Hollywood 'body doubles' want credit for their work

September 07, 1993|By Monte Williams | Monte Williams,New York Daily News

Earlier this year, when "Today" show co-host Bryant Gumbel asked actress Anne Archer about her bedroom scene in "Body of Evidence," she acted like a school girl. Archer, giggling uncontrollably, said: "I don't know, I hit 40 and, boy, the last three movies, the sex scenes I got; life's changing, what can I tell you? Forty's wonderful."

Ms. Archer had cause to be coy. The body of evidence suggests that the Playmate-Next-Door physique in the movie belonged not to Archer, but to body double Shawn Eileen Lusader.

Though Ms. Archer's publicist declined comment, "Body of Evidence" producer Steven Deutsch has confirmed that Ms. Lusader subbed for Ms. Archer because the actress was too modest to strip.

Ms. Lusader, who caught Ms. Archer's "Today" show performance, has been angry ever since.

"Why is it acting when Anne does it and stripping when I do it?" says Ms. Lusader, 32, who came to Hollywood in 1986 to become an actress. "She gets to enhance her career using my body."

Ms. Lusader was so irked by Ms. Archer's apparent insincerity that she was moved to action.

She formed the Body of Doubles Committee, or B.O.D., an informal group of 50 women and men who are fighting for better compensation, improved working conditions and credit for screen work that Hollywood would prefer to keep under the covers.

But many in the industry say the group's protests are just a naked grab for a bit of power and money -- about six times the current day rate of $75.

The use of body doubles has been a touchy subject in Hollywood since doubles were first employed in the silent film era.

But just as their use has increased as film nudity has become more explicit in the last 25 years, so has the controversy. There have been other disputes:

-- Did Demi Moore's bikinied torso and bare legs grace the billboard for "Indecent Proposal"? Body double Amy Rochelle says it's probably hers, since she did the movie's still photography. But Ms. Moore's publicist, Heidi Schaeffer, says: "The billboard and all of the nudity in the film was Demi. Amy Rochelle wasn't even used."

So why was Ms. Rochelle on the set?

"It's standard practice to have a body double present in case an actress feels uncomfortable doing a scene," says the publicist. And, indeed, Ms. Moore, who doffed her maternity clothes for Vanity Fair magazine, has never seemed shy about nudity.

-- Remember the opening scene in "Pretty Woman," where Julia Roberts togs up in thigh-high boots and flashy bracelets for a night of illegal commerce on Hollywood Boulevard? Body double Shelley Michelle says those luscious limbs belong to her.

Ms. Roberts' publicist, Nancy Seltzer, admits that "some clothed body parts" of Ms. Michelle appeared onscreen, but, the publicist adds, "all of the nudity was Julia."

At the heart of the controversy over body doubles are long-held notions about the role of sexuality in the image-making of celebrities, especially female celebrities.

"You're trying to create an illusion and you don't want to tell the audience, 'You've just seen an illusion,'" Mr. Deutsch once explained.

Ms. Lusader points out: "Stunt doubles get credit. How many people don't go to a Schwarzenegger or Stallone movie because they use stunt doubles?"

Indeed, stunt doubles -- like dancers and singers -- are listed in movie credits. But this wasn't always the case, according to Mark Locher, a spokesman for the Screen Actors Guild, which plans to study B.O.D.'s demands. "Through organizing," he says, stunt doubles "got recognition and better compensation."

Howard Siegel, a leading entertainment attorney, doesn't think the body double/stunt double analogy holds up: "I don't know what body doubles bring to the plate other than physiological resemblance to the actress they're doubling for. Stunt people, on the other hand, have an acquired skill."

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