Sandra Gimpel

Stuntwoman / Stunt Coordinator


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her three-and-a-half-hour interview, Sandra Gimpel talks about growing up in Los Angeles and the influence her father, a gymnast, had on her, including inspiring her early interest in fitness and dance. She talks about beginning her professional career as a dancer, and how she came to dance in fifteen Elvis Presley movies. Gimpel describes the experience of working with Elvis, including the time that the casts spent together off-set. She then discusses how she came to work in stunts, first as Bill Mumy’s stunt double on Lost in Space, and then as a Talosian and the Salt Vampire on episodes of the original Star Trek series. For Star Trek, she talks about working with William Shatner, how she functioned in the costumes for both parts, and on the on-going fan reaction to her role, especially as the Salt Vampire. She then discusses working on The Bionic Woman as Jennifer Darling’s stunt double, including a typical day on the set and a few notable stunts she performed on the show. She talks about being the stunt coordinator on Mrs. Columbo, and how she also became second unit director on that series. Gimpel goes into detail about the work second unit directors and stunt coordinators do, and shares stories from various projects she has worked on, including “The Truman Show”, “Norbit”, “Airplane!” (the famous Girl Scout fight), and Seinfeld. She talks about near-misses and accidents on set, and gives her opinion on the fatal accident on the set of the 1983 “Twilight Zone” movie (though she did not work on that project). Throughout, she emphasizes the importance of safety on set, the work she does to prevent accidents, and the important safety lessons she has learned throughout her career. She concludes by giving advice to aspiring stunt performers and sharing her proudest career achievement. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on August 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, CA.

"Paul Stader looked at me and said, 'So, have you ever thought about doing stunts?' And I swear to you, I looked at him and said, 'What’s a stunt?' And he went, 'It’s when somebody falls down or somebody has to fall out of a window or somebody gets beat up… Would you be willing to do that, if we trained you?' And I went, 'Sure, that sounds like fun!'"

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Sandra Gimpel on playing the Salt Vampire on the Star Trek episode "The Man Trap", and on the challenges of the costume for the part
Sandra Gimpel on appearing as a dancer in fifteen Elvis Presley movies
Sandra Gimpel on how she came to be Bill Mumy's stunt double and stand-in on Lost in Space
Sandra Gimpel on the community of stunt performers when she started out in the business, and on the most importance advice she got from early mentors
Sandra Gimpel on working with directors as a stunt coordinator, and on working with Jim Carrey on a stunt he wanted to perform in "The Truman Show" (where she was a stunt performer, not the coordinator on set)
Sandra Gimpel on her proudest career achievement: being the first stuntwoman to get her DGA card as a director, and on some enjoyable jobs throughout her career
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her childhood in Los Angeles and on her early interest in dance, including a job performing at Pacific Ocean Park; on her first big job in the industry: as a dancer in a Fred Astaire movie; on appearing on teen dance show Dance Party, hosted by Wink Martindale
On appearing as a dancer in fifteen Elvis movies; on her impressions of Elvis and staying in touch with him after she stopped appearing in his movies; on the process of shooting dance scenes for Elvis movies; on how she came to be Bill Mumy's stunt double and stand-in on Lost in Space; on learning to do stunts on Lost in Space
On bringing her daughter to the set of Lost in Space; on how much she learned on the set of Lost in Space, and on the centrality of being a stunt performer to her identity; on working with Lost in Space stunt coordinator Paul Stader on a number of shows and movies; on the stunt community when she first started in the business and the fact that most stunt performers were men at the time; on how her background as a dancer helped her as a stunt performer
On the first stunt she ever did, on Lost in Space, and on the kinds of stunts she did on that show; on the importance of emulating actors' movements and walk when doubling for them; on working with Bill Mumy on Lost in Space; on the advantage her small stature gave her when she was starting out as a stunt performer; on the end of Lost in Space, and on focusing on stunts post-Lost in Space; on doing workout videos with Billy Blanks, and on other pursuits she has had, including interior decorating and a clothing line; on how she came to appear on Star Trek

