay, and asserts that he received the backing from the actors because they understand “the value of human life above all things, as well as ethics, principles, and honest business practices.”
Antico added that the government should intervene: “I am calling on the government to get involved to protect all members in our labor organization. I believe our current contract to be grossly negligent in the field of safety and feel that appropriate charges should be filed to protect us.”
Antico has been a longtime critic of SAG-AFTRA’s elected leadership and its executive staff. He has credits on dozens of films, including “Pearl Harbor,” “Danny Collins,” “Daredevil,” “Training Day,” “Monster Trucks,” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
Antico is one of five candidates seeking the post along with current president Carteris, national board member Esai Morales, and independents Robert B. Martin Jr. and Marilyn Monrovia. Ballots went out last month to about 144,000 members and must be returned by Aug. 24.