(Unlike the Golden Globes, the scripted SAG Awards show will proceed as planned because the TNT cable network worked out a waiver agreement with the striking Writers Guild of America.)
Stuntwoman Jane Austin began pushing for official recognition four years ago when she won election to SAG's national committee.
"After the Oscar people basically slammed the door in our face, I realized a lot of people don't even realize that we are members of the actors union. We're always trying to hide our faces so the stars look good." Austin has doubled for Nicole Kidman, Geena Davis, Anna Nicole Smith, Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah. Along the way, she says, "I've shattered my shoulder, I've broken my nose, my feet, my toes, fingers, my wrist, and, oh yeah, I got burned really bad once - but other than that, considering that I've been doing this 20 years, I'm in really good shape."
Describing herself as "some kind of height freak," Austin fondly remembers jumping off a 65-story building tethered to a cable, with no nets below to cushion her "descended fall." That kind of stunt require dozens of off-camera riggers, which is one reason, Austin says, that stunt ensembles rather than solo performers are being honored by SAG. "We're not there to get the personal glory or get our faces out in front," Austin says. "We're just delighted to finally be acknowledged by our peers for the work that we do. When an actor goes to work and messes up, they say, 'Take two.' When we go to work and mess up, we could end up in the emergency room."