Chapter 2

On appearing as a Talosian in the original pilot episode of Star Trek, and on appearing as the Salt Vampire in the episode "The Man Trap"; on working with William Shatner on "The Man Trap", and on her costume and makeup as the Salt Vampire; on a makeup mishap on the Planet of the Apes; television series; on the enduring popularity of Star Trek
On Star Trek fans' reaction to her, and on the impact of Star Trek on its fans; on how she came to work on The Bionic Woman, and on a mishap with a stunt she performed on the show; on "sugar glass", which is used for stunt performers to be able to go through glass; on the idea of actors "doing their own stunts"
On how she handles actors wanting to do their own stunts as the stunt coordinator on set, and on working with directors as the stunt coordinator; on working through a stunt with Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show"; on working with Shirley MacLaine and Debbie Reynolds on These Old Broads; on various stunts she performed on The Bionic Woman, and on a mishap with a stunt on the show
On a near-fatal accident during a stunt she performed on Bring 'Em Back Alive, and on the importance of safety on set; on an accident on a set when she had to jump from a building
On how much she rehearses a stunt before performing it on film; on an accident during a stunt she performed in a Kellogg's cereal commercial; on how she became a stunt coordinator and second unit director on Mrs. Columbo

Chapter 3

On what a stunt coordinator does and what a second unit director does; on how the stunt coordinator works with the second unit director on set; on whether the second unit director can insert their own sense of style into the work; on how she learned about directing, starting on the set of Lost in Space
On her first job as a second unit director, on Mrs. Columbo; on her thoughts on the fatal accident that happened during the filming of a stunt on the 1983 "The Twilight Zone" movie (she did not work on that project); on whether accidents like the one on the set of "The Twilight Zone" have led to changes in safety standards in the industry; on the importance of speaking up about safety, even at the risk of losing her job, and on an accident on the set of Other World
On stunts she won't perform, including her dislike of motorcycle stunts; on the most dangerous stunt she's performed, and on injuries she's sustained; on not having a speciality as a stunt performer, and on how the equipment stunt performers use has changed over time, especially for women
On calling for a redo of a stunt when she's acting as second unit director; on what makes a good stunt performer; on each stunt person havign an individual style; on her friendship and working relationship with Beau Bridges, and on working on Harts of the West
On stunt coordinating and performing stunts on Seinfeld; on doubling for Cloris Leachman on various shows; on then-current projects, and on doing more acting, in addition to stunts; on the difference between performing stunts for television versus film

Chapter 4

On the Girls Scout fight in the movie "Airplane!"; on working with stunt coordinator Conrad Palmisano; on what she likes about doing stunts; on how stunt work has changed since she started in the industry; on legendary stunt performers, and on her mentors
On the value of oral histories; on advice to aspiring stunt performers; on her proudest career achievement, and on some fun jobs throughout her career; on not having any career regrets; on how she would like to be remembered
Shows

Bionic Woman, The

View Show Page
Sandra Gimpel on how she came to be Jennifer Darling's stunt double on The Bionic Woman, and on playing Fembots on the show
Sandra Gimpel on a mishap with a stunt she performed on The Bionic Woman
Sandra Gimpel on Jennifer Darling, for whom she performed stunts on The Bionic Woman
Sandra Gimpel on a typical day on set as a stunt performer on The Bionic Woman, and on various stunts she performed on the show, as well as a stunt mishap

Bring 'Em Back Alive

View Show Page
Sandra Gimpel on a near fatal accident during a stunt she performed on the show Bring 'Em Back Alive, and on the importance of safety on set and double checking the set up before performing stunts

Harts of the West

View Show Page
Sandra Gimpel on being the stunt coordinator and second unit director on Harts of the West with Beau Bridges, and on her feelings about Westerns

