A boat performing a stunt jump for a Disney comedy hurtled off a ramp upside-down Tuesday and slammed into two other boats near a crowd of extras, killing a Woodland Hills woman working on the film and injuring four others, including her husband and his father.
Janet Wilder, 29, was struck and killed as she held the hand of her husband, Scott Wilder, one of a family of leading Hollywood stuntmen.
Scott Wilder was injured, along with his father, Glenn Wilder, and men identified as Tony Brubaker and Roy Farfel, all of Los Angeles. They were treated for minor injuries and released from Naples Community Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Pat Lukes, a friend and Woodland Hills neighbor of the Wilders, described them as an “absolutely inseparable” couple who had celebrated their third wedding anniversary earlier this month.
“She travelled with him, they mountain-biked, they skiied, they did everything together,” she said.
Janet Wilder, a former model, went on assignments with her husband and occasionally worked as an extra on his films, friends said.
“She was with the greatest group of stunt people in the business,” said a shaken Chris Fletcher, a fellow stuntman and friend of the Wilders. “She was well taken care of, but sometimes things just go wrong.”
The scene for “Gone Fishin’,” starring Joe Pesci and Danny Glover, was being filmed in the Big Cypress Swamp in the Florida Everglades. It required the boat to speed up a ramp, fly over a hedge of mangroves, land between two boats and stop in the water, said Collier County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jimmy Snell.
Instead, the boat--carrying stunt doubles for Pesci and Glover--slued off to one side of the ramp and flipped upside-down, hitting the two boats, which then hit the extras and stunt performers standing nearby.
“Unfortunately . . . the guy driving the boat hit the plywood ramp on an angle,” said witness Gary Beyrent, who was working as an extra on the set. “The boat rolled instead of slid. It was really frightening.”
Beyrent and another extra, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they saw the stuntman for Glover dangling as the boat flipped off the ramp.
“The last I saw him, he was clinging on with one hand to the boat while . . . the two legs and his other arm were straight up in the air,” the other extra said.
Beyrent said he and other extras had been concerned they were in a dangerous position for Tuesday’s shot.
“I was standing there, like everyone else, saying I think we’re a little too close for this,” he said. “We didn’t have any direction. They let us stand wherever we wanted.
“If this guy doesn’t hit this ramp right, where’s this boat going to go?” Beyrent said. “It can only go right or left of this ramp. If it went right, Joe Pesci wouldn’t be here any more.”
Pesci was not injured.
Disney offices in Burbank and on location in Florida declined to discuss the accident, but a spokeswoman for the Florida production released a statement: “Our entire crew is terribly saddened by the death of this talented performer. We extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends.”
Glenn Wilder is a longtime Hollywood stuntman who in 1970 founded Stunts Unlimited, a fraternal organization that pioneered the use of many modern-day stunt techniques. He had worked as the stunt coordinator or second unit director on such films as “Point Break,” “Witness,” “Outrageous Fortune,” “Star Trek V,” “Narrow Margin” and “Edward Scissorhands,” as well as the “Lethal Weapon” movies and “The Terminator.”
In a 1992 interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Glenn Wilder said his nose had been broken 14 times, he had received more than 300 stitches in his head, broken more ribs than he could count and been stepped on by elephants and camels.
“Glenn is very well known and very well respected, and his son is a terrific stunt guy in his own right,” said stuntman Tom Morga of Mission Hills. “There are some people who are just natural at this business, and that’s the Wilder family.”
Wilder’s 33-year-old son, Scott, started early in the family business, performing stunts for Disney movies when he was 9 years old. While working as a stunt double for Tom Hanks in the 1986 film “The Money Pit,” he fractured his pelvis doing a stair fall, but brushed off the term serious in describing his injury.
“That’s not serious,” he said at the time. “Serious is dead.”
By the age of 18, Scott Wilder was able to buy the spacious hillside home where he still lives, neighbors said. He has appeared in movies such as “Nine Months,” “Nick of Time” and “Waterworld.”
Scott and Janet Wilder met on a movie set about five years ago and “she knew that day it was him that she was going to marry,” Lukes said.
Janet Wilder liked to travel with her husband and watch him work, though she was always a bit nervous about his profession, friends said. “She was always concerned about him, but she also knew he didn’t take on more than he could handle,” Lukes said.
“She always said, ‘Scott knows what he’s doing . . . but I still worry and there’s nothing I can do about it,’ ” Lukes said, “ ‘because that’s what he’s chosen to do.’ ”
The Wilders were both looking forward to working on “Gone Fishin” because it would allow them to visit Glenn Wilder and his family, who live near Orlando, Lukes said.
“They really wanted to go to Florida to visit their family, so when this came up they thought it would be a great opportunity,” Lukes said.
Later this week they were to fly back to Woodland Hills and spend the holdiays with Janet’s parents, who were flying in from Costa Rica, Lukes said.
“I cannot say enough good things about Janet,” said another neighbor, Jayne Bartholme. “They were very, very, very happy together.”
The movie, which also stars Rosanna Arquette, Lynn Whitfield and Nick Brimble, is a about what can go wrong when two New Jersey guys, played by Pesci and Glover, win a dream fishing trip to Florida.
On Monday, the crew filmed the aftermath of the boat scene in which the boat cleared the mangrove jump and careened into a bandstand area where a bathing-suit contest was being held, Beyrent said. On Tuesday, the filming was the jump itself.
Interviewed for a story about the film Monday, director Christopher Kane said he didn’t like the way the stunt came out.
“It’s not an exact science,” he said. “This particular frame has never been done before. Most times you do a stunt it’s the first time it’s been done. You’re guessing how fast, how far.”
He said after Monday’s shooting that the boat wasn’t going fast enough, “so tomorrow it will probably go too fast and go further than we expected.”
Correspondent Nicholas Riccardi contributed to this report.