Lost in Space

View Show Page
Sandra Gimpel on how she came to be Bill Mumy's stunt double and stand-in on Lost in Space
Sandra Gimpel on being Bill Mumy's stunt double and stand-in on Lost in Space
Sandra Gimpel on how she learned how to do stunts while working on Lost in Space
Sandra Gimpel on being Billy Mumy's stand-in on Lost in Space and how much she learned while working on the show
Sandra Gimpel on what she learned about being a stunt performer from Lost in Space's stunt coordinator Paul Stader, and on working on mutliple shows and movies with Stader following Lost in Space
Sandra Gimpel on the first stunt she ever did, on Lost in Space, and on other stunts she performed on the show as Bill Mumy's stunt double and stand-in
Sandra Gimpel on her schedule when she was Bill Mumy's stunt double and stand-in on Lost in Space, on the kinds of stunts she did on the show, and on working with the stunt coordinator on the show
Sandra Gimpel on working with Bill Mumy when she was his stunt double and stand-in on Lost in Space
Sandra Gimpel on her hair and wardrobe when she was Bill Mumy's stunt double and stand-in on Lost in Space
Sandra Gimpel on how she found out Lost in Space was cancelled

Mrs. Columbo

View Show Page
Sandra Gimpel on how she became the stunt coordinator on Mrs. Columbo, as well as second unit director
Sandra Gimpel on her first job as second unit director (along with stunt coordinator), on Mrs. Columbo

Planet of the Apes

View Show Page
Sandra Gimpel on a makeup mishap she had when she was performing stunts on the Planet of the Apes television series

Seinfeld

View Show Page
Sandra Gimpel on doing stunt coordinating and performing stunts on Seinfeld, including on the episode "The Fire"

Star Trek

View Show Page
Sandra Gimpel on how her job as Bill Mumy's stunt double on Lost in Space led to her appearing on Star Trek
Sandra Gimpel on how she came to work on Star Trek, appearing in the first filmed episode, "The Cage", as a Talosian, and on her costume for that role
Sandra Gimpel on playing a Talosian in the original pilot episode of Star Trek, "The Cage", and on being the Salt Vampire in the episode "The Man Trap"
Sandra Gimpel on the experience of wearing the costume as a Talosian on the Star Trek episode "The Cage"
Sandra Gimpel on playing the Salt Vampire in the Star Trek episode "The Man Trap", and on the challenges of the costume for the part
Sandra Gimpel on working with William Shatner on the Star Trek episode "The Man Trap"
Sandra Gimpel on her costume and makeup as the Salt Vampire on the Star Trek episode "The Man Trap"
Sandra Gimpel on working with director Marc Daniels on Star Trek, on the experience of working on Star Trek, and on Gene Roddenberry's brilliance
Sandra Gimpel on Star Trek fans' reaction to her, as the person who portrayed the Salt Vampire, and on the impact of Star Trek on its fans
Sandra Gimpel on performing stunts on Star Trek as a crew member
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Sandra Gimpel on what makes a good stunt performer
Sandra Gimpel on advice to aspiring stunt performers

Classic TV series episodes

View Topic
Sandra Gimpel on playing the Salt Vampire on the Star Trek episode "The Man Trap"

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Sandra Gimpel on how she learned the technical side of directing, starting on the set of Lost in Space
Sandra Gimpel on her mentors in the stunt profession

Diversity in Television

View Topic
Sandra Gimpel on how she became a stunt coordinator in the 1970s and the fact that women were mostly not stunt coordinators at the time, and on becoming second unit director, as well as stunt coordinator on Mrs. Columbo
Sandra Gimpel on how the equipment used by stunt performers has changed over time, especially for women, who oftentimes in the past could not wear padding because it was so bulky and too visible under costumes

Drama

View Topic
Sandra Gimpel on playing the Salt Vampire on the Star Trek episode "The Man Trap"

First Big Break

View Topic
Sandra Gimpel on her first big job: as a dancer in the Fred Astaire movie "The Pleasure of His Company"

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Sandra Gimpel on how she became a stunt coordinator in the 1970s and the fact that women were mostly not stunt coordinators at the time, and on becoming second unit director, as well as stunt coordinator on Mrs. Columbo
Sandra Gimpel on how the equipment used by stunt performers has changed over time, especially for women, who oftentimes in the past could not wear padding because it was so bulky and too visible under costumes

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Sandra Gimpel on her first big job: as a dancer in the Fred Astaire movie "The Pleasure of His Company"
Sandra Gimpel on how she came to be cast as Bill Mumy's stunt double on Lost in Space, changing her career trajectory from dance to stunts
Sandra Gimpel on how she learned the technical side of directing, starting on the set of Lost in Space
Sandra Gimpel on her mentors in the stunt profession

Pop Culture

View Topic
Sandra Gimpel on playing the Salt Vampire on the Star Trek episode "The Man Trap"
Sandra Gimpel on performing the stunts for the Girl Scout fight in the movie "Airplane!"

Television Industry

View Topic
Sandra Gimpel on what makes a good stunt performer
Sandra Gimpel on advice to aspiring stunt performers

Women

View Topic
Sandra Gimpel on how she became a stunt coordinator in the 1970s and the fact that women were mostly not stunt coordinators at the time, and on becoming second unit director, as well as stunt coordinator on Mrs. Columbo
Sandra Gimpel on how the equipment used by stunt performers has changed over time, especially for women, who oftentimes in the past could not wear padding because it was so bulky and too visible under costumes
Professions

Directors

View Profession
Sandra Gimpel on what a stunt coordinator does and what a second unit director does, and how it worked when she was acting as both on set
Sandra Gimpel on how the sunt coordinator works with the second unit director on set
Sandra Gimpel on acting as a second unit director and whether she could insert her own style into the show or film: "get what the director wants and then you can do what you want"
Sandra Gimpel on redoing stunts when she is acting as second unit director

Performers

View Profession
Sandra Gimpel on how she learned to do stunts on Lost in Space, on which she was Bill Mumy's stunt double and stand-in
Sandra Gimpel on the community of stunt performers when she started out in the business, and on the most importance advice she got from early mentors
Sandra Gimpel on the fact that most stunt performers were men when she started out in the business
Sandra Gimpel on how her background as a dancer helped her when she became a stunt performer
Sandra Gimpel on the importance of emulating actors' movements and walk when doubling for them
Sandra Gimpel on why her small stature was advantageous when she became a stunt performer
Sandra Gimpel on "sugar glass", which is made of resin and used for stunt performers to be able go break through glass windows, and other forms of breakable glass used for stunt performers
Sandra Gimpel on the idea of actors "doing their own stunts": "99% of the actors have a stunt double...it's not that the actor can't do the stunt, it's not smart to let them do the stunt"
Sandra Gimpel on how she handled an actor wanting to their own stunts when she was the stunt coordinator on set
Sandra Gimpel on working with directors as a stunt coordinator, and on working with Jim Carrey on a stunt he wanted to perform in "The Truman Show" (where she was a stunt performer, not the coordinator on set)
Sandra Gimpel on a near fatal accident during a stunt she performed on the show Bring 'Em Back Alive, and on the importance of safety on set and double checking the set up before performing stunts
Sandra Gimpel on an accident when she was performing a stunt where she had to jump off a building, and on how she tries to ensure safety on sets
Sandra Gimpel on how much she rehearses a stunt before performing it on film, and on an accident that happened while she was performing a stunt in a Kellogg's cereal commercial
Sandra Gimpel on what a stunt coordinator does and what a second unit director does, and how it worked when she was acting as both on set
Sandra Gimpel on how the sunt coordinator works with the second unit director on set
Sandra Gimpel on her thoughts on the fatal accident that happened during the filming of a stunt on the 1983 "The Twilight Zone" movie (she did not work on that project), and on an incident when she insisted a director not shoot a stunt due to dangerous circumstances
Sandra Gimpel on whether accidents like the one on the set of "The Twilight Zone" movie have led to changes in safety standards in the industry
Sandra Gimpel on speaking out about the safety of a stunt, even at the risk of losing a job, but the fact that not everyone can or will speak up for fear of losing a gig, and on an accident on the set of Other World where she was acting as stunt coordinator
Sandra Gimpel on stunts she won't perform, including her dislike of motorcycles, and on how she handles it when the on-set set ups don't meet her expectations
Sandra Gimpel on the most dangerous stunt she's performed, and on the closest calls in her career
Sandra Gimpel on injuries she's sustained while performing stunts
Sandra Gimpel on insurance coverage for stunt performers
Sandra Gimpel on not having a speciality as a stunt performer, but being able to perform many different kinds of stunts, and on how the equipment stunt performers use has changed over time especially for women
Sandra Gimpel on redoing stunts when she is acting as second unit director
Sandra Gimpel on what makes a good stunt performer
Sandra Gimpel on each stunt person having an indvidual style, and on why Taekwondo is a good style for fighting on-camera
Sandra Gimpel on being the stunt coordinator and second unit director on Harts of the West with Beau Bridges, and on her feelings about Westerns
Sandra Gimpel on performing stunts for television versus film: "television's much faster... features, they take their time"
Sandra Gimpel on what she likes about doing stunts, and on not know she would end up as a stunt performer when she was starting out
Sandra Gimpel on how stunt work has changed since she started in the industry
Sandra Gimpel on advice for aspiring stunt performers

Stunt Performer/Stunt Supervisor/Stunt Coordinator

View Profession
Sandra Gimpel on how she learned to do stunts on Lost in Space, on which she was Bill Mumy's stunt double and stand-in
Sandra Gimpel on the community of stunt performers when she started out in the business, and on the most importance advice she got from early mentors
Sandra Gimpel on the fact that most stunt performers were men when she started out in the business
Sandra Gimpel on how her background as a dancer helped her when she became a stunt performer
Sandra Gimpel on the importance of emulating actors' movements and walk when doubling for them
Sandra Gimpel on why her small stature was advantageous when she became a stunt performer
Sandra Gimpel on "sugar glass", which is made of resin and used for stunt performers to be able go break through glass windows, and other forms of breakable glass used for stunt performers
Sandra Gimpel on the idea of actors "doing their own stunts": "99% of the actors have a stunt double...it's not that the actor can't do the stunt, it's not smart to let them do the stunt"
Sandra Gimpel on how she handled an actor wanting to their own stunts when she was the stunt coordinator on set
Sandra Gimpel on working with directors as a stunt coordinator, and on working with Jim Carrey on a stunt he wanted to perform in "The Truman Show" (where she was a stunt performer, not the coordinator on set)
Sandra Gimpel on a near fatal accident during a stunt she performed on the show Bring 'Em Back Alive, and on the importance of safety on set and double checking the set up before performing stunts
Sandra Gimpel on an accident when she was performing a stunt where she had to jump off a building, and on how she tries to ensure safety on sets
Sandra Gimpel on how much she rehearses a stunt before performing it on film, and on an accident that happened while she was performing a stunt in a Kellogg's cereal commercial
Sandra Gimpel on what a stunt coordinator does and what a second unit director does, and how it worked when she was acting as both on set
Sandra Gimpel on how the sunt coordinator works with the second unit director on set
Sandra Gimpel on her thoughts on the fatal accident that happened during the filming of a stunt on the 1983 "The Twilight Zone" movie (she did not work on that project), and on an incident when she insisted a director not shoot a stunt due to dangerous circumstances
Sandra Gimpel on whether accidents like the one on the set of "The Twilight Zone" movie have led to changes in safety standards in the industry
Sandra Gimpel on speaking out about the safety of a stunt, even at the risk of losing a job, but the fact that not everyone can or will speak up for fear of losing a gig, and on an accident on the set of Other World where she was acting as stunt coordinator
Sandra Gimpel on stunts she won't perform, including her dislike of motorcycles, and on how she handles it when the on-set set ups don't meet her expectations
Sandra Gimpel on the most dangerous stunt she's performed, and on the closest calls in her career
Sandra Gimpel on injuries she's sustained while performing stunts
Sandra Gimpel on insurance coverage for stunt performers
Sandra Gimpel on not having a speciality as a stunt performer, but being able to perform many different kinds of stunts, and on how the equipment stunt performers use has changed over time especially for women
Sandra Gimpel on redoing stunts when she is acting as second unit director
Sandra Gimpel on what makes a good stunt performer
Sandra Gimpel on each stunt person having an indvidual style, and on why Taekwondo is a good style for fighting on-camera
Sandra Gimpel on being the stunt coordinator and second unit director on Harts of the West with Beau Bridges, and on her feelings about Westerns
Sandra Gimpel on performing stunts for television versus film: "television's much faster... features, they take their time"
Sandra Gimpel on what she likes about doing stunts, and on not know she would end up as a stunt performer when she was starting out
Sandra Gimpel on how stunt work has changed since she started in the industry
Sandra Gimpel on legendary stunt performers and on her mentors in the stunt profession
Sandra Gimpel on advice for aspiring stunt performers
Genres

Adventure/Espionage Series

View Genre
Sandra Gimpel on performing stunts on The Bionic Woman

Comedy Series

View Genre
Sandra Gimpel on doing stunt coordinating and performing stunts on Seinfeld, including on the episode "The Fire"

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

View Genre
Sandra Gimpel on her first job as second unit director (along with stunt coordinator), on Mrs. Columbo

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

View Genre
Sandra Gimpel on being Bill Mumy's stunt double on Lost in Space
Sandra Gimpel on her work on the original series of Star Trek

Western Series

View Genre
Sandra Gimpel on being the stunt coordinator and second unit director on Harts of the West
People

Fred Astaire

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on an interaction she had with Fred Astaire on the set of "Towering Inferno"

Beau Bridges

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on her friendship and working relationship with Beau Bridges

Jim Carrey

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on a stunt that Jim Carrey performed in "The Truman Show" where she was supposed to almost get hit by a car he was driving

Marc Daniels

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on working with director Marc Daniels on Star Trek

Jennifer Darling

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on being Jennifer Darling's stunt double on The Bionic Woman

Jeannie Epper

View Interview Page
Sandra Gimpel on working with Jeannie Epper as stunt performers on The Bionic Woman, and on a mishap with a stunt on the show

Jonathan Harris

View Interview Page
Sandra Gimpel on how Jonathan Harris convinced Bill Mumy to let her be his stunt double on Lost in Space, despite the fact that Mumy wanted to perform his own stunts

Cloris Leachman

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on performing stunts for Cloris Leachman on shows including Malcolm in the Middle and Raising Hope

Shirley MacLaine

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on the relationship she develops with actors as a stunt performer, including with Shirely MacLaine, and on Shirley MacLaine wanting to do her own stunts

Bill Mumy

View Interview Page
Sandra Gimpel on how Jonathan Harris convinced Bill Mumy to let her be his stunt double on Lost in Space, despite the fact that Mumy wanted to perform his own stunts
Sandra Gimpel on working with Bill Mumy when she was his stunt double and stand-in on Lost in Space

Eddie Murphy

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on a performing stunt with Eddie Murphy for the movie "Norbit"

Elvis Presley

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on appearing as a dancer in fifteen Elvis Presley movies
Sandra Gimpel on her impressions of Elvis as a person, as she got to know him appearing as a dancer in fifteen of his movies
Sandra Gimpel on staying in touch with Elvis after she stopped appearing in his movies
Sandra Gimpel on the process of shooting dance scenes for Elvis movies

Debbie Reynolds

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on being the stunt double for Debbie Reynolds on These Old Broads

Gene Roddenberry

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on the brilliance of Gene Roddenberry

William Shatner

View Interview Page
Sandra Gimpel on working with William Shatner on the Star Trek episode "The Man Trap"

Paul Stader

View Person Page
Sandra Gimpel on stunt coordinator Paul Stader hiring her to be a stunt performer - and teaching her what a stunt was
Sandra Gimpel on learning how to do stunts from stunt coordinator Paul Stader on Lost in Space

All Interviews